Packers GM Brian Gutekunst laments lack of time to make roster trims

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GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst met with the media Monday, just six days before he would have to make five roster moves to get his team down to the mandatory 80 players to proceed through camp. It also gave him only one practice to watch (Saturday's opener) before deciding.

Some players could end up on season-ending injured lists, but Gutekunst knows he’ll have to make some hard decisions based only on a virtual spring and conditioning work the last few weeks.

“It’s another one of the challenges that we’re going through,” he said. “I think we want to keep as many players around here as we can; we’ve always operated that way. Obviously in a normal year, especially the last few years where we just had the one cut down, it was a little bit easier, but with certain guys coming off certain lists we have to be prepared to make the moves that we need to make and a lot of times it’s not going to be with enough information really that we would like to have on the players we may be releasing. But it’s just kind of part of the situation we’re in right now, and again, we’ve got a great staff, we feel really good about how we’re going about it, but it doesn’t make it easy.”

On Monday, the Packers did make a roster swap by waiving defensive end Jamal Davis and claiming former Detroit wide receiver Travis Fulgham. Davis was claimed from Miami in late April.

Fulgham is 6-feet-2 and 215 pounds and was a sixth-round pick of the Lions out of Old Dominion last year. He played in three games and did not catch a pass. 

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

Gutekunst has acknowledged the additional safety protocols enacted by the NFL to mitigate the risks of contracting and spreading COVID-19 throughout a team will make adding players more difficult, but it doesn’t mean he won’t try. The Packers have already claimed fullback John Lovett off waivers from Kansas City and USA Today reported Monday the club put in a claim on former Philadelphia defensive tackle Bruce Hector, who was ultimately awarded to Jacksonville.

But regarding street free agents, the team cannot bring a player to the facility unless the intention is to sign him.

“Right now we are not able to bring in guys off the street to work out,” Gutekunst said. “You can bring them in to sign them and then there’s a multiple-day kind of protocol before they can enter your building. But the actual, normally where we’d be working out many, many street free agents, putting them through drills and timing and testing, we are unable to do that at this point.”

ESPN reported the club brought third-year wide receiver Malik Turner to Green Bay late last week. Turner, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois, caught 17 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown in two seasons with Seattle.

What potentially could complicate things further as the team gets to the weekend is if kicker Mason Crosby and long snapper Hunter Bradley remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list and are not able to participate in practices. They are the only players on the team at their respective positions.

“We’re obviously hopeful those guys will be back and ready to go by that time,” Gutekunst said. “I think we’ll just kind of see when we get there, where we’re at. To your point, using roster spots right for guys just to get through practice isn’t ideal, but if it’s something we feel is important we’ll do it.”

St. Brown expected to practice

Third-year wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown last played on Aug. 23, 2019 in Winnipeg, Manitoba when the Packers fell 22-21 to the then-Oakland Raiders in a controversial preseason game in Canada. St. Brown injured an ankle catching a pass for seven yards on a field shortened by poor conditions to 80 yards, sending the sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2018 to season-ending injured reserve.

The belief is he will be taking part in the Packers’ first practice of 2020.

“I would expect EQ to be ready,” Gutekunst said. “And then I think just kind of the way that he finished 2018, the way he goes about his business, the way he was performing in ’19 in training camp before he got injured. So, yeah, we’re really bullish on him. I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him. I’m glad he’s healthy. I’m glad he’s back and expect him to make impacts this year.”

As a rookie St. Brown caught 21 passes for 328 yards.

QB options

The Packers, like most teams, will keep three quarterbacks on their roster, a precaution against COVID-19. 

The question is what kind of roster spot that third quarterback will occupy. 

“I think this year’s a little different,” Gutekunst said. “Obviously with the practice squad going up to 16 and having a total of 69 players, every team’s probably going to have at least three quarterbacks one way or another. Certainly we will, as well. We haven’t even got to a strength-and-conditioning phase yet, but we’re going to try and keep the best players we can understanding that it’s going to be a long season, and that practice squad’s going to be very, very important to us, especially this year with the ability to move guys up and down, and that’s going to be more important than it ever has been.” 

The Packers have two locks at quarterback: Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love. The latter was a first-round pick, by definition factoring into the franchise’s long-term plans. 

But it could be difficult for Love – or any rookie quarterback – to be ready to operate an offense by the regular season with the constraints of this offseason, as well as a truncated training camp. 

To ease the burden on Love, the Packers could keep third-year quarterback Tim Boyle on their roster. Boyle was Rodgers’ primary backup last season, when the team kept only two quarterbacks. Unlike Love, he has a full season in coach Matt LaFleur’s system, giving him a foundation in the playbook before this offseason relegated training to Zoom meetings. 

“Tim’s got a bright future,” Gutekunst said. “He’s very, very talented, and having him here and watching him develop over the last few years has been neat to see, because he’s really very gifted. So it’s really important for us as a football team.” 

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