The Lass Word: Practice Squad Will be a Revolving Door

Pack may use all 69 this season.

If one of your favorite Green Bay Packer players was cut this week, don’t be disappointed.  Chances are you will still see him don the green and gold and take the field at some point this season. 

Media and fans tend to put too much emphasis on the final cutdown to the 53 man active roster.  With activation rules becoming more and more flexible each year, NFL teams have, in effect, a 69 man roster.  Sixteen players are allowed on the practice squad.  Any of them can be called up for a specific game three different times before the team is required to sign them to the active roster.  The rules allow two players per week to be elevated, so the Packers could have a 55 man roster on game day. 

Technically, the difference between being on the p-squad and being on an active roster is that a practice squad player can be signed to another team’s 53 at any time.  Even here though, there is some protection.  The Packers can shield four p-squad players each week .   

The upshot of all this is that the gateway from practice squad to active roster and back again, is as heavily travelled as a subway terminal.  That may be especially true for Green Bay this year.  Matt LaFleur confirmed to the beat writers on Wednesday that the roster will be a work in progress on a weekly basis.  “Each game is gonna be different”, he said.  “I can’t tell you now how it’s going to play out.” 

A quick scan of the current p-squad offers some immediate possibilities for promotion.  The position that jumps out most obviously to me is running back.  Green Bay kept just two, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon on active.  However, both Patrick Taylor and Tyler Goodson were brought back on reserve.  Both had solid preseasons.  It is hard for me to believe the Packers will open against the Vikings with just two running backs.  Those ball carriers take a terrific beating and injury is always a risk at that position.  Then too, Dillon may be back on special teams duty, as he was last year in the playoffs, further increasing the risk of injury.  It was Dillon who missed the second half of the 49ers playoff game when he was hurt on kickoff coverage.  

LaFleur did acknowledge the ability of Amari Rodgers to play running back, saying he “gives you a little flexibility if you get in a bind.” But Amari spent little or no time lining up in the backfield during preseason games.  It would seem to be a no-brainer that either Taylor or Goodson, or both, need to be elevated for opening day.  “They could potentially be suited up for us on (any given) game day”, said LaFleur. 

Tackle remains a bit of a question mark as opening day approaches. The Packers are counting on players like Royce Newman or rookie Zach Tom to hold up at right tackle if Elgton Jenkins is not available. Massive rookie Caleb Jones, all six foot nine of him, remains an option off the p-squad if the coaches don’t feel good about the position. The Packers had a tough decision whether to keep Jones or seventh round draft pick Rasheed Walker, and felt Jones would have a better chance to clear waivers.     

Many Packer fans were disappointed that defensive linemen Jack Heflin and Chris Slayton were cut off the final 53.  But both are back on the p-squad and are likely to get called up frequently.  While Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Jarran Reed and TJ Slaton are stalwarts, the other two keepers, Devonte Wyatt and Jonathan Ford, may well be rotating with Heflin and Slayton if they get off to slow starts. 

The Packers chose to go young and inexperienced at receiver, keeping all three drafted rookies, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure on active.  But two veteran pass catchers will be waiting on p-squad if the rookies struggle.  Juwann Winfree and Travis Fulgham have both caught passes from NFL quarterbacks in real games.  They will be itching for a chance to show they can outperform the young guys.  LaFleur indicated there will be a myriad of players on the receiving end of throws this season.  “The ball is going to be spread around to different guys in different spots.” 

Nobody knows better how this works than linebacker La’Darius Hamilton.  The former Dallas Cowboy was called up three times from Green Bay’s practice squad last year, appearing in six games.  He was one of three Packers to get moved up three different times, joining offensive lineman Ben Braden and Winfree.  Hamilton is back on the p-squad this year but it’s likely he will move up again at some point. 

All of these are examples of tactical roster moves by the team.  It doesn’t even take into account promotions that may be necessitated by the inevitable injuries the active players may endure. 

Yes, it is possible another team could sign away one of Green Bay’s promising p-squad players.  There certainly is intriguing talent there in the likes of guys like Goodson, Heflin, Slayton, and even quarterback Danny Etling.  Remember, last year the Packers found cornerback Rasul Douglas on somebody else’s practice squad and signed him away.  That turned out pretty well.   

But in reality, that rarely happens.  Teams generally prefer their own p-squad guys, and keep in mind, they would have to sign the player to their active roster, meaning they would have to make room.  That tends to discourage raiding the p-squads of other teams. 

It will be fascinating to see how the Packers massage their active roster each week.  It wouldn’t be the first time an improbable hero emerged from the obscurity of the practice unit. 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (57)

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:01 am

Other than the obvious need for a third RB (I assume it will be Taylor) every week, I can imagine the team activating three "special teams starters" every week.

I'd love to see a breakdown of the production/quality of play from each player relating only to special teams; it's really hard for me to judge that.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:13 am

There’s a cap disincentive to call up players as well, individually small but cumulative.

Yes, one can call a player up 3 times before exposure to waivers now, but that means the player in question may be a temporary asset. If, for example, they want Taylor available if Dillon gets hurt then exposing him early means we will have to roster him or risk him going through waivers.

