Shorthanded Packers scrambling to acquire more running back depth

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Green Bay Packers defensive back Akeem Judd (36) rushes against Tennessee Titans defensive back Joseph Este (38) in the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason game at Lambeau Field on Thursday, August 9, 2018 in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY – Instead of fine-tuning the running game as he had hoped this late into training camp, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his staff are going to be teaching it from scratch to a couple of newcomers who are long shots to make the team.

Injuries continue to mar the progress of the Packers' running back position and an unforeseen retirement flipped things into desperation mode:

» Starting running back Jamaal Williams suffered an ankle injury against Pittsburgh that reduced him to working on the sideline with one of the trainers Monday and most likely precludes him from playing against Oakland on Friday night.

» Devante Mays will be sidelined for at least another week with a left hamstring injury he suffered in practice Aug. 3.

» Aaron Jones, who has yet to play in a game because of a hamstring injury, will probably see some team work for the first time this week and a limited amount of action against the Raiders.

» Free agent Akeem Judd was in line for a lot of playing time and some increased special teams work, but he surprised McCarthy and his staff at the end of last week by declaring he didn’t want to play football anymore.

Williams’ injury, which occurred, he said, when Pittsburgh’s Vince Williams unnecessarily twisted his ankle at the end of a play, was much worse Friday than it was Monday, and the second-year back said he would be fine for the season opener against Chicago.

“It swelled up,” Williams said. “I just needed to get off it. The next day the swelling went down and it just went from that to me just grinding it out, getting everything back together.

“It’s really just the swelling and the fluid buildup there. I’m all good, man.”

All that left Ty Montgomery and Joel Bouganon as the only backs without any limitations, and that was not enough to get through two days of practice and a game.

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So on Saturday, general manager Brian Gutekunst signed LeShun Daniels, a second-year street free agent who was active for four games last year for Washington. On Sunday, he signed street free agent Bronson Hill, who had spent time with seven teams over the past three seasons, most of it in training camp or on the practice squad.

Now, it’s up to McCarthy and his staff to get those two up to speed so that they can eat up some practice reps and take the strain off of Montgomery, Jones and Bouganon.

“We want them to play in the game in Oakland,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know at exactly what level. We obviously have two padded practices to evaluate, and we’re going to do a little extra 9-on-7. That was one of the things, another of the reasons I added the extra periods or plays there, just to make sure we’re getting plenty of reps for those new guys.”

The two most disappointing aspects of the running back situation for McCarthy is the continuing absence of Mays, who was having a good camp when he got hurt, and the departure of Judd.

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Of Mays, McCarthy said that the medical report was not encouraging, and he would miss this entire week.

“It’s a huge factor that he has to overcome,” McCarthy said, regarding the 53-man roster

Judd, he said, was in line for more playing time based on his recent performance.

“Professionally, I thought he took a huge step,” McCarthy said. “I was so impressed with him in Tennessee for not even being here a week and jumps in the game and hits the outside zone there to the left.  (His) pass protection, the pickup is very natural to him.

“We talked about getting (him) more involved in the punt protection, and he was just starting to work at the wing and trying to expand his role. And frankly, (I) was going to give him more opportunities this week.”

But McCarthy said the decision was for personal reasons and he respected Judd’s choice. Just before camp, receiver Michael Clark and linebacker Parris Bennett told McCarthy they were moving on from football, too, so it’s not something the team hasn’t encountered.

He said the number of young players retiring might be rising, but the Packers can only go by what they know as to why they’ve lost three players in the past month.

“I just know in our specific case, all three of these that we’ve had, they’re all specific to the individual,” he said.

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