GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers cut rookie free-agent quarterback Joe Callahan on Thursday and are expected to make at least one more roster move before they face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
The Packers are going to need at least one roster spot for defensive end Mike Pennel, cornerback Demetri Goodson or running back Don Jackson, depending on which of the three they choose to activate this week.
They decided to start with Callahan, who was the story of training camp. The 6-1, 216-pound Division III quarterback from Wesley College had an impressive camp, completing 54 of 88 passes (61.4 percent) for 499 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, and posting an 88.2 passer rating.
Callahan started two of the exhibition games due to an ankle injury to backup Brett Hundley and the front office thought he was too good to risk putting on waivers at the cutdown to 53. But injuries and other circumstances have changed and Callahan was the odd man out.
"Yeah, it’s tough," assistant head coach/offense Tom Clements said. "That’s the bad part of the business. When you set the roster at the end of training camp that’s usually a bad couple days because you let some good players and good people go and Joe certainly worked hard and had a very good preseason.
"But unfortunately, the numbers start to come into effect some point later on and the personnel people have to make decisions and they’re tough decisions. But he did a great job for us.
Pennel and Goodson are eligible to be activated after serving four-game suspensions and it's possible both will be added to the 53-man roster. Jackson could be signed off the practice squad to account for injuries to running backs Eddie Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee). Starks is also dealing with a death in the family and isn't expected back to the facility until Saturday.
Lacy said in the locker room Thursday after being a limited participant in practice that he was hopeful of playing. However, he had his left ankle heavily taped on the outside of his shoe and whether he'll be able to cut the way he wants to remains to be seen.
"That’s what we’re shooting for," Lacy said when asked if he would play this week. "Hopefully, I’m able to get out there and play."
Asked about what he did in practice Thursday, Lacy said: "I went until they shut me down. Did a couple of individual drills to see how it felt running around and, yeah, stopped when they told me to."
If Lacy isn't ready to go, the Packers almost certainly will have to add Jackson, a rookie free agent from Nevada. The Packers signed him after the draft, but he broke his jaw prior to training camp and was released. After the Packers cut Brandon Burks and put John Crockett on injured reserve, they signed Jackson to the practice squad.
The 5-10, 208-pound Jackson has received significant practice time this week and would be a viable option to fill in. The Packers also have been using receiver Ty Montgomery at running back some this season and he would be another option. Montgomery is an all-purpose player similar to Randall Cobb, but at 6-foot, 216 pounds, he's much more physical.
The Packers probably are going to need to activate Goodson given that Sam Shields (concussion) is expected to miss a fourth straight game and Damarious Randall (groin) remains a big question mark. Goodson would be an emergency corner given he's practicing for the first time in five weeks, but he has been one of the team's best gunners on the punt-coverage team and could be an asset on special teams.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen with him," special teams coach Ron Zook said. "He worked out there yesterday and today. Did a nice job. It was kind of like he hadn’t been gone. He’s always been a guy that’s going to play with a lot of energy. It’s just a matter of whether coach decides to have him up or down.
Pennel is also a candidate to be activated, especially given the Cowboys have the best running game in football, led by rookie Ezekiel Elliott, and having a 6-4, 330-pound presence on the defensive line wouldn't hurt. The Packers could cut rookie Brian Price to make room for Pennel. Price was signed off the practice squad earlier this season after nose tackle Letroy Guion injured his knee against Minnesota.
The Packers want to sign Callahan to the practice squad, but there's nothing stopping a quarterback-hungry team like the Cleveland Browns or San Francisco 49ers from claiming him on waivers. The Packers will know Friday afternoon whether Callahan has passed through waivers. If he does, he'll be eligible to sign to the practice squad.
"Well, Joe’s been a great guy to have around the practice field, he’s been great in the meeting room and obviously it’s unfortunate if he’s not back," Clements said. "If he can come back, that would be great."