Friday, July 30, 2010
Packers' Bigby, Harris, Starks hit PUP
MILWAUKEE -- Green Bay Packers coaches finally got a look at safety Atari Bigby.
They didn't like what they saw.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Bigby was one of three players who failed a physical examination on Friday. Bigby, cornerback Al Harris and rookie running back James Starks will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
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"I'm concerned," McCarthy told reporters in Green Bay on Friday. "Everybody's concerned. I haven't had the opportunity to talk to Atari. He's had the ankle injury, and that's something that's bothered him in the past. Hopefully we can get the answer for that and he can get out there and get ready to go."
Harris is recovering from a season-ending left knee injury last November; McCarthy is encouraged by his progress and said he could be ready for the regular season opener. Starks continues to have problems with his hamstring.
Bigby, a restricted free agent, did not sign his tender offer right away and spent the offseason away from the team. McCarthy confirmed Bigby reported to camp with the rest of the team Friday, but his ankle -- an injury that has bothered him in the past -- flared up during a conditioning test.
"There was communication with Atari, but we all know what his business situation was," McCarthy said. "This is really the first opportunity our doctors have had a chance to examine him."
Now it's an opportunity for rookie safety Morgan Burnett, a third-round pick out of Georgia Tech. Burnett has impressed coaches with his intelligence and work ethic -- but now the pads go on.
"That's what training camp's for," McCarthy said. "I really like what the young man has done."
The situation at safety is one of several challenges McCarthy will have to navigate beginning with the Packers' first training camp practice Saturday.
McCarthy knows expectations are high, and acknowledges this might be the best team he has had on paper.
"There's nothing new this year," McCarthy said. "We're not putting in a new defense, we don't have a new quarterback, we don't have a new special teams coach. We have an opportunity to build off some continuity and some success in the past."
There might not be anything new in terms of the big picture, but Packers camp will look a little different. McCarthy is adding drills to improve tackling and avoid special teams penalties.
Beyond that, there are some starting spots up for grabs.
The Packers must replace defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, who has been suspended for at least this season under the league's substance abuse policy.
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The Packers laid the groundwork for Jolly's absence in the offseason, moving Ryan Pickett from nose tackle to defensive end and making second-year player B.J. Raji the team's primary nose tackle. Second-round pick Mike Neal also could figure in at defensive end, as could oft-injured former first rounder Justin Harrell.
McCarthy said Harrell finally is healthy.
"This is an important camp for Justin," McCarthy said. "He knows that, we all know that. We're excited that he's finally healthy. That's a frustrating place to be as a player, when you have back to back injuries and things that keep you out, especially with the expectations of being a first-round pick."
The offensive line will be heavily scrutinized after a rough start that set the Packers back in the first half of last season. Barring injury, the Packers appear set at four of five offensive line positions, with Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz expected to compete for a starting guard job.
First-round pick Bryan Bulaga, who signed a contract on Friday, is expected to learn the left tackle position behind Chad Clifton.
McCarthy also will be keeping a close eye on punters, a weakness in recent years.
Tim Masthay, who was waived by the Colts during training camp last year, is competing with Chris Bryan, a former Australian rules football player.
"I'm not in a hurry," McCarthy said. "The last two years, it's been a negative, there's no doubt about that. I think it's important to give both the opportunity to punt in games."