Though he defended the play of backup quarterback Graham Harrell, Packers coach Mike McCarthy remained noncommittal about his comfort level with him as Aaron Rodgers’ primary backup.
Harrell had an uneven performance in Thursday’s preseason game against Cleveland. He completed just 12 of 24 passes for 100 yards — nearly half of which came on fourth-quarter completions of 24 and 25 yards to receiver Jarrett Boykin — and threw two interceptions without a touchdown pass.
Through two preseason games in which Harrell has seen extensive playing time, he has completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, has one touchdown and two interceptions and a passer rating of 55.6.
When asked on Friday whether Harrell has done enough to convince him that he could win in the regular season if needed, McCarthy said: “That’s why we’re in the preseason. We haven’t picked the team today. We’ll take all four games, like we do every year, and we’ll let the process determine the full roster, and Graham’s part of that process.”
Harrell wasn’t necessarily downgraded for either of his interceptions — one on a Hail Mary to end the first half and the other in the third quarter when his intended target, tight end Ryan Taylor, fell down. But he led only one scoring drive, a fourth-quarter field goal of 42 yards by Mason Crosby.
“I would say Graham probably graded out higher than the perception of the questions or how people felt that he played,” McCarthy said. “The quarterbacks are graded in detail. There’s some throws that he missed. The two interceptions, we call it a ‘rebound pass,’ some people call it a ‘Hail Mary,’ no one should come down with that football other than a Green Bay Packer. He had pressure coming off the back side and wasn’t able to pull up for the throw. The (interception to Taylor) is clearly on the receiver falling down. I gave him an accurate throw on that particular play. He’s growing. He’s getting a full dose of what it’s like to play and more things went wrong, unfortunately, than normal, and we need to do a better job as an offense, and he will do a better job leading us.”
It hasn’t helped Harrell that the collection of backup offensive linemen he has played with has struggled.
“They did not grade out very well,” McCarthy said. “I thought that the first group graded out very well, but that was not the case with the second group.”
Linebacker Desmond Bishop had surgery on his torn hamstring on Friday, but no announcement was made about whether he could return this season.
Bishop tore his hamstring in the preseason opener on Aug. 9.
Team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie performed the surgery. At minimum, Bishop is expected to miss a couple of months, but it remains unclear if he could play in 2012. Some of that could depend on whether the NFL Players Association approves a new injured reserve rule in which one player on each team could be placed on a reserve list but still return later in the season.
In addition to the expected return of receiver Greg Jennings from a concussion, McCarthy said tight end Jermichael Finley (quad) and fullback John Kuhn (ankle) also could return for the next practice on Sunday.
Running back Brandon Saine (hamstring) is not expected to return this week.
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