Injuries offer opportunities outside for LBs

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers linebacker Jermauria Rasco (59) during Packers Family Night at Lambeau Field on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015.

The Packers had more injured outside linebackers (five) than healthy ones (four) when the group ran out onto the field during Saturday's player introductions.

Clay Matthews (knee), Mike Neal (abdomen), Nick Perry (groin), Jayrone Elliott (shoulder) and Adrian Hubbard (groin) all sat out of the Family Night practice. Matthews said Friday that he's hoping to be back for the preseason opener against New England, but wasn't sure if that was realistic.

The extra reps fell to undrafted rookies James Vaughters and Jermauria Rasco, whose workload jumped considerably with the Packers watching Julius Peppers' snaps and Andy Mulumba coming back from torn ACL.

Rasco dropped about 10 pounds to make the switch from a 4-3 defensive end at LSU to a 3-4 outside linebacker. As an undrafted free agent, he had offers to play either position in the pros, but picked the Packers based on their track record of making NFL players out of college free agents.

"If you asked me this when we first started, I wasn't comfortable at all," said Rasco of the switch. "I'm still learning a lot of things and slowly getting comfortable and getting in a groove. It's slowing down, especially with the dropping and stuff. You just line up and play football after that."

Vaughters was quiet early in camp, but showed good inside quickness during team periods Saturday night. He even got past starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga on one play to get into Aaron Rodgers' face in pass under pressure.

Mulumba missed all but two games last season because of a torn ACL, but has been off to a strong start to camp. Despite not being 100 percent, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound outside linebacker looks more comfortable in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme.

"It feels good," Mulumba said. "We got so many injuries. Even me, I'm not 100 percent, but for me it's a question of getting my knee to be used to that amount of reps. Those guys will be fine. It's just a little bit of soreness here and there. They'll come back next week and I think we'll get to compete again. For me, I just take advantage of this opportunity to get to rush with Julius on the other side."

Extra points

■ The changes Scott Tolzien has made to his footwork and throwing mechanics have shown early in camp.

The fifth-year quarterback is way ahead of Matt Blanchard and Brett Hundley for the primary backup job to Rodgers. His work on two-minute drives is where it's shown the most. He led another charge to close practice Saturday, going 3-for-3 before Larry Pinkard dropped a deep end zone pass.

"I think Scott is making great strides," White said. "Scott's made some big-time throws. He's learned a lot from Aaron. You can see it. He makes a good throw every day and he has very, very good control and knowledge of the offense."

Green Bay Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien makes a throw while running drills during training camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015.

■ Defensive lineman Letroy Guion (hamstring) didn't practice. Josh Boyd replaced him at end in the base 3-4 defense.

Undrafted tight end Mitchell Henry was back at practice with a club on his left hand. Cornerback Damarious Randall (groin), guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) and inside linebacker Josh Francis (hip) all returned after dropping out late in Friday's practice.

Injury report

New injuries: DT Letroy Guion (hamstring), WR Javess Blue (undisclosed).

Still out: OLB Nick Perry (groin), WR Adrian Coxson (concussion), WR Ricky Collins (heel), OLB Adrian Hubbard (groin), LB Clay Matthews (knee soreness), WR Jared Abbrederis (concussion), OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), OLB Jayrone Elliott (shoulder), DT Mike Pennel (groin).

Returned: CB Damarious Randall (groin), G T.J. Lang (shoulder), TE Mitchell Henry (finger), ILB Josh Francis (hip).

— and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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