Over the past year, the Green Bay Packers have anxiously been awaiting the return of Andrew Quarless.
During Tuesday’s organized team activities, the fourth-year tight end showed exactly why.
Coming off a short tight-end screen, Quarless showed no rust or hesitation on his surgically reconstructed right knee, hitting on all cylinders and burst upfield during team drills.
A strong showing in an OTA practice doesn’t mean a whole lot, but it does speak volumes about the strides Quarless has made since tearing up his right knee during a December 2011 game against the New York Giants.
At the time of his injury, Quarless was developing into the team’s most well-rounded tight end both as a blocker and pass-catcher. Watching on at the Hutson Center on Tuesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy still sees that potential in the 6-foot-4, 252-pound tight end.
“Clearly the best shape he’s been in since he’s been a Green Bay Packer,” McCarthy said. “I would like to think he’s fully past his injury. Sometimes it takes a full year and a half to do that. He looks really good.
“I really look for him to make an impact and definitely give us that player that we all felt that he was coming on there at the end of his rookie year. He’s the one guy that has shown the ability to play on the line and off the line and we’re challenging the other tight ends to do so.”
Quarless, 24, spent the first half of the season on the physically unable to perform list before suffering a setback with the swelling in the knee that finally landed him on injured reserve.
Being out of the lineup, Quarless helped the coaching staff with the pre-game tests for tight ends and tried to stay on pace for a return.
He was unsure if he’d be back in time for the start of OTAs, but proved something to himself when he felt good enough to take the field during last week’s start of Phase III of the team’s offseason program.
Quarless faces some serious competition to regain his footing with Jermichael Finley, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor and Brandon Bostick all returning and the offseason addition of blocking tight-end Matthews Mulligan, but appears to have regained his intangibles.
Now, Quarless wants to get back to where he was before with vivid recollection of how quickly it can all be taken away.
“That was probably one of the hardest things to do in my life, to have to sit out and be away from the game,” Quarless said. “It just gives you a greater appreciation for everything. It put a chip on my shoulder to have sat out that long so I’m thankful.”