Justin Perillo has waited more than a year to show the Green Bay Packers what he’s capable of on Sundays.
So when opportunity finally came his way, the second-year tight end made sure he caught it.
Perillo, a former undrafted free agent out of Maine, hauled in five passes for 58 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown from quarterback Aaron Rodgers with 32 seconds remaining in the eventual 18-16 loss to Detroit.
While it wasn’t enough to change the outcome, Perillo’s emergence was exactly what Green Bay’s struggling offense needed. His first of four second-half receptions was a 20-yard completion in the middle of the field with the Packers facing a third-and-15 situation.
Coincidentally, Sunday marked the one-month anniversary of Perillo’s promotion from the practice squad.
“I thought Justin really, you're seeing what we I get to see every day, he just needed an opportunity,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought he really made some clutch catches down the stretch. I thought he played well. I was proud of him because I know how hard he's worked and the practice squad and coming back and having the injury early. I was very happy to see his production."
On his last catch, Perillo sliced through Detroit’s secondary to bring in the 11-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers, who showed a lot of faith in needling the pass to the second-year tight end. Perillo has been cut twice by the Packers, splitting his time between the main roster and practice squad.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound tight end appeared to be turning a corner in training camp before he sustained a concussion in the preseason opener against New England, sidelining him for two weeks. He was cut at the end of camp, but re-signed to the practice squad.
Perillo was promoted last month after safety Sean Richardson (neck) and tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) were placed on injured reserve. He quickly usurped sixth-round pick Kennard Backman for the No. 2 tight end job behind Richard Rodgers.
“You can’t put your head down. You just have to work back to it,” said Perillo, who has seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown in four games. “Things happen. I got cut last year, so I couldn’t (hang) my head that long. I was just excited to be out there and excited to be activated again and working with the team.”
Perillo wasn’t the only former practice-squad player who made an impact in the Packers’ offense Sunday. Receiver Jared Abbrederis caught four passes for 57 yards, including a critical 32-yard reception on the fourth-quarter series Perillo later scored on.
The reception came at a cost, as the Wautoma native also sustained a rib injury on the play and didn’t return. Abbrederis declined to speak with reporters after the game, but insisted he didn’t suffer a head injury. The Wautoma native missed a month of training camp with a concussion.
“Abby's practiced extremely well and frankly has been ready to play the last couple weeks,” McCarthy said. “You’re always excited when a young guy works his way up and works for his opportunities and goes in the game and makes plays. He definitely made some huge plays in the game. Two big plays."
Also on the injury front, left tackle David Bakhtiari left with a knee injury in the fourth quarter and was replaced by Don Barclay. Backup Josh Walker subbed in for a few plays when right guard T.J. Lang was injured diving to make a tackle after James Starks’ fumble, which was overturned. Lang returned later that series.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was being evaluated for a concussion after a fourth-quarter hit on Theo Riddick. His replacement, Micah Hyde, then appeared to sustain a lower-body injury on the on-side kick recovery in the final minute of the game. He stayed on the sideline and was helped to the locker room after the game.
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