Green Bay Packers release long snapper Steven Wirtel, handing job for now to rookie Jack Coco

View Comments

GREEN BAY - Brian Gutekunst’s patience with his team’s ongoing struggle to find an NFL-caliber long snapper might be wearing thin.

The Green Bay Packers released Steven Wirtel on Wednesday, leaving them with rookie Jack Coco as the only long snapper on their roster. Among the players Gutekunst worked out this week were long snappers Mitchell Fraboni and Antonio Ortiz. It remains to be seen whether the Packers will sign a long snapper to compete with Coco.

Wirtel is best remembered for being in the middle of the Packers' blocked punt in last season’s playoff loss against the San Francisco 49ers. Gutekunst surprisingly kept Wirtel on his roster this offseason before releasing him two weeks into camp. He acknowledged Wednesday morning long snapper continues to be a position of interest.

The Packers bid farewell to long snapper Steven Wirtel (46) on Wednesday.

“I think we’re always trying to make sure guys are in shape, where they’re at for our emergency list and whatnot,” Gutekunst said. “At the same time, I think as we get into these, we’ve got a game Friday night, two really intense practices (against the New Orleans Saints) and then another game. We’ve also got to cut to 85 on Tuesday, so the numbers game is going to come into play here pretty quick. So just making sure we’re on top of things there.”

More:Young Packers cornerback Rico Gafford a contender for kick return jobs

More:Mason Crosby endures, but Green Bay Packers finally taking steps to remedy crisis on special teams

Dexter Williams returns to bolster backfield

The Packers signed one of their tryout players this week, reuniting with running back Dexter Williams. A sixth-round pick in 2019, Williams spent two seasons with the Packers before being released at the end of camp last year. Williams spent time on the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins practice squads last season.

Gutekunst said Williams was in “phenomenal shape” during his workout. Coach Matt LaFleur said the Packers need more depth at running back, and with Williams they found a player who has “a lot of familiarity” in the system.

“He’s a guy who I probably was really hard on throughout his time here,” LaFleur said, “in terms of just trying to get everything out of him, and I’ve got to say it’s always cool to see a guy not only take the coaching, but you just see him evolve and mature as a player, as a person. I think he was one of our hardest workers on our team. You can always count on Dex giving maximum effort. So it was great to see him back here, and I’m excited for him.”

The Packers waived/injured receiver Osirus Mitchell, who missed the past week of camp with a quad injury.

They also signed safety Micha Abernathy, who joined Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He also has spent time with Tampa Bay and Indianapolis, and played for the Dallas Renagades of the XFL in 2020 and the Houston Gamblers of the USFL in 2022.

More:Battle for Green Bay Packers' backup safety job heating up for preseason opener

Packers keeping hopes up for injured linemen David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins

Gutekunst isn't tipping his hand on the plan for injured offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins.

Both remain on the physically unable to perform list two weeks into training camp. Neither has resigned to starting the regular season on PUP, but the likelihood increases with each passing day they are not at practice.

Gutekunst said he hasn't decided whether PUP will be their destination at the end of camp.

"No timelines right now," said. "They're both doing really, really well. I think they both have a shot to play early in the season, but we're not going to put any timelines on it. If we get down to that point that we think that's the best thing for the football team, we will. But they're progressing very well."

With Bakhtiari, the ramp-up time needed to get into football shape will be especially important. Bakhtiari missed all but 27 snaps last season. Though he did practice a few weeks, he's spent most of that past 20 months away from the football field.

Gutekunst said it would be ideal for Bakhtiari to return in camp, but he didn't say it was a requirement for him to be ready for Week 1.

"I think when the timing is right," Gutekunst said, "he'll get there. I think with a guy who has as much experience as Dave, that time will be shorter than with other guys. But there's no doubt when you haven't played for as long as he has, there's going to be a period of time where you have to kind of develop that callous and get back to that elite-level play that he has always been used to.

"He's a unique athlete, and I know he'll get up to speed quickly once he gets out there."

View Comments