GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson is gambling that for now he can go with just seven offensive linemen.
Thompson did not put in a single claim for any of the players who were available through waivers after the cuts teams made Friday night to get to the 53-man roster limit.
When asked about it Saturday afternoon during a news conference, Thompson was typically unfazed about the gamble, but indicated what you saw today might not be what you see tomorrow.
“That’s where we are now,” Thompson said. “There’s obviously a certain comfortable level about what we do differently, but that’s where we are now.”
Normally, the Packers keep a minimum of eight offensive linemen and they have kept as many as 10 in some years. Going with seven — including undrafted rookie Don Barclay — could be a death sentence given injury considerations.
Aside from the five starters — Marshall Newhouse, T.J. Lang, Jeff Saturday, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga — Barclay and veteran Evan Dietrich -Smith are the only backups. The Packers cut Herb Taylor, Tommie Draheim, Sampson Genus, Andrew Datko, Greg Van Roten and Reggie Wells during the past week.
In addition, they placed second-year tackle Derek Sherrod on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which rules him out for the first six weeks of the season and probably much longer, since he has yet to practice one play this year.
Of those cuts, the only player the Packers brought back to the practice squad was Van Roten. That’s a pretty strong statement about their failure this year in drafting and scouting offensive linemen.
By Tuesday, it’s possible a lineman or two could be added to make up for the shortcomings.
Thompson had the option of keeping Sherrod on the active roster, thereby giving him a shot to practice in the first six weeks, but he said he didn’t want to be tempted to rush him back in his recovery from a broken leg suffered last season.
“It’s a guessing game, but in the end we felt it was best for Derek and best for the Packers long term to give him a bit more time,” Thompson said. “His rehab is going well. He has a great attitude and is working hard, so all those things will stay in place.”
Practice squad set: In addition to Van Roten, the Packers signed quarterback B.J. Coleman, receiver Diondre Borel, tight end Brandon Bostick and running back Marc Tyler to their practice squad.
Borel and wide receiver Tori Gurley were two players who had offers to join 53-man rosters last year when they were on the Packers’ practice squad, but decided to stick around. Both got cut Friday, but only Borel will return.
Gurley decided to sign with the Minnesota Vikings to be on their practice squad.
Thompson was clear about what he’s looking for on the practice squad.
“We want them to be prepared to be ready to play sometime later in the season because it’s way better for us to take a guy that’s already trained, already knows our offense or defense or special teams assignments and plug them into the game if for some reason we need another player,” he said.
Decisions, decisions: Thompson said it was a tough call between defensive linemen Phillip Merling and Daniel Muir, but ultimately Merling’s size and power outranked Muir’s quickness and energy.
“In the case of Daniel Muir, very difficult,” Thompson said. “A very passionate young man, but the NFL is like a wheel; it goes round and round and you never know when somebody might be back.
“In the case of Phillip, we thought he played very well. We thought he especially gave us a little inside push on that last game. Body-type, a little bit longer and taller, that sort of thing.”
As far as keeping six wide receivers, Thompson said undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin forced himself on the roster with his play.
“He had a very good camp,” Thompson said. “I think he was one of those guys who did improve all through the summer. And that improvement sort of accelerated over the course of the last several weeks. He’s one of those guys who we felt like earned a spot.”
Quarterback concerns: Count Thompson among those who never panicked about backup quarterback Graham Harrell .
Though reports have linked the Packers to possible interest in free agent Mike Kafka, it certainly wasn’t for their backup position if it was true at all. Harrell proved himself Thursday night with a terrific performance against Kansas City in which he completed 13 of 15 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
“Obviously, some guys made some plays for him down the field, I thought we protected pretty decent, but it was a good showing,” Thompson said. “He never lost his confidence during this whole time.
“I know he’s been the focal point, but Graham has sometimes quiet, sometimes not so quiet, confidence in himself to play the position. Our coaches have been behind him the whole way.”