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Notebook: Banged-up roster prompts shortened practice

Aug. 7, 2012
 

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Green Bay Packers quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (12) and Graham Harrell (6) during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Shannon Eastin, first female NFL ref, will take the field in the Packers preseason game Thursday.

Injury report

• New injuries: CB Sam Shields (elbow), running back Brandon Saine (hamstring), WR Tori Gurley (groin), WR Dale Moss (unknown), running back Du'ane Bennett (knee), tight end Ryan Taylor (concussion).
• Still out: T Marshall Newhouse (concussion), WR Greg Jennings (concussion), G Ray Dominguez (ankle), TE D.J. Williams (back), FB Jon Hoese (hamstring), LB Frank Zombo (hamstring), DL Johnny Jones (knee), G Jaymes Brooks (hamstring), T Derek Sherrod (leg), T Mike McCabe (hip), TE Andrew Quarless (knee), TE Eric Lair (knee), DL Mike Daniels (knee, groin).
• Returned: LB Brad Jones

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The Packers injury list got so long Monday that coach Mike McCarthy conducted by far the shortest practice of training this summer.

McCarthy’s practices so far have ranged anywhere from 2½ hours to about 2:45, but on Monday night with 17 players not practicing and two more dropping out during practice, he shortened the session to 1:45.

McCarthy installs his offense, defense and special-teams in nine practices, so Monday night was the final installation.

“What we did tonight, we practiced everything that was new and installed,” McCarthy said. “The mental part of the installation frankly in my opinion is the most important. We’ve done and extensive amount of work in the fundamentals, clearly more than we ever have in the past. I felt good about the targets we hit with our fundamental work. It’s important to get it rehearsed and now (Tuesday) we will work on San Diego.”

The Packers play the Chargers on Thursday night, and McCarthy ruled out eight players for the game: running back Du’uane Bennett (knee), guard Ray Dominguez (ankle), receiver Tori Gurley (groin), fullback Jon Hoese (hamstring), receiver Greg Jennings (concussion), tight end Eric Lair (knee), tackle Mike McCabe (hip) and tight end Ryan Taylor (concussion).

McCarthy has not ruled out Marshall Newhouse (concussion), the starting left tackle, though it appears unlikely the Packers would risk returning Newhouse for a preseason game. He sustained the concussion during the Family Night scrimmage Friday and hasn’t practiced the last two days.

The two players who dropped out of practice with injuries Monday night were cornerback Sam Shields (elbow) and running back Brandon Saine (hamstring). Receiver Tori Gurley didn’t practice Monday after returning Sunday night from a hamstring injury.

(Gurley) was ambitious (Sunday) night,” McCarthy said, “he wanted to try it. The trainers are cautious about it. He went through the drills (Sunday) and once he got to the team stuff it was evident he wasn’t ready.”

Harrell borrows a Rodgers staple

Backup Graham Harrell pulled a play out of Aaron Rodgers' repertoire while quarterbacking the Packers’ No. 1 offense for a full practice Sunday night.

Harrell worked with the Packers starters because coach Mike McCarthy had his first veteran’s-select day of training camp. Players with seven years or more experience, including Rodgers, were given the night off.

Harrell’s throwing and timing have improved measurably from last year, as was illustrated on a noteworthy play Sunday night when he made one of Rodgers' patented back-shoulder throws to receiver Jordy Nelson. The completion was for 32 yards, but if there had been live tackling it might have gone for a 44-yard touchdown.

“I saw man coverage and said I’m going after it,” Harrell said Monday in the locker room. “It’s a throw I’ve always had confidence in making. It was the same throw I threw against Texas at Texas Tech. It’s like sort of throwing a vertical route. It’s something I like to do, and when you have a receiver like Jordy it makes it pretty easy to do that and throw it with confidence.”

Harrell was referring to the back-shoulder throw he made in college to receiver Michael Crabtree for the game-winning touchdown with one second to play that defeated then No. 1-ranked Texas in 2008.

The back-shoulder throw has become a common weapon in the NFL, and Rodgers throws it as well as anyone. It's thrown when a receiver is running a go route but has not separated from the defensive back. The quarterback decides as the play develops whether to throw over the top or to the back shoulder, and the receiver has to look back for the ball and react to its placement.

Later in practice, Harrell tried another back-shoulder throw to Nelson that was incomplete because Nelson didn't look back in time to see the ball. Nelson was visibly upset with not turning back sooner, though Harrell said the pass rush forced him to throw the ball more quickly than he wanted.

Getting into Lambeau

Mason Crosby plans to kick on Lambeau Field at least a couple times before the Packers’ preseason home opener on Aug. 16 at the renovated stadium.

The Packers are building a new section of seats at the top of the south end zone and already have put in a new scoreboard and replay screen above the new section, which likely has altered the swirling wind patterns in Lambeau.

Crosby kicked in the renovated stadium for the first time at the Family Night scrimmage last week. He made his first six attempts, all from 40 yards or shorter, but then missed five of his final eight attempts, all of which were from 45 yards or more. That included going 2-for-6 on kicks that ranged from 53 yards to 65 yards.

“It’s not something I’m going to over think,” Crosby said. “We play in so many different places and different wind conditions. It’s going to be a little different, but it’s one of those things where you go through warm-ups, go through the normal pregame process, and figure it out each day you go out.”

Crosby's longest make on Family Night was from 60 yards during a period in which he tried several ultra-long field goals. His misses included from 60, 62 and 65 yards.

“As I got further back, the wind did a little bit more, just how the air moved in there,” Crosby said. “There were a couple where I thought I hit a good ball and I had them undulate, moving back and forth, which was kind of different to see, because I’ve been hitting the ball very solid and really straight. That was a little different. It could have been the night, it could have been the way the ball came off my foot. We’ll evaluate as we move forward. I’m not going to over-read into it. I’m just going to make sure I go out there every time I’m on the field, pregame or if we get to go and practice on there, just take it how I did before that addition was put on.”

Extra points

• The first female official in NFL history will work the Packers' preseason game at San Diego on Thursday.

Shannon Eastin, who has worked games in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, will be part of a crew of replacement officials working the game, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The NFL has locked out its officials while the sides try to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. Most of the officiating directors of Division I conferences in college football are prohibiting their officials from working NFL games as replacements, so the league is using retired NFL officials as well as officials from high school and lower levels of college.

• Mike McCarthy used part of the players' day off Saturday to attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio.

The Packers' coach was invited by inductee Jack Butler, a defensive back who when he retired in 1959 was No. 2 on the NFL's all-time interceptions list after a nine-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

McCarthy, who grew up in Pittsburgh, took a flight home after the ceremony Saturday night.

“I grew up with the Butler family in Pittsburgh,” McCarthy said. “Went down there after work in the afternoon, came back (Saturday) night. It was awesome. I was honored to be there.”

Reach Dougherty via email at pdougher@greenbaypressgazette.com or via Twitter @PeteDougherty.

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

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Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
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I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
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I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
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It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
34%
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