With the Green Bay Packers’ passing game in need of all the pass-catching targets it can get, tight end Andrew Quarless practiced Monday for the first time in more than two months.
Quarless had been on temporary injured reserve since tearing his MCL during the Packers’ win against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 28. He was eligible to start practicing earlier this month before the Packers’ home game against the Detroit Lions. Last week was the first time he could have played in a game.
It would seem unlikely Quarless could play Thursday at the Detroit Lions. The Packers have no yet activated him. However, it’s clear the Packers would like their tight end to return as soon as possible, and his availability was not ruled out Monday.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he intentionally slotted Quarless’ first practice for Monday, which was the team’s lone padded practice of game week.
“He looked about how I would have expected,” tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. “He looks like he’s been doing the right things to get back onto the field. His conditioning seems really good right now, his cardiovascular. It’s just going to be a matter of getting back in a rhythm with the footwork, with the pad level.
“Drew is resilient, and he’s been doing this for a long time. I’m expecting that he’s going to come around pretty quickly.”
Quarless had plenty on his plate Monday, and not just football. He was sentenced to one year probation, a $1,000 fine and must attend anger management courses after being charged with a first-degree misdemeanor for discharging a firearm in public July 4 in Miami. It’s unclear whether the NFL will further punish him.
Either way, Quarless is now able to put the incident behind him. Whether he’ll play this week remains to be seen.
“I’m happy whenever they put my number up,” Quarless said. “I’m going to make sure I’m ready. That’s how I’m going to approach it.”
McCarthy said it’s hard to predict how long it’ll take a player to knock off the rust of a long absence, because it varies by position. For tight ends, Fontenot said, receiving skills are first to return while run-blocking technique usually takes more time.
The Packers’ offense isn’t starved for a run-blocking tight end. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he and his receivers are “on different pages” after last week’s loss against the Bears. In his sixth season with Rodgers, perhaps Quarless’ greatest attribute is his familiarity with the quarterback.
Fontenot said Quarless’ experience with Rodgers should benefit the passing game, but it isn’t the only factor influencing whether he gets snaps. McCarthy will have the “final say” on whether Quarless plays against the Lions, but Fontenot will have to give his head coach an evaluation.
“I just tell him what I think I see,” Fontenot said, “and what I feel with Andrew and how much he can help us overall. Because it is the entire package that you have to put into play whenever he does come back. I couldn’t look at myself and say I did a good job of evaluating and saying that Andrew is ready if he wasn’t ready in a comprehensive mode.
“He’s got to be ready to go the whole way, just because if anything were to happen to anybody else on the field, then he has to fill that role.”
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