GREEN BAY – Running back Devante Mays will get one shot to remind the Green Bay Packers that he was having a good camp at the time he pulled his left hamstring.
It comes Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs in the team’s final exhibition game.
“That’s the big thing, come game time I just can’t think about anything, injuries or anything,” Mays said Monday after practicing for the first time since Aug. 3. “I just have to let it fly and have a great game. That’s what I’m hoping for, make a good impression.”
Mays was limited to individual drills during the final public training camp practice, but he said he would do more in private workouts Tuesday and Wednesday with the goal set as playing Thursday.
The medical staff had him on lockdown for more than three weeks after he pulled up at the end of a run grabbing his hamstring. Coming back too early from a pulled hamstring can be foolish because the likelihood of reinjuring it is great, so Mays just focused on rehab.
It was hard because he couldn’t fill the snaps Aaron Jones wasn’t getting because of a hamstring injury and Jamaal Williams wasn’t getting because he needs to be fresh for the regular season. Those went to undrafted free-agent running backs Joel Bouganon, Akeem Judd, Bronson Hill and LeShun Daniels.
Bouganon leads the team in the preseason with 29 rushing attempts followed by Montgomery (11) and Judd (11).
A good deal of the work the others got once belonged to Mays, the third of three running backs drafted and kept on the 53-man roster last season. Mays already has a training camp, a few regular-season snaps and an entire season of practice under his belt, so it’s not like he will be making a first impression.
But he wants every opportunity he can get Thursday.
“Heck, yeah,” he said.
Luckily for Mays, the bar hasn’t been set too high. Bouganon, Montgomery and Judd all averaged less than 3 yards per carry.
Mays may want 20 carries against the Chiefs, but he also must make sure he’s not pushing too hard, both mentally and physically, if he gets the go-ahead Thursday as expected.
"Not overdo it,” he said. “That’s the thing, I want to and it’s so tempting. You’re out there and even when we started doing the team stuff (in practice), it’s like, ‘Darn, I want to go, I want to go so bad,’ and I’m like, ‘They’re not over here watching so maybe I could sneak in some plays.’
“But then inside my head I know, no, I’m not supposed to be doing that.”
Williams and Jones are the only locks to make the 53-man roster at the halfback position, but Jones is suspended for the first two games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. It’s likely Ty Montgomery, a converted receiver with a long injury history, will be the No. 3 back.
If the Packers don’t want to lose Jones to waivers, they must carry him on the 53-man roster until the suspension starts Sept. 3. So, a big question is whether they’ll keep four or try to slip one of the others through waivers with the intention of re-signing him when Jones’ suspension takes effect.
If Mays has a big game, he could affect that decision.
Coach Mike McCarthy did not reveal the extent of right tackle Kyle Murphy’s ankle injury, but the fact he was in a walking boot Sunday means he probably won’t be back anytime soon.
Even if he were back, his place on the 53-man roster is far from guaranteed after a pair of shaky performances in the exhibition games. The loss to the Oakland Raiders, in which Murphy played both tackle positions, was the worst.
He gave up a pair of sacks and several pressures before leaving with the injury.
Luckily for McCarthy, one of the linemen who did play solidly — and there weren’t many — was tackle Jason Spriggs. The 2016 second-round pick bounced back from a poor start to camp and held up despite the Packers throwing the ball 37 times.
Spriggs will probably start at left tackle against the Chiefs, so his pursuit of the No. 3 tackle position is far from over. McCarthy said he will continue to plug in different players so he can evaluate all options.
“I think just the way we’ve been playing throughout camp,” McCarthy said of how he’ll play it. “(Adam) Pankey’s played out there. Also, Byron (Bell) has played out there. Obviously, (Alex) Light can play tackle.
“You’ll see all different combinations today and tomorrow going into Kansas City.”
53 and counting
It’s probably not a shock that Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst really likes his roster.
But is it good enough that he’ll be cutting some players that will wind up on other 53-man rosters?
“Yeah, I think we have more than 53 players that are viable players in the NFL,” he said.
The Packers will cut down to 53 on Saturday and Gutekunst is expecting some close calls. He said the Packers are constantly talking with other teams about potential trades, mostly with teams that feel they have too many players at one position and are looking to deal them for depth at another position.
The trick is knowing the landscape.
“I think we have a pretty good handle on that,” Gutekunst said. “I think the most important thing is our team. That’s the way I look at it. That’s the most important thing is our team and making sure we have the best not only 53 but then 10 practice-squad players.”
Cornering the market
Gutekunst said he might not have been able to make the trade for inside linebacker Antonio Morrison if the Packers’ cornerback position wasn’t so healthy.
There isn’t a single corner who is sidelined now, although Davon House (hamstring), Kevin King (shoulder) and rookie Jaire Alexander (groin) have missed some time. Given the health and the recent emergence of Alexander and fellow rookie Josh Jackson, Gutekunst felt he could trade Lenzy Pipkins, who finished last season on the 53-man roster.
"I think to acquire a player like Antonio you're going to have to give up something,” Gutekunst said. “Lenzy was a very good player for us. I think he's got a lot of potential. Indianapolis kind of had their eye on him for a while.
“I think we got through this third preseason game from an injury standpoint, it kind of looked up and I just thought it was the right thing to do."