Jhurell Pressley: 'I'm not just a running back'

Ryan Wood
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GREEN BAY – He boarded a plane Sunday afternoon holding a Green Bay ticket, knowing there’s a good chance he’ll fly back to Minnesota in two weeks.

Minnesota Vikings running back Jhurrell Pressley (42) dives into the end zone in front of Los Angeles Rams linebacker Brandon Chubb, left, during a 28-yard touchdown reception in the first half of an NFL preseason football game Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Minneapolis.

Jhurell Pressley understood the oddity. Across the NFL, he said, it was a “roller coaster” weekend for everybody. This was a little different.

For a Minnesota Vikings running back who became a Green Bay Packers running back overnight, aware he’ll return to play his old team in two weeks, the NFL sure felt like a small world.

“I know how their defense is,” Jhurell Pressley said as he boarded his flight.

That’s because Pressley practiced against the Vikings' defense all offseason.

Pressley expected to be a late-round draft pick this spring after four seasons at New Mexico. He instead signed with the Vikings as an undrafted rookie in May. After scoring two touchdowns in the Vikings' preseason finale against the Los Angeles Rams, Pressley thought he did enough to make the 53-man roster.

The Vikings didn’t just release Pressley. They reportedly told him their preference was to develop a bigger tailback. There was no room for him on their practice squad.

On Saturday, Pressley was crushed. On Sunday, he got a call from the Vikings’ biggest rival.

“A bunch of highs and lows,” Pressley said. “It’s just like a roller coaster. You go up, go down, but at the end of the day it’s going to level out, and you’re going to be good.”

Pressley appreciates the opportunity he has in Green Bay. He’s going from a team whose quarterback situation in in disarray after Teddy Bridgewater’s gruesome knee injury last week, to sharing the backfield with Aaron Rodgers.

Yes, Pressley said, the chance to compete for a Super Bowl was among his first thoughts after signing with the Packers.

“I definitely have that in my mind,” he said. “Super Bowl ring coming up.”

Pressley said he expects the Packers to be a good fit. Behind thundering Eddie lacy and slashing James Starks, he adds a different dimension.

Pressley, at 5-foot-10 and 206 pounds, ran a 4.39-second, 40-yard dash at New Mexico’s pro day this spring. Lacy and Starks ran in the 4.5s at the NFL combine.

The Packers told Pressley they see him fitting in their offense on third downs.

“I’m going to try to add some speed to everything,” Pressley said. “I’m going to try to just show some things they haven’t seen. Some speed, some catching — all that.”

Speed is one thing. Sharing a backfield with a two-time MVP, Pressley knows, he’ll have to hold up in pass blocking.

He said that’s a part of his game the Packers can trust, too.

“It’s basically a one-on-one matchup,” Pressley said. “You’ve got to know who you’ve got, and then you’re A-OK. I feel like I can block anybody in front of me.”

Pressley showed his versatility this preseason, catching five passes for 57 yards. On a 28-yard touchdown catch against the Rams, Pressley took the football two yards behind the line of scrimmage. He ran through a safety’s tackle 12 yards downfield, then dove like Superman past a linebacker for the final foue yards.

His most impressive play of the preseason came in the second half.

Pressley took a kickoff six yards deep in the end zone and decided, why not? It was his first kickoff return since high school, Pressley said. No way was he taking a touchback.

“I have been working on it,” Pressley said. “I haven’t had the chance to really show anybody. Minnesota gave me that chance.”

All offseason, Pressley said, he heard the same two things over and over. Read your keys. Hit the seam. Pressley saw daylight near the right sideline. More than 100 yards later, his first kickoff return since high school ended with a touchdown.

Nine Rams defenders had a chance to tackle him before the end zone.

“When I took on the last guy,” Pressley said, “I was like, ‘I’m about to score a touchdown on my first play. My first play ever since doing it in high school, and I’m about to score.’ I think it helped me out a lot just to show a little bit of what I can do.

“I can do a little bit of everything. I can catch the ball, and also run and do special teams. So I’m not just a running back. I’m a well-rounded player.”

The Packers released running back Brandon Burks without adding him to the practice squad to make room for Pressley's signing, a league source told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin on Sunday. The rest of their roster will continue to take shape early this week. Long snapper Brett Goode is expected to rejoin the Packers after rehabilitating from a torn ACL last season in Oakland, a source said.

Pressley provides the Packers an extra kick returner, something they could use.

Receiver Jeff Janis is nursing a fractured right hand, and rookie receiver Trevor Davis has a shoulder injury. Ty Montgomery has returned from last season’s ankle injury and impressed returning kicks, but he could become one of the Packers most important receivers this fall. Jared Abbrederis’ injury history could make him less likely to be a regular kickoff returner.

Maybe Pressley’s role will be special teams. Maybe he’ll find a niche on third downs. Either way, Pressley will be glad to do it against the Vikings.

“I’m excited to go back to play them,” he said. “It’s going to be soon, but, hey, it is what it is. It’s your job. I’ve got to compete against my fellow friends over there in Minnesota.

“It’s a game where we’re going to scheme for their defense, just like they’re going to scheme for our offense.”

Other waiver news: The Kansas City Chiefs claimed former Packers inside linebacker Sam Barrington. Barrington, a seventh-round draft choice in 2013, played 68 snaps in the final three exhibition games after missing the opener and the first eight practices of training camp while recovering from foot surgery last September.

Michael Cohen of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.

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