Packers notes: Wisconsin tight end Fumagalli hoping to measure up

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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Wisconsin Badgers tight end Troy Fumagalli makes a catch against LSU at Lambeau Field on Sept. 3, 2016.

INDIANAPOLIS – Before the weekend is over, former Wisconsin tight end Troy Fumagalli hopes he gets noticed.

The tight end position is full of talent this year and some of the prospects are stronger or faster or more productive than Fumagalli. The former walk-on didn’t blow away scouts with 14 reps on the bench press and won’t make them drool after running the 40-yard dash Saturday.

But two measurements that came out of the scouting combine here at the Indiana Convention Center do work very much in his favor.

Fumagalli’s arm length of 34⅛ inches tied with Indiana’s Ian Thomas for the longest of any of the 17 tight ends at the combine and his hand size of 10¼ inches tied for fourth.

Among the top-ranked tight ends, only Penn State’s Mike Gesicki (34-inch arms, 10⅛-inch hands) come close to Fumagalli’s combination of arm length and hand size. It partially explains why he has been so reliable despite missing the index finger on his left hand due to a birth defect.

“That’s something I’ve always taken pride in, clutch situations,” said Fumagalli, who has been projected as a middle-round pick. “I always wanted to be that guy, I wanted the ball in my hands.”

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He’s hoping all the meetings he’s had with scores of tight end coaches — including the Green Bay Packers’ Brian Angelichio — along with his on-field drill performance will enhance his prospects. He wants to prove how quickly he can adapt to a pro offense.

“At Wisconsin under coach (Paul) Chryst, I have a wide variety of football knowledge,” said Fumagalli, who averaged 12.1 yards per catch at Wisconsin. “I learned a ton under him and so in the interviews I like to show that, show that I love the game.

“And that I’m a complete tight end. I’ve been asked over the years to run block, pass block and catch. Just showcase my abilities the best I can.”

Most of the NFL should know that Fumagalli is missing a finger. The story of how he had the finger amputated as a newborn because of a birth defect has been shared publicly many times.

But at the NFL scouting combine nothing is ignored and so Fumagalli answered any question about it that came his way.

“Just about half,” Fumagalli said of teams who ask him about the missing finger. “Either some don’t notice or some already know and they don’t see it as an issue.

“I know it’s part of the process. They invest a lot of money in people so they need to know everything, so it doesn’t bother me.”

It will be important that Fumagalli run well. Teams need to know he can get down the middle of the field either from an in-line position or from a split position. He measured 6-5 and 248 pounds, but he has a thin frame and may need to put on some more weight.

As for the prospect of going to Green Bay, Fumagalli, who grew up in Illinois a Chicago Bears fan, said he’d love to stay put.

“I respect and love the Packers and what they do with the offense,” Fumagalli said. “I’d love to stay home in Wisconsin.”

Taking the high road: When quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a slightly veiled slap at Packers coach Mike McCarthy for his autonomous decision to replace quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt with Frank Cignetti Jr., McCarthy’s phone blew up with messages and alerts.

Rather than respond, McCarthy accepted it as part of the fallout from a long list of staff changes he made.

“Change is difficult,” McCarthy said. “There’s a personal and professional component to it. The personal part is very difficult. In Alex’s specific situation, (our relationship) is 18 years old.

“At the end of the day, every decision I make, I do what I feel is in the best interest of the Green Bay Packers.”

Rodgers made the comments in a radio appearance in Minneapolis during Super Bowl week. He and Van Pelt are close and share the same agents, so Rodgers might have felt McCarthy could have done more to keep Van Pelt, who left to seek an offensive coordinator’s position and wound up as quarterbacks coach in Cincinnati.

“I never got into this to be popular,” McCarthy said. “That’s the reality of being a head coach in this league.”

It's a snap: Forget Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta, the real MVP of the Senior Bowl was Tanner Carew.

Don’t go searching for his stats, though. He’s a long snapper.

Carew, it seemed, was the first one down the field on every North team punt and even drew considerable camera time on the Senior Bowl broadcast, so much so that his friends and teammates were wondering how he wasn’t named the MVP.

“It’s an ongoing joke with a bunch of guys I played over there with,” said the Oregon product. “It’s good a long snapper got noticed. It’s good a long-snapper got noticed for something positive. I had a good game.”

It’s likely the Packers were paying attention.

With 12 picks in the draft and a need for a young, athletic long snapper, it’s certainly possible they could become the fifth team in the past 12 seasons to use a draft pick for a guy who plays a half dozen snaps a game.

The Packers have been trying to replace 33-year-old Brett Goode with a younger guy for several years, but everyone they’ve tried has been either too inconsistent or has gotten hurt.

Goode is a free agent and the two guys they have under contract, Taybor Pepper and Zach Triner, don’t have five games of NFL experience between them. They could continue developing the young guys or they could take a swing at the highest-rated snapper in the draft.

The four long snappers who have been selected since ’07 have been a mixed bag.

On the one hand, there’s Zak DeOssie, a fourth-round pick who is the second-longest tenured New York Giants player behind quarterback Eli Manning, and Joe Cardona, a fifth-round pick in ’15 who just completed his third season with the New England Patriots.

On the other hand, there’s Seattle’s Tyler Schmitt (sixth round in ’08) and the Patriot’s Jake Ingram (sixth round in ’09), both of whom washed out quickly.

What has helped DeOssie and Cardona thrive, besides being consistently accurate with their snaps, is strength and speed. DeOssie was a linebacker in college and at 6-4, 250 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds. Cardona is 6-2, 242 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.91 seconds and benched 225 pounds 30 times at the ’15 combine.

Carew measured 6-1, 242 pounds, ran the 40 in 5.0 seconds and benched 225 pounds 18 times.

“I ran one 40 in 5-flat and one at 4.97,” Carew said. “I don’t know what they gave me. It’s different with the laser timing. I’ve run hand times of 4.86, high 4.7s. I was hoping to break under 5.0.”

It might not have helped that Carew was the only long snapper at the combine and had to snap “north of 150, 200 footballs in a row” during drills on Thursday. But Carew said he hoped he showed he can step into an NFL starting job right away.

“I wanted to show them I can do that,” he said. “I think I did a good job of showing it in the Senior Bowl. Everything went pretty well. But there’s always room to do better.”

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