Green Bay Packers tackle Derek Sherrod watches from the sideline during Friday's training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media
Injury reportDid not practice: RB DuJuan Harris (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), CB Davon House (illness), S Chaz Powell (foot), LB Jamari Lattimore (illness), OL JC Tretter (ankle), DE Mike Neal (abdominal), T Derek Sherrod (leg), DE Jerel Worthy (knee).
By all appearances, nothing Derek Sherrod did Friday looked much different than what he has done for the last year and a half.
Nineteen months after he broke both bones in his lower right leg, the Green Bay Packers’ third-year tackle remained a spectator at practice.
But in a workout following the opening practice of training camp, Sherrod showed signs that he might be close to being cleared for at least a limited return.
Given the severity of his injury and the fact that the Packers expected at least an 18-month recovery time, Sherrod might not be as far behind schedule as it would appear even though he failed his physical Thursday and was placed on the physically unable to perform list.
“Actually, I had a chance to watch his post-practice workout, and he’s definitely much further along than he was when he was able to go through some of the drill work in the OTAs,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “So unfortunately with the procedures in place as far as pass or no pass on the physicals, you can’t really get him out there to do drill work with the other offensive linemen. He looks much better. I’m interested to get feedback from the trainers and really see how he feels (today).”
The Packers remain optimistic about their 2011 first-round draft pick despite the horrific nature of his injury, which he sustained Dec. 18, 2011, at Kansas City. But whether he can return in time to make a run at the starting right tackle job this season remains unclear. The Packers moved Marshall Newhouse from left tackle to the right side in their massive offensive line restructuring but haven’t anointed him the starter yet.
Sherrod required immediate emergency surgery to place a rod in his leg on the night of his injury. Then, after missing the 2012 season, he underwent a second surgery this past offseason on his ankle. That procedure was performed by noted foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson of Charlotte, N.C.
Sherrod’s injury was similar to the one sustained by former Packers center Mike Flanagan, who needed more than a year to return but eventually became a solid starter. One thing working in Sherrod’s favor is that he didn’t sustain any of the nerve damage that complicated Flanagan’s comeback.
“Everything’s been getting better,” Sherrod said. “I feel a heck of a lot better than at this point last year, that’s for sure. I’m just doing everything I can to get faster and stronger and everything else that I need to get back out there.”
Neal lighter but hurt again
The new Mike Neal is lighter and leaner. Now if he can only shed the old injury-prone label.
The fourth-year pro, who could morph into a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker this year, failed his pre-training camp physical because of an abdominal injury he sustained while working out on his own in the last month and isn’t expected to practice for at least two weeks.
When he hasn’t been injured (he played in only nine games his first two seasons because of shoulder and knee injuries) or suspended (he served four games last season for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs), Neal played strictly defensive end his first three seasons. But this offseason, defensive coordinator Dom Capers toyed with letting Neal stand up and rush from the edge at times.
Even before he learned about his new role, Neal had decided to lose weight after he reached 310 pounds shortly after the season. Today, he said he’s down to 275. He said he lost the last 15 pounds in a 2½-week stretch in late March/early April right before the Packers began their offseason program.
“About the time I was coming back, they told me they were going to give me a little flexibility and see what you can do,” Neal said. “So I had about 2½ weeks left and I was like 290, and I said I might as well lose 10 or 15 pounds.”
Neal said he did it by increasing his running exercises while lifting fewer weights and eating a low-carb diet that was heavy on salmon and eggs.
Richardson's career in jeopardy
A little more than a year after the Packers refused to clear safety Nick Collins following his neck injury, they could be in the same position with another defensive back.
Second-year safety Sean Richardson hasn’t been cleared to return following cervical fusion surgery in January that was necessary after he sustained a neck injury in Week 12 last season against the New York Giants.
“There were some tests that needed to be done here in the last couple of days,” McCarthy said. “We’re gathering information and hopefully we’re getting close to a decision with Sean.”
Richardson said he feels fine but understands why the Packers are taking a cautious approach.
“I’ve got a long life to live, and they don’t want to put me back out there and have something happen like I get paralyzed or something like that,” Richardson said. “So we’re going through all the tests and different opinions from everybody’s perspective, and we’re just going to go from there.”
While he is optimistic he can play again, he said he is willing to accept whatever the doctors recommend.
The Packers released Collins in April 2012 after he sustained a neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season that required fusion surgery.
■ Perhaps the biggest surprise on the injury list was second-year cornerback Casey Hayward. According to McCarthy, Hayward sustained a hamstring injury while working out on his own before training camp and is expected to miss a couple of weeks.
■ Cornerback Davon House was cleared to practice after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder in January but couldn’t practice due to a recent bout with food poisoning. He said a decision hasn’t been made about if he’ll still wear the harness for preventative measures this season but could be back on the field as soon as today.
“I’ll still be able to be the cornerback I want to be,” House said. “Of course, was I better without it? Oh yeah, hands down. But I got the surgery done so I could go back to that guy and not wear the harness. I’m excited to see what happens when I get back.”
■ Rookie receivers Kevin Dorsey and Charles Johnson practiced after missing most of the offseason workouts. Dorsey had a foot injury and Johnson a hamstring injury.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.