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Notebook: PUP players face tough road to roster

Aug. 20, 2012
 

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Packers tight end Andrew Quarless won’t be ready until at least halfway through this season after he tore at least two ligaments and sustained other knee damage last December against the New York Giants. H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette

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Coach Mike McCarthy strongly hinted that tackle Derek Sherrod and two other potential contributors could miss at least half the season because of their injuries.

Sherrod (broken leg), outside linebacker Frank Zombo (hamstring) and tight end Andrew Quarless (knee reconstruction) haven’t passed their pre-training camp physicals and remain on the physically unable to perform list with final cuts less than two weeks away.

If a player on PUP isn’t on the 53-man roster at final cuts, he either has to be released or remain on PUP. If he stays on PUP, he’ll miss at least half the season, because he can’t play or practice for the first six weeks, and then will need at least one and maybe several more weeks to get ready to play.

“I think all three of those guys will be at the wire,” McCarthy said after practice Monday. “You definitely could project that it (i.e., their PUP status) will go into the regular season, but they’re all individual cases. I wouldn’t stop one from coming back, because I think all three of those guys can compete for a spot on our 53.”

The Packers were hoping Sherrod would recover from breaking the two bones in his lower right leg last Dec. 18 in time to push Marshall Newhouse for the starting job at left tackle. Those chances were gone early in camp, and now the odds appear to be against Sherrod returning in time to be their backup swing tackle for most of the season.

Zombo hasn’t practiced all offseason because of a severe hamstring injury he sustained in the spring. Though Zombo wouldn’t have had much chance at a starting job after the Packers selected Nick Perry in the first round of this year’s draft, he has five sacks in 18 games the last two years and would have been in the thick of the battle for a roster spot.

The Packers knew Quarless wouldn’t be ready until at least halfway through the season, if he plays at all this year, after he tore at least two ligaments — the anterior cruciate and medical collateral — and sustained other damage when he injured his knee Dec. 4 against the New York Giants.

Cedric Benson is trying to accelerate his assimilation of the Packers’ offense by attending quarterbacks meetings.

The Packers signed Benson last week, and though the halfback is in his eighth NFL season, he’s never played in a West Coast-based offense, so the terminology is foreign to him. He’s expected to play regularly in Thursday night’s preseason game at Cincinnati and could have a significant role by the start of the regular season because of starter James Starks’ turf-toe injury.

“The more times I can hear it, the better it gets for me,” Benson said of his request to sit in with the quarterbacks. “There’s going to be times when I’m also going to need to know the route combinations. The more work I can get in there, especially being with Aaron (Rodgers) and the quarterbacks in general and just hearing those guys make calls and go through film and some of their progressions, it gives you more knowledge not only of the game but also of the playbook.”

Said Rodgers: “Hopefully young guys are taking notes — how much it means to him. I don’t know if this is a second chance for him and he’s viewing it like that and he wants to do some of the things that he hasn’t done in the past, or maybe this is normal for him. But we love it. Because this offense a lot of times turns into best-play scenarios at the line of scrimmage with me making some checks, and him and I being on the same page is going to be important for us. I love how much it means to him, and I love the chip he’s got on his shoulder.”

Looking for variety

The Packers are looking to their regular-season dress rehearsal Thursday night for circumstances their starters haven’t faced in six possessions the first two preseason games.

McCarthy has said the starters will play the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals. He, like most NFL teams, plays his starters longest in the third preseason game, then in the finale plays them as little as one series, or two at the most.

“We really haven’t had a really good red zone,” Rodgers said of the Packers’ preseason games. “We got the turnover and scored outside the red zone last week, so to get in the red zone, maybe with a goal-to-go opportunity, to be able to punch that in is going to be important for us. No third-and-short for us last week, to get a third-and-short and convert is going to be important for us. Last year, we were below the league average I believe in third-down conversions and third-and-one, so to convert a couple of those would be nice, keep drives going. Haven’t had a 10-plus play drive yet.”

McCarthy also suggested he will mix in select backups to see how they perform with the starters. That could be especially in the defensive backfield, where players such as Jerron McMillian, Casey Hayward and Sam Shields are fighting for significant roles.

“I want to see the first group play the whole first half and we might even add a couple combinations to that, we’ll see how practice goes (today),” McCarthy said. “Then really the second half is opportunity for a lot of individuals to give us more information on the evaluation.”

Extra points

• Seventh-round draft pick Andrew Datko sustained a concussion in practice Sunday and was out Monday. It appears unlikely he’ll play this week.

Receiver Diondre Borel returned to practice Monday after being out since injuring his groin in the preseason opener at San Diego on Aug. 9.

• The Packers’ injury list for practice Monday was 13 players, down from a camp high of 21 one day last week.

“Statistically speaking this is the healthiest we’ve been in quite some time,” McCarthy said, “and I think our practices the last two days have reflected that. The tempo has been outstanding, the quality of work has picked up.”

pdougher@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.

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