Aaron Nagler discusses the release of cornerback LaDarius Gunter and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois and the return of wide receiver Geronimo Allison from suspension. (Sept. 12, 2017) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - While it may have been an unceremonious departure from Green Bay, cornerback LaDarius Gunter didn’t have to wait long for his next opportunity.
The Carolina Panthers claimed Gunter off waivers Wednesday, one day after the Packers released him.
“I figured that someone would claim him because he’s a great, great talent and he has a lot of NFL experience,” cornerback Damarious Randall said. “A lot of different coaches and scouts have had looks at him. Him being claimed this fast doesn’t surprise me at all.”
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Gunter, 25, finished the 2016 season as the No. 1 cornerback after injuries sapped the production of Randall, Quinten Rollins and Sam Shields. He played the most snaps of any full-time corner on the roster (861) and was asked to shadow the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Alshon Jeffery, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones at various times throughout the season.
"Good football player and even a better teammate," coach Mike McCarthy said. "You talk about a young man, LaDarius, just the way he came in here, took full advantage of his opportunity and did everything right. When it was his opportunity to play, he practiced hard and played harder and was always available."
But Gunter tumbled down the depth chart rapidly during training camp this summer as Randall and Rollins regained some of their rookie form and the additions of Davon House and second-round pick Kevin King intensified the competition. Ultimately, Gunter and Josh Hawkins were competing for the fifth and sixth spots on the depth chart, neither of which would warrant significant playing time.
Gunter was active for the season opener against Seattle, but he played only two snaps from scrimmage and was relegated to special teams.
"This is a what-can-you-do-for-me-now type of business,” Randall said. “That’s just the nature of the business. This is a performance-type business. I don’t know what led to it. I just control the things that I can control. I’m just looking forward to Sunday night.”
All of the lights: A year ago, in Week 8, wide receiver Trevor Davis ripped off a 55-yard punt return against the Falcons to spark what finished as the best game of his rookie season. Four plays later, he caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Davis will hope to bottle the same success Sunday night as the Packers travel to Atlanta for a rematch of the NFC championship game. Only, this time he’ll have to adjust to a new environment as the Falcons open Mercedes-Benz Stadium, especially when it comes to fielding punts, his primary job this season.
“You’ve got to go in there early and catch some to see how the lights are immediately,” Davis said, “how the lights are and the way you’re going to see the ball, judging how it is in the air. Sometimes the depth is kind of weird when you look in the stadium versus when you look in the air.”
There are similar adjustments for players on offense, according to Rodgers. When it comes to receivers, getting a feel for the lights is important when tracking deep balls or lofted throws. When it comes to quarterbacks, the familiarization process is usually about finding the clock.
“I think the receivers, with the lights sometimes and the background, it's definitely an issue,” Rodgers said. “For me, it's about finding the play clock. Sometimes it's hidden often behind people standing behind the end zone. So it's kind of in some weird spots sometimes.
“(The receivers) sometimes find it hard to track it. I remember (Randall Cobb) last year in the Giants playoff game said that the third touchdown, he didn't see it until it was in his hands. It just got caught in the lights, and that can happen. Jeff (Janis) complained last year in Detroit when I threw him a fade ball on the sidelines that he just never saw. It could happen indoors and outdoors.”
Roster move: The Packers signed 6-3, 321-pound first-year player Darrell Greene to their practice squad. Greene originally was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent on May 12, 2016, but was released on Sept. 3, 2016. He was signed to Philadelphia’s practice squad on Sept. 4, 2016, where he spent the majority of the season.