PHOENIX – There will be a lot of names thrown around in the coming months as possible replacements for Tramon Williams at starting perimeter cornerback.
One you won't hear is Jumal Rolle.
That's because early last season, the first-year cornerback left the Green Bay Packers' practice squad for an opportunity on Houston's active roster. Rolle went onto play in 10 games for the Texans with 19 tackles, four deflections and three interceptions.
It's not unusual for a practice-squad player to find success elsewhere in the NFL. What made Rolle's situation unique was the Packers had a roster spot available at the time he left. In fact, the Packers went two games with an open spot after Andy Mulumba was placed on injured reserve Sept. 19.
"There's always some regret," said general manager Ted Thompson at the NFL annual meetings Monday. "I'm a hoarder of players. I like to keep the all. He's one of those guys we would have liked to have kept, as well."
Rolle, 24, originally signed to the Packers' practice squad in 2013 and actually was promoted to the active roster at season's end. He made a strong bid to stay on the 53-man roster in training camp after tallying nine tackles, a sack and forced fumble in the preseason.
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Cornerback coach Joe Whitt often compared the former Catawba (N.C.) standout's raw potential to Sam Shields, but the organization opted to go with sixth-round rookie Demetri Goodson, who largely struggled in camp. While disappointing for Rolle, the decision was understandable after Goodson sustained a concussion in the preseason finale.
The injury kept Goodson out the first two weeks of the regular season. Had they cut him, the Packers would have needed to reach an injury settlement. NFL rules dictate teams must wait six weeks after a settlement concludes to re-sign a player to the roster.
It was a bit more quizzical why Rolle wasn't promoted after Mulumba tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the New York Jets in Week 2. Since it was unlikely any practice-squad player who was promoted would be activated on game day, Thompson rolled the dice that he could promote a prospect if another team called.
He lost that wager when Rolle bolted for Houston where he played 209 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. In his third game with the Texans, Rolle picked off two passes against Philadelphia.
The Packers were stacked at cornerback last season, but had three veterans – Tramon Williams, Davon House and Jarrett Bush – all in the final year of their contracts. Now, there's a void in the starting secondary after Williams and House signed lucrative contracts in the opening phase of free agency.
Green Bay has options with fourth-year cornerback Casey Hayward, Goodson and practice-squad holdover Tay Glover-Wright. Still, Rolle could go down as the one that got away.
"You know what, it's just the way it goes during the course of the season," Thompson said. "Sometimes you need something a little bit more than the others and it works out that way."
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