Packers insider: Thumbs up to Ross, down to Finley

Aug. 7, 2013

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Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jeremy Ross stretches during training camp practice Wednesday at Ray Nitschke Field. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media


Thumbs up

Last year, Jeremy Ross was on the street when the Packers signed him to their practice squad in midseason. Now he’s looking like one of their most important special teams players and a possibility for occasional playing time at receiver also. The Packers want to take Randall Cobb off punt and kick return duties, and Ross will get every chance to replace him in the preseason. He showed the running ability late last year as a punt and kickoff returner, so now he has to get through the preseason without fumbling after turning over the ball twice late in 2012. But it’s also worth noting Ross has worked all camp on the No. 1 cover teams — on punts he’s been Tim Masthay’s personal protector, a job John Kuhn handled the past couple seasons. Ross isn’t as big as the 250-pound Kuhn, but at 215 pounds, he’s stout for a receiver and can cover more ground once he’s finished protecting Masthay. So Ross could end up on the field plenty even if he doesn’t play a snap from scrimmage. But he’s also in the running for the No. 4 receiver job, where his primary competition is second-year pro Jarrett Boykin. Boykin probably has the edge so far, but Ross is getting plenty of work, especially with Jordy Nelson (knee) out and Cobb (biceps) limited because of injuries. “(Ross) can return kicks, he can play (slot receiver), he can play outside (receiver),” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Wednesday. “He’s a big, strong guy. He’s had some success on the outside especially this camp, and I think this last week or so you’ve seen him really step up as I think he’s felt the pressure of the competition.”

Thumbs down

Jermichael Finley isn’t the focal point of the Packers’ passing game, as he was in camp in 2010, but he’s caught a pass down the middle seam in almost every practice and looks like he could be one of the most important pieces in the Packers’ offense. “He’s been running his routes really well,” Rodgers said. “Something clicked last year midseason and he really started to take off and it’s carried over this spring. He’s got himself in unbelievable shape and he’s come in and been dominating out there.” So the Packers couldn’t have been happy to see Finley throwing flailing punches during a scrap with outside linebacker Jarvis Reed on Wednesday in what was the chippiest practice of camp. The fight was during the half-line running period, which is one of the most physical drills in camp and which produced several scraps. After Finley threw the first shot at Reed’s face mask, both players started swinging wildly, and the fight turned into a minor melee, with Johnny Jolly putting a running hit on Finley. “I’d rather not have our guys punching each other in the helmet, hurting their hands,” Rodgers said. “So hopefully, that nonsense is over with.”

Did you notice?

■ Mason Crosby followed his 3-for-8 field-goal kicking at Family Night by going 3-for-4 in practice. He made kicks from 36 yards, 46 yards and 48 yards, and missed wide right from 50 yards. Giorgio Tavecchio also was 3-for-4, with his miss from 46 yards.

■ Recently signed Vince Young is looking at an uphill battle to beat out Graham Harrell for the backup quarterback job. Young, who hasn’t played since training camp last year in Buffalo, looked rusty in his first live throwing since signing Tuesday. On one play, his overthrow of open tight end D.J. Williams was intercepted by safety Chaz Powell. He also missed receiver Omarius Harris, who was open on a short crossing route.

■ Rookie tackle David Bakhtiari has been one of the surprises of camp but showed Wednesday he’s going to have some down moments, too. In the half-line run drill he was defeated soundly on back-to-back plays by outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Andy Mulumba.

■ Wednesday was the first day the Packers played against a scout team in 11-on-11 play. Up to then, they’d been conducting competitive drills with their offense going against their defense. To get ready for their preseason opener Friday night against Arizona, the Packers’ offense worked against a scout team running the Cardinals’ defense, and vice versa. and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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