Nate Palmer hopes to finally ditch club

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nate Palmer (51) reacts to a play against New Orleans Saints Thursday, September 3, 2015, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

For the first time in a month, inside linebacker Nate Palmer practiced on Wednesday without a club on his left hand.

Palmer injured the hand during the third practice of training camp on Aug. 1 and has utilized a protective club for the past five weeks. He had 11 tackles in the preseason, but it still limited his ability to disengage from blocks on defense and special teams.

On Wednesday, Palmer wore a splint in practice with padding over the top. He and the training staff expect to test out a couple different things during Thursday and Saturday’s practice to see what would work best for Sunday’s game against Chicago.

Palmer couldn’t rule out returning to the club if nothing sticks.

“It’s still a work in progress,” Palmer said. “We’re still going to make some tweaks to the protection I have to wear and see what works best. Ultimately, it’s really still in trial-and-error right now. Come Sunday I could be back in a club if we don’t find anything that could work. We’re pretty much in a trial-and-error phase right now.”

Palmer, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, is in line for a significant role in the defense this year. Although Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington project as the starting linebackers inside, the 6-foot-2, 248-pound Palmer has been the one to substitute in when Matthews moves outside.

It's been frustrating to play with only one hand, but Palmer also feels it's made him a better player.

“It made me somewhat smarter and play ahead of the ball,” Palmer said. “Because I know that if I didn’t have clean reads and things of that nature that it would be hard for me to battle back into the play. If somebody gets on me, it’s hard to fight them off with one hand.”

Palmer wasn’t the only player who shed his club before Wednesday’s practice. Rookie running back Alonzo Harris was using a similar splint after needing a club in his 13-carry, 41-yard performance in the preseason finale against New Orleans.

Harris, an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana-Lafayette, was arguably the biggest stunner to make the Packers’ final 53. He won the No. 3 running back job over first-year running back Rajion Neal, who registered 155 total yards in the preseason and offered kickoff-return ability.

“Alonzo Harris is a part of our football team,” McCarthy said. “He earned it and I think he has tremendous upside. I'm glad he's here.”

Neal signed onto Miami’s practice squad Monday, but was released Wednesday to make room for former New England running back Jonas Gray.

— and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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