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Inside linebackers stepping up following Bishop's release

Aug. 1, 2013
 
Jamari Lattimore at a training camp practice.
Jamari Lattimore at a training camp practice.

Terrell Manning never expected to return for training camp and see Desmond Bishop’s nearby locker completely vacant, awaiting a new tenant.

Sure, Bishop’s torn hamstring suffered in the Green Bay Packers’ preseason-opener last August was an obstacle, but the second-year linebacker would be lying if he said he wasn’t surprised it led to his ouster.

“Definitely,” said Manning of his surprise upon hearing the news. “I didn’t see a lot of moves coming but it is what it is. We take it every day and run with the things we have to do.”

This past week, both Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy have stated the June release of the 28-year-old Bishop was a byproduct of what they felt to be one of the team’s deepest collection of inside linebackers.

Strong praise for the group of reserves behind starters A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, which includes special-team fixtures Jamari Lattimore and Robert Francois, Manning and rookie Sam Barrington.

A former defensive end at Middle Tennessee State, Lattimore was the only one of the returning three to see action on defense last season, stepping in for eight plays the entire season.

The Packers are assuming some risk considering the injuries the Packers have weathered at the position in recent years – Bishop, Nick Barnett (wrist) and Brandon Chillar (hamstring) – but also feel content with their unproven reserve’s upside.

So far in camp the 6-foot-2, 237-pound Lattimore has made the most noise of the reserves. After missing the first two shell practices with an illness, Lattimore has shown more instincts and confidence operating inside after converting from outside linebacker a year ago.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple guys mix in on certain downs and things like that because everyone does something different,” Manning said. “If we could all just combine and be one person, we’d be the ultimate linebacker but we can’t. We’ll see how it goes. It’s the coaches’ decision at the end of the day.”

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