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Green Bay Packers see more reward than risk in Andrew Quarless

Apr. 24, 2010
 
Rob Demovsky, Mike Vandermause on Green Bay Packer...
Rob Demovsky, Mike Vandermause on Green Bay Packer...: Green Bay Press-Gazette Packers writers Rob Demovsky and Mike Vandermause assess Green Bay Packers' 2010 draft.
After a DUI arrest nearly derailed his college career, Penn State's Andrew Quarless caught 41 passes for 536 yards and three touchdowns as a senior in 2009. File/AP

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Nowhere in Ben McAdoo’s job description does it say anything about being a guidance counselor.

But given the cast of characters the Green Bay Packers tight ends coach is responsible for, perhaps it should.

Already charged with tutoring the sometimes immature Jermichael Finley and Spencer Havner, who this offseason was charged with driving his motorcycle under the influence of alcohol after an early-morning crash left him with a broken shoulder blade, Packers General Manager Ted Thompson gave McAdoo another high-risk – but potential high-reward – tight end on Saturday when he drafted Penn State’s Andrew Quarless with the first of two fifth-round picks.

Consider Quarless’ background: A 2007 citation for underage drinking just weeks before the season which led to a two-game suspension; a 2008 charge of driving under the influence followed by the discovery of marijuana in an apartment he shared with three other Penn State players that nearly got him kicked out of school.

“Coaching in this league has probably changed a little bit,” McAdoo said. “How young the guys are coming in, you have to help them transition into being a young man and being a productive human being. The better job you do there, it shows up on the field.”

It did with Finley, the third-round pick in 2008 who overcame immaturity as a rookie to post a breakout season with 55 catches and five touchdowns in 2009, prompting coach Mike McCarthy to say last month that Finley has All-Pro potential if he can handle success.

Now, the Packers might have a similar player in Quarless, the 6-foot-4 3/8 and 254-pounder that Thompson took at No. 154 overall. A tall, athletic target who was used largely as a pass-catching tight end and not as a blocker – much the same way Finley was at Texas – Quarless started parts of all four seasons at Penn State.

After begging coach Joe Paterno not to kick him off the team following his DUI, he had his most productive season as a senior. He caught 41 passes (a school record for tight ends) for 536 yards and three touchdowns as a senior. He had eight touchdowns in his career.

“I like his skill set,” McAdoo said. “He’s long, a good-looking athlete with long arms, big hands, catches it and is productive after the catch. He has some explosiveness. He can run.”

At the combine, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71, but McAdoo said he was timed in the high 4.5s at one point. But perhaps more important was that he was able to convince the Packers that his off-field issues were a thing of the past. He said all the teams he interviewed with asked more about those issues than anything related to football.

He said he has not had a drink since the night of his DUI in March 2008.

“I sat down with these teams and really spoke from the heart and let them know that I wasn’t that guy that I used to be, that I’ve grown from those situations,” Quarless said. “I think everyone was pretty pleased with the way I responded.”

He called giving up drinking “a sacrifice.”

“I was faced with the reality of not having football because coach Paterno was really ready to let me go my junior year,” Quarless said. “I stopped drinking for the remainder of the two years of my college career. That was the sacrifice I had to make. I spoke from my heart and let teams know that I really learned. I came (to college) as a 17-year-old and really just lived life kind of fast. Giving up drinking, I think only benefited me for the remaining two years of my college career.”

He was never charged with possession of marijuana after he said he submitted to a drug test – and passed – shortly after the drug was found in his apartment.

The Packers say they did their homework on Quarless and wouldn’t have picked him if they felt his problems would continue. In addition to interviews with Quarless, Packers safeties coach Darren Perry, a Penn State alum, investigated him by talking to people he knows at the school.

“The kid seemed pretty forthright with everything that’s happened,” Thompson said. “We feel confident that he’s on the right path now.”

So what does it mean for the tight end group?

Another speed threat to go along with Finley could provide additional problems for defenses, considering how much the Packers use multiple tight ends and send them on deep seam routes.

“We haven’t really met on that yet,” McAdoo said, “but it is exciting to think about.”

Like Finley, Quarless has work to do as a blocker, but his addition could make either Havner or veteran Donald Lee expendable. Havner switched from linebacker last season and was a red-zone threat with four touchdowns, but there’s no guarantee he’ll come back from his injury in time for the start of the season, and Lee’s role declined with the emergence of Finley.

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