I think, for the most part they will roll with the 53 except in the case of a short term injury or specific game plan.

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canadapacker's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:39 am

I still think that Goodson might be the best Kick returner that we have. Amari can do the punts as long as he makes the correct decisions and doesnt have any misjudges on balls over his head not dropping those is paramount and I dont want to see us resort to Cobb. But Goodson may be even better than Hill on kickoff returns - if and when Hill is ready. That will only be decided later in the season if we do not get that part of special teams sorted out correctly.

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GregC's picture

September 02, 2022 at 09:14 am

The one kickoff return I remember by Goodson in the preseason was a disaster. He muffed the ball at the goal line, unwisely decided to return it out of the end zone, and got buried at the five-yard line. Amari looked fine fielding kickoffs and punts and even broke off a long one, so I'm not sure why he's the one you're worried about rather than Goodson.

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canadapacker's picture

September 02, 2022 at 11:20 am

So did Hill run one out and got smashed and blew out his knee -one bad one is not a forever issue - same as Cobb fumbled a punt etc etc - but we do know that he is shifty and I'd rather have him than one of our rookie recievers - especially if Hill doesnt recover in time .

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DoubleJ's picture

September 02, 2022 at 09:41 am

A good way to get Watson involved early in the season might be to have him as the kick returner. He was an All American as a junior and his senior year teams stopped kicking to him.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 01:41 pm

Both Watson and Doubs are genuine kick returner candidates. Toure might also be a option in addition to Goodson and maybe Hill (though his knee may deter that). Doubs is probably the only Punt return option. He led all through camp but was never used in preseason, probably to protect him.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:34 am

Hill will be coming back from injury mid-season. It will likely be him.

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PhantomII's picture

September 02, 2022 at 08:30 pm

I think when Bak and Jenkins are good to go on the OL, one or more players will go to the practice squad and we will see a RB back onto the 53 for good.

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Spock's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:19 am

Nice article, Ken. Definitely the "initial" 53 and PS is, and will remain, fluid throughout the season.

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PackyCheese500's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:35 am

Sad Abernathy wasn’t signed to the PS. If he goes back to the USFL, maybe we can sign him again. I thought he could’ve been a quality 3rd safety.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:36 am

He was signed

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 02, 2022 at 01:15 pm

They still haven't announced anything on Abernathy or Ahmed. At least as of a couple hours ago they hadn't.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 01:48 pm

I am going off Huber this morning it is true. Too soon for the formal wire news.

https://www.si.com/nfl/packers/news/packers-add-former-iowa-tight-end-to...

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 02, 2022 at 03:12 pm

This is what Huber tweeted this morning.

"Packers added a tight end to their PS yesterday. A 16th player will be made official later today."

He didn't specify Abernathy.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 04:39 pm

“The 16th will go to safety Micah Abernathy”

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 04, 2022 at 12:42 am

That article was the day before. The tweet was the next morning and he didn't mention Abernathy.

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MooPack's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:43 am

Glad Micah Abernathy is back on PS. Safety is a position that needs more depth and he deserves a shot. Only problem I have is kicker Ramiz Ahmed is not. They need a kicker if Crosby falters. Ahmed should be on PS before WR Travis Fulgham. I see no reason to keep Fulgham over Ahmed. They kept 7 receivers and Winfree on PS. Fulgham won't see any playing time.

https://packerswire.usatoday.com/2022/09/01/packers-to-fill-practice-squ...

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 02, 2022 at 01:17 pm

That article was stretching the truth of the Huber quote. If you read the Huber article he doesn't say Abernathy has definitely been signed to the PS.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 01:50 pm

He describes it as unofficial, which it necessarily is until the NFL confirms it.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 04, 2022 at 12:44 am

I'm just saying there's a reason no one but Kruse cited in a tweet or article. Because it wasn't definitive.

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MooPack's picture

September 02, 2022 at 03:07 pm

It's on Packers dot com now. Signed Abernathy and released Rico Gafford.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 02, 2022 at 03:15 pm

There must be a holdup in getting Ahmed to the PS. He supposedly was at practice yesterday but only one writer tweeted that so it could very well be wrong.

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porupack's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:37 am

All good points, Ken. Agreed that the position groups you mentioned will have fluidity.
While you are right that the rules are favorable for teams to stash and keep P-squad-ers, and GB can protect the most important, I assume as the season goes and other teams get hit with injuries is when they might be more willing to take a chance on another team's P-squader and sign him to fill their own roster vacancy. So GB might lose at least one at a group which we might have stashed a lot of potential (oline). Maybe RB. Nonetheless, generally it favors the team's P-squad.

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mrtundra's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:53 am

Did Ahmed make the PS? After the Packers signed that new TE, I do not believe there was room for Ahmed, on the PS. I think we need to have Ahmed available, if there is any chance that Crosby cannot go.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 08:07 am

It’s possible Ahmed is biding his time to see if another opportunity arises

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stockholder's picture

September 02, 2022 at 11:11 am

He was on it. Now he isn't.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 02, 2022 at 01:18 pm

And you know this how? ESP?

