Bradford, Palmer could get work at ILB
There's always been a sink-or-swim element to how the Green Bay Packers unearth inside linebackers.
Brad Jones remembers being tossed into the deep end in 2012 when he and Jamari Lattimore were moved out of Kevin Green's outside linebackers room and into Winston Moss' wing with the inside linebackers near the start of training camp.
At first, many didn't give them much of a chance. The outside perception was players who are asked to make a swap are typically in danger of not making the roster, but the move ultimately both benefitted.
Lattimore developed into a capable reserve and special-teams stalwart, while Jones joined the starting lineup midway through the season after both Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith suffered season-ending injuries.
After the season, Jones signed a three-year extension to remain in Green Bay next to A.J. Hawk.
Initially, there wasn't much time to process the change. It was purely reactionary.
"I think when I made the shift inside, I had zero time," Jones said. "So I just mass flooded myself to learn it. I think the pressure of it helped me. I think it was easy for me only because there was no choice. You learn this or I don't know. You play football. Either you're going to do it or you're not going to do it."
Now, the Packers appears to be trying the same trick with fourth-round pick Carl Bradford and Nate Palmer, who both took snaps at inside linebacker at Monday's practice after working strictly outside for the rest of camp.
Days away from final cuts, defensive coordinator Dom Capers said both players could get reps there in Thursday's preseason finale against Kansas City. They need extra bodies with Jones sidelined with a quad injury, but it's also the team's final exam.
Bradford, 22, was drafted in the fourth-round of May's draft as an undersized outside linebacker prospect from Arizona State. Off to a quiet start to camp, the Packers are giving him a shot inside where he played his redshirt freshman year with the Sun Devils.
Palmer played inside linebacker early in his career at Illinois before transferring to Illinois State where he mostly operated as a 4-3 defensive end.
"It's a lot of carryover. It's an easy transition," said Palmer, a sixth-round pick last year. "It's kind of like a tradition they move one guy in every year, but it's kind of (working) out to be that way having an outside guy who moves into the inside."
The Packers are stacked at outside linebacker. Palmer and second-year outside linebacker Andy Mulumba have roles on No. special-team units, but those roles are constantly changing.
The Packers aren't as deep at inside linebacker, but Hawk, Jones and Lattimore fill the room pretty well. Former seventh-round pick Sam Barrington has been around the ball often, as well.
For players on the bubble like Bradford and Palmer, versatility doesn't hurt.
"The positions in themselves ask for different things," Moss said. "There's enough similarities and you can take some of the guys and be able to go back and forth, and we've been able to do that at an efficient and consistent rate and guys have been able to buy into that process, going from either outside to in, sometimes it's been inside to out."
With Hawk unlikely to play long, Barrington and Lattimore should get plenty of work early on. However, undrafted rookie Jake Doughty is the only extra body at the position, so it's plausible Bradford and Palmer could get some looks.
Like Jones and Lattimore before them, the coaches will be looking for a smooth transition.
"I'm not going to say I'm the most comfortable at it because I haven't done it for four-plus years, but I'll be fine," Palmer said. "The real test will come if I take some reps inside this Thursday. We'll see how it goes."
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