Packers working to reduce self-inflicted third-and-longs

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GREEN BAY - When the Green Bay Packers get to third down, it’s often an uphill climb to get a first down.

Coach Matt LaFleur’s offense ranks 19th in third-down conversion percentage (37.2), but the high number of third-and-longs has made the percentage considerably worse. It is something LaFleur and his staff studied during the bye week.

“I think from an offensive perspective, staying ahead of the sticks and not having the negative yardage plays (are key),” he said. “I think when you look at us offensively, third down-and-long, (there have) been way too many of them. I think we’ve been pretty solid when it’s third-and-7 or less.”

The Packers have faced 64 plays in which it has been third-and-7 or fewer yards for a first down. They have converted 33 of them for an impressive 51.5% success rate.

But when it has been third-and-7 or more, they have converted just 8 of 47 attempts (17.0%). Of those 47 attempts, 33 of them have been from third-and-10 or more.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers speaks to an official after the Raiders were called offside Oct. 20 at Lambeau Field.

“It’s tough sledding in this league when you get into third-and-8 or more,” LaFleur said.  “It’s a credit to some of the teams we’ve played, no doubt about it, but a lot of it has been self-inflicted at the same time.

“We’ve had too many penalties, just pre-snap penalties, discipline penalties, that we’ve got to clean up in order for us to be the team that we want to be.”

Speaking of penalties

The Packers are tied for the sixth most false starts among all teams with 16 and rank fourth in most delay of game penalties with 11 (one declined).

Those are the pre-snap penalties LaFleur is talking about.

As far as the dreaded holding call, which generally creates the worst down-and-distance situations, the Packers rank tied for 18th for most in the NFL (24 total, five declined).

Left tackle David Bakhtiari leads the team in offensive holding calls with five. Rookie right guard Elgton Jenkins is next with three and right tackle Bryan Bulaga and wide receiver Geronimo Allison rank tied for third with two apiece.

Wait and see

Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams said he was happy to see free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick work out in front of NFL scouts Saturday, but said it won’t mean a lot unless a team signs him.

Kaepernick has contended that the NFL has blackballed him for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality. Players around the NFL have wondered out loud how someone who has started 58 games has gone three years without even a tryout.

“He definitely should have had a chance to show what he can do,” Williams said. “It’s taken three years to get a workout. Who knows what happens now? I don’t know. We’ll have to see if he gets signed now.

“That’s the deal. I mean, you come out and show that he can still do it, there might be teams out there that need a backup or someone to start right away. There’s been situations like that over the years and he still hasn’t been signed."

Williams, whose Packers team lost twice to Kaepernick in the playoffs, said it would not look good for the NFL if it set up a workout with no intention of allowing one of its teams to sign him.

“What happens now?” Williams said. “I’m going to really be watching that situation to see if somebody really signs him. I think players are really going to be watching it. You don’t want it to be just for show.

“If you’re going to give him a fair chance, give him a fair chance.”

Packers healthy to start week

The Packers were a fairly healthy team heading into their game against Carolina on Nov. 10 and that remained the case as they started practice coming off the bye week Monday. All 53 players were on the turf for stretching inside the Don Hutson Center, which was the only period open to the media. That included Tre Smith and Ty Summers, who suffered head injuries against Carolina.

The club will release its first injury report of the week Wednesday.

Tonyan in good spirits

The highlight of Robert Tonyan’s season came with a leaping sideline grab in Dallas on Oct. 6, a 23-yard completion that marked his third straight game with a catch. Shortly thereafter, however, the 25-year-old tight end exited the game and has not seen the field since.

Sunday’s game against San Francisco will mark the seventh week since Tonyan suffered a hip injury against the Cowboys and he insisted he never suffered a setback in his recovery — but he just hasn’t been ready to play after multiple attempts to practice over the last month.

“With the severity of the injury I’m right on point with where I need to be,” he told “Timing-wise I’m not worried. With me, someone who has never had to sit out a game with an injury, it’s tough to cope with and deal with.”

Tonyan said veteran tight ends Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis offered a support system and kept his head in the game plan and in the weekly routine.

“No setbacks,” Tonyan said. “S--- happens. Just gotta work through it and how you react to it is the thing.”

Since his injury the team had shuffled Evan Baylis on and off the practice squad several times and brought rookie Jace Sternberger off injured reserve three weeks ago. But beginning with Monday’s practice, Tonyan looked to be in good spirits about his progress.

“I just want to be out there so bad so I go out in practice and you just see what you can take,” Tonyan said. “You can try and put yourself in a game situation as much as possible in a controlled environment to see where you’re at. I’ve been progressing every day, every week. I feel better. I’ve just kind of been riding that out. This week I feel night-and-day better than last week. It’s just a good feeling to have.”

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