GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers gambled that they could pass rookie QB Joe Callahan through waivers and sign him to their practice squad.
The New Orleans Saints made a waiver claim and were awarded Callahan on Friday, ending any chance the Packers had of retaining the record-setting Division III quarterback.
According to a source, coach Mike McCarthy and his staff did not want to part with Callahan and were given the impression from the personnel department that he would pass through waivers and be re-signed to the practice squad. But the Saints, whose two quarterbacks are starter Drew Bress and backup Luke McCown, scooped up Callahan and added him to their 53-man roster, leaving McCarthy upset about the loss, a source said.
McCarthy was not available for comment Thursday after Callahan was waived, but two of his assistant coaches said it was tough to see him go and they were keeping their fingers crossed that Callahan would return.
"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."
The decision to cut Callahan was made because of the need for a spot on the 53-man roster. The Packers may need to sign practice squad running back Don Jackson to the roster because running backs Eddie Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (neck) are both questionable for the Dallas game Sunday with injuries.
In addition, defensive lineman Mike Pennel and cornerback Demetri Goodson are both eligible to come off the suspended list and probably will be activated this week. The leading candidates to be released for those two spots are rookie nose tackle Brian Price and rookie cornerback Josh Hawkins.
For some reason, the Packers decided to start by cutting 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.
In a news confeence after the Packers decided to keep Callahan on the 53-man roster, McCarthy praised his rookie.
"This is just clearly Joe Callahan earning the job," McCarthy said. "I mean, how the hell does he not make the team? It was clear. Just watch the games, watch the video. I’m very, very happy for him personally because you always like to see a guy grab hold of an opportunity. I thought it was very obvious what he accomplished during the preseason."
The Packers would have had competition to sign Callahan to their practice squad even if he did pass through waivers. More than likely, they were going to have to pay him a full rookie minimum salary of $450,000 in order to get him to return on the practice squad. Teams only have to pay practice squad players a minimum of $6,900 per week, but they will sometimes pay them full salaries in order to keep them from joining other teams' 53-man rosters.
Last year, the Packers bumped up the salaries of defensive lineman Christian Ringo and guard Matt Rotheram, both practice squad players, to the full rookie minimum.
Callahan was inactive for the Packers' first four games, serving as the No. 3 quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers and Hundley.