Green Bay Packers tackle BJ Raji's foray on offense last week may not be his last

Jan. 20, 2011
Kareem Copeland gives updates from Chicago
Kareem Copeland gives updates from Chicago: Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter Kareem Copeland reports from Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on the mood in Chicago, and how the Bears are preparing for Sunday.
Green Bay Packers B.J. Raji (90) cheers the touchdown of fullback John Kuhn (30) against the Atlanta Falcons during the second quarter of the Divisional round playoff game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011. / File/Press-Gazette

B.J. Raji’s one play as a goal-line fullback last week at Atlanta worked well enough to think the Packers will consider using it again.

Coach Mike McCarthy lined up the 337-lb. nose tackle as one of three backs when the Packers faced a second-and-goal from the Falcons’ 1 in the second quarter. Raji and Quinn Johnson lined up as fullbacks, and John Kuhn as halfback. Offensive lineman T.J. Lang also was in the game as a tight end.

Raji was the lead blocker for Kuhn, who took the hand-off up the middle and scored easily behind him.

“That just came up last week,” McCarthy said. “Some of the things that we were doing with our inside run game, and our goal-line package, we wanted to improve it, wanted to add a wrinkle to it and just going off of game planning.

“You know, how Atlanta plays their goal-line defense, we just felt that particular formation and match-up and so forth was to our benefit. And B.J. did a great job. He didn't block anybody, but he did a great job at the hole, and we were able to score the touchdown. So it was a good wrinkle for us.”

Korey Hall, a backup fullback, was inactive last week while still recovering from a knee injury, so that might be one reason the Packers used Raji where Hall usually plays. But McCarthy could have used a tight end or even offensive lineman in Hall's place and didn’t.

“When you’re only one yard out, I don’t think you have to hit anybody, you just have to fall through into the end zone, fall and break the line,” Kuhn said of Raji. “I thought he did a good job at doing just that and eating up space. Because even if a guy jumps out of the way that opens a hole.”

That was the first time Raji has played on offense in his two seasons with the Packers. In high school in New Jersey, though, he was a three-year starter at guard and defensive tackle. If a big blocker isn’t athletic or powerful enough, he can be cut blocked by a defender and in effect close a running lane.

“Some (defensive) guys might like that (Raji is blocking) because they know they can get down and try to cut him in the hole,” Kuhn said. “Some guys probably look at it and say, ‘Wow, here’s big B.J. Raji, how am I going to take him on in the hole? It’s hard to tell. The advantage is for us, because B.J. is actually good at it.”

Packers stay inside

McCarthy kept the Packers in The Don Hutson Center for all of practice Thursday after taking them outside on Wednesday for some 11-on-11 drills. Part of the Ray Nitschke practice field is heated for outdoor work in winter.

After going through the jog-through and individual drills to start practice Thursday, McCarthy opened the doors in the Hutson Center and said the temperature was 29 degrees for the remainder of practice.

The forecast for Sunday’s NFC championship in Chicago as of Thursday night called for a chance of snow flurries in the morning with a high of 22 degrees and low in the mid-teens.

“It’s very similar to what we’re going to play in in Chicago on Sunday, and it's supposed to be 18, 19, 20 degrees down there,” McCarthy said of the Hutson Center. “Practiced outside (Wednesday), and we just have limited space outside, so some of our team drills are not exactly what you're looking for to go outside. But they open up the doors and it really helps, particularly the skill position (players to) handle the football.”

The forecast also is calling for little wind, though conditions at Soldier Field, which is right next to Lake Michigan, could be more blustery.

“Anybody would be happy when you play in Chicago and there is no wind,” McCarthy said. “I think that would be ideal. I mean, wind is to me the biggest factor that changes the way you call a football game, field position, special teams and everything involved. It’s a challenge when you play the Chicago Bears, especially with their special teams. So I’m all for no wind.”

Extra points

*The Bears wanted to interview Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements for their vacant offensive coordinator job last offseason, but McCarthy denied them permission and almost surely gave Clements a healthy raise. Clements was under contract for this year, so the Bears needed McCarthy’s permission to talk to him for any coaching position other than head coach.

“I am pro-career advancement with my staff,” McCarthy said. “When a request is made of anybody on our staff, there’s conversations that take place. So Tom and I, in his particular situation, we talked about it, and a decision was made and we moved forward. I think Tom’s very happy in Green Bay.”

*Outside linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) is the only player on the Packers’ roster who probably won’t be available for Sunday because of injury.

Chicago had two players who didn’t practice Thursday: safety Chris Harris, who hurt his hip last week against Seattle, and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (knee), who practiced Wednesday but not Thursday.

*Cornerback Tramon Williams was added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster as a replacement for Philadelphia’s Asante Samuel, who withdrew because of injury.

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