Packers add Michael to backfield mix

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY - In their continuing quest for a ground game, the Green Bay Packers claimed former Seattle Seahawks running back Christine Michael on waivers Wednesday.

Michael started seven games for the Seahawks, leading them with 469 rushing yards on 117 carries and six rushing touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 96 yards.

To make room for Michael on the 53-man roster, the Packers placed rookie running back Don Jackson on injured reserve. Jackson wasn't on the injury report and it's unclear what injury he had that might land him on injured reserve.

The Seahawks lost running back Thomas Rawls to a leg injury and tried to complement Michael with a series of other backs, including C.J. Spiller. Then, rookie C.J. Prosise emerged over the past three weeks as a preferred choice. He led the Seahawks with 66 yards on 17 carries against New England and also had 87 yards receiving.

With Rawls expected back soon, the Seahawks decided to release Michael on Tuesday.

According to a scout familiar with Michael, talent isn't an issue. But Michael "needs to learn how to be a pro," the scout said.

Michael is 5-10, 215 pounds. He ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, posted a 43-inch vertical jump, benched 225 pounds 27 times and had a broad jump of 10-feet, 5-inches at the 2013 NFL combine. His vertical leap and broad jump led all running backs that year.

Immaturity has been Michael's biggest problem. A second-round pick of the Seahawks in '13, he did not distinguish himself with some of his actions on the field, including celebrating a first down he thought he got but actually didn't because he slowed down near the marker, waving off running back Marshawn Lynch as he came in to replace Michael and intermittently missing assignments.

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“You might see the great cut one time and then not the next, and it’s the exact same scenario,” offensive-line coach Tom Cable told the Seattle Times in 2014. “He comes across and makes a great blitz pickup one play and then he’s supposed to chip and then, ‘Oh, I’m going to get out for my route, and oops I forgot to chip.’

"It’s just being able to put a good play together and then a good one the next time and the next time. When that becomes his habit, then he owns it. Right now he doesn’t own it.”

Michael was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015. After the Cowboys cut him later that season, he was re-signed by the Seahawks. He played in three games for the Seahawks after returning, starting two. He gained 192 yards on 39 carries (4.9 average).

This year, he was the starter and averaged 4 yards per carry before Prosise emerged as the Seahawks' top back. Over the last three games, Michael had 63 yards rushing on 20 carries and two catches for 6 yards.

The Packers appear locked in on James Starks as their No. 1 back and Ty Montgomery as their No. 2.

Montgomery has been limited in the amount of work he has had because of an ailment related to a sickle-cell trait. He missed practice Wednesday, but it was because of an illness and not something sickle-cell-related.

Michael probably will receive the same chance Knile Davis did to prove he belongs. Davis, acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs for a conditional draft pick, lasted two weeks before being released.

As for Starks, coach Mike McCarthy was thrilled to see him back last week.

"I thought James did a lot of really good things, but I think just like every pro he has to get back out there," McCarthy said. "There’s nothing like live action. He came back quicker than I think everybody expected from his surgery, so that’s a real credit to James and his toughness and his commitment.

"He’ll be better this week. He’s had a chance to watch the tape and sometimes you may play things a little faster than you need to. I thought James played well and played a lot more than we anticipated."

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