♦ New injuries: None.
♦ Returned from injury: OL Bryan Bulaga (hip flexor), DE Jarius Wynn (concussion).
♦ Did not practice: S Atari Bigby (ankle), S Will Blackmon (knee), CB Al Harris (knee), CB Brandon Underwood (shoulder), RB James Starks (hamstring), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring), LB Brad Jones (shoulder), T Chad Clifton (knees), DE Cullen Jenkins (calf).
Injuries in the final preseason game often make several final roster decisions for NFL teams.
But if they aren’t a major factor after the preseason finale Thursday night at Kansas City, the Packers will have some decisions to make about their overabundance of fullbacks and tight ends if they can’t work out any trades.
The Packers have eight players at those two positions — five tight ends and three fullbacks — that they think are NFL-caliber players. Some teams would keep as few as four combined, but it’s not out of the question that the Packers will keep six or maybe even seven because of their value on special teams and in coach Mike McCarthy’s liberal use of two tight-end sets on offense.
Last season, McCarthy kept six — three of each.
“I’ve always felt fullbacks and tight ends were interchangeable,” McCarthy said. “We have eight players on our team we feel very good about. Now because of the injuries to halfback, it probably factors or favors into keeping maybe one more than you normally can. Those are the things that will really come out of the Kansas City game as far as the final numbers. If you watch us practice, the fullbacks don’t play the tight end position as much as the tight ends also play a lot of the fullback position from a responsibility standpoint in the one-back personnel. That’s all by design.”
After a slow start in training camp, second-year fullback Quinn Johnson has gotten back into the running for a roster spot with physical lead blocking in the preseason games. But he’s still behind as a special teams player.
Korey Hall is the best special teams player of the fullbacks, and John Kuhn has added value because he can function OK as a lone back in an emergency.
Of the five tight ends, first-year pro Tom Crabtree still appears the most likely to get released, though it’s not a given because he’s still working on the first units on several special teams. Behind starter Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee is the lone experienced tight end; Spencer Havner has added value on special teams and the ability to play linebacker in a pinch; and fifth-round draft pick Andrew Quarless has flashed enough receiving talent that he might get picked up by another team if cut.
Starting outside linebacker Brad Jones appears unlikely to play this week because of a shoulder injury, though the Packers are giving him some work in the jog-throughs to acclimate him to a shoulder harness he’ll wear early in the season.
Jones has played in only one preseason game because of injuries, but he’s been on the field enough in practice to hold the job as the starting outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews.
“It’s like a tape job for your shoulder,” Jones said of the harness. “Nothing deep. It does kind of look Robo Cop-ish, but it’s not, it’s just like a tape-job for your shoulder.”
Left tackle Chad Clifton sat out practice Monday except for the jog-through because of swelling in his knee. The starting offense probably will play only one series this week, and it’s a good bet the Packers will hold out Clifton so the swelling subsides and he can practice next week for the regular-season opener against Philadelphia.
Cornerback Brandon Underwood did not attend practice for the second consecutive day because of a shoulder injury that will sideline him for this week and perhaps longer. Underwood had surgery on the same shoulder in 2005, when he was a redshirt freshman at Ohio State. McCarthy gave no indication of the severity of the injury.
“There’s history with the same shoulder, so there’s a little bit of an unknown if it’s existing or a new injury,” McCarthy said. “We’re just kind of watching him and see how he gets through the weekend.”