HOUSTON — Frank Zombo has no trouble identifying the high point of his NFL career: starting as a rookie at outside linebacker for the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
Now, though, less than two years later, he’s at one of the low points — or at least he hopes it can’t get lower than this — having been sidelined since he pulled his hamstring in the offseason workouts that preceded organized team activities and minicamp.
His chance to bounce back could begin this coming week, when he’s eligible to begin practicing. Zombo, tight end Andrew Quarless and tackle Derek Sherrod are on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. By rule, they cannot practice until after the sixth week of the regular season. Monday begins a three-week window in which players on PUP can return to practice. Once they begin practicing, there’s another three-week window in which they can practice without being activated. At the end of that three weeks, they must be added to the roster, placed on injured reserve or released.
Last week, coach Mike McCarthy said he thought Quarless and Zombo were close to being ready to practice, while Sherrod probably wasn’t ready yet.
Zombo said he won’t know whether he’ll be able to practice this week until he fully tests his hamstring, which he hasn’t done yet.
“Playing outside linebacker in our scheme, where it’s all explosive movements and covering fast slot receivers, that’s what I have to be up to, to make this team,” Zombo said. “I’m just waiting to get to that point.”
That Zombo mentioned having to “make this team” indicates how he’s looking at the next month or so — like a condensed training camp in which he has to win a roster spot.
Whether there’s a spot for Zombo on the roster remains to be seen. The Packers drafted Nick Perry to start at outside linebacker and have been splitting reps between Perry, Erik Walden and Dezman Moses at the spot opposite Clay Matthews.
“He’s always got that hunger,” outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. “That’s what that kid is all about. He’s got a big heart and a hungry heart. That will never change about Frank.”
As soon as Zombo pulled his hamstring, he knew his injury was bad.
“It was the first time I had ever heard a (muscle) pop before,” he said. “But normally I heal up relatively quick, so I just assumed it would be like maybe a three-week deal. And then during the summer I just kept working out thinking the next week it would be gone. I came back two weeks early, and I was still not 100 percent healed up and it’s still just been lurking. It’s a chronic hamstring injury that hasn’t healed yet, and its takes time and has to run its course. Hamstrings are nothing to mess with. You see injuries all around the league with hamstrings and how serious they can be, and I’m just experiencing that right now.”
Quarless, who is attempting to return from reconstructive knee surgery, thought he could’ve possibly returned for the start of the regular season so he sees no reason why he won’t be cleared to practice this week.
“It’s not set in stone yet, but we’re at the point where I don’t think there’s any more reason to hold back,” Quarless said. “I’m just about at that point.”
Sherrod, who broke his leg last December, didn’t know what his timetable was to return.
“I can’t say for sure,” Sherrod said. “Just getting together with the rest of the training staff and Doc and see where we’re at.”