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

September 02, 2022 at 11:48 am

Screw it if Crosby can't go....just score TDs.....

:)

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LambeauPlain's picture

September 02, 2022 at 08:37 am

Was Crosby healthier than we thought during Camp? My understanding is while on PUP you cannot do much beyond some conditioning work and sitting in on team meetings...but no ST work at all with his new LS, holder, coach.

Mason has a week to get sharp. With the vyqueens on the menu, expecting a close game, I can see 3 points looming large.

We are talking about Crosby who is notorious for staying in shape year round...but every pro needs practice.

Am surprised Ahmed is not on the PS ahead of guys like CBs Franklin and Thomas, TE Beyer, or WR Fulgham. Maybe Gutey is looking at other available kickers or Ahmed just wants to move on. I thought he did well.

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GregC's picture

September 02, 2022 at 04:36 pm

I don't think it's usual to keep a kicker on the practice squad. They must be confident that Crosby will return to full health and will not have any more issues. It sounds like the surgery he had was pretty routine and was precautionary. For now I'm going to give management the benefit of the doubt and assume they are right about all that.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 04:41 pm

JJ Molson was on all last year

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GregC's picture

September 02, 2022 at 09:29 pm

Yeah, I thought they were grooming him to replace Crosby, but then they cut him in the off-season, so maybe he was just there in case Crosby got covid.

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SpikeHyzer's picture

September 03, 2022 at 02:23 pm

He was kicking indoors for a large portion of camp using tees and FG holders. PUP doesn't mean you can't do certain things. GB just does like the Brewers and takes a VERY cautious approach to injury recovery (sensibly, as well as hiding those other work outs from the press out of fear of misreporting).

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Packer_Fan's picture

September 02, 2022 at 08:52 am

Very good article. I like that the NFL has increased the size of the practice squad and expanded the game day callups. This certainly helps the team, but I think it helps the younger players. Giving them a chance to develop. One thing that I believe should happen is if a player is called up for game day, they should be payed more. It won't affect the limits of the salary cap , but will reward them for being on the game day roster

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wildbill's picture

September 02, 2022 at 10:19 am

Depending on their contract they are payed more as they get a minimum NFL game check at the very least is what I understand

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Matt Gonzales's picture

September 02, 2022 at 11:57 am

If you pay it, you cap it. I assume that elevations from the practice squad receive prorated pay based on the minimum amount set by the cba, based on their number of accrued years, prorated per game. But practice squad players still count against the cap even if they never get elevated. There is a minimum amount the NFL requires teams to pay players per week while they are on the practice squad, but there isn't technically a maximum amount. Teams can pay higher than the practice squad minimum to encourage players to stick with them versus signing a contract elsewhere, and that usually works since most players who get signed off another team's practice squad end up getting released a few weeks later anyway.

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PatrickGB's picture

September 03, 2022 at 09:26 am

My guess is that during negotiations the owners did not want to expand the rosters the union did and so with the advent of Covid a compromise was made on the site and use of the PS. It worked and so the league kept it pretty much as it was during Covid.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 02, 2022 at 10:17 am

There is a caveat to protecting 4 players each week. They are unprotected until Tuesday each week when 4 can be placed on the protected list. I guess it starts at game end but I'm not sure about that but I do know they aren't truly protected each week, just after Tuesday.

"The NFL also added a new wrinkle to the practice squad that provides teams with some limited protections for keeping practice squad players. Teams can designate four players every week that are protected from being signed by other teams. This protection starts on Tuesday each week, so every practice squad player is still available to be signed to the regular roster of another team after their team’s game that week until the deadline on Tuesday."

https://www.hogshaven.com/2021/8/31/22648441/how-it-works-nfl-practice-s...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 02, 2022 at 10:43 am

I have not been able to find the exact wording because it is not in the CBA; rather, it was in a side track agreement last year and this year. Media report (so grain of salt here) indicate that promoted players revert to the PS the next business day after game day. That presumably suggests that a player who a team wants to protect all season could be scooped up Saturday, Sunday and Monday if a team played a Thursday night game. That seems to defeat the purpose of the protection clause. But I can't really say either way.

Otherwise, the article is good but it is for the 2021 season so some of it is out of date, but mostly just about how much PS guys earn.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 11:00 am

It is a side agreement and yes, they can be signed by any team in that window.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 02, 2022 at 11:51 am

I know I have read that in media reports. I just remember getting burned last year on something (don't remember what) that the media reported as stone-cold fact and turned out to be one reporter's source which was misinterpreted and then widely retweeted by many beat writers.

I suppose there would be some sense in being able to protect a player, since teams usually take Monday off and then start practicing on Tuesday for the next opponent. Teams might want to insert a PS guy into first or second team reps if someone is nursing an injury during those Tuesday through Saturday practices.

But if there is a window, it just so greatly reduces the utility of the ability to protect rules that I prefer to be cautious. OTOH, the Union had to agree, and I doubt they would want a team to protect four guys all season, forcing those four guys to accept $207K (or whatever) instead of $705K and up. It certainly sounds like there is a window from media reports describing the language of the side agreement.

We're probably deep enough in the weeds that it won't matter. I mean, I'm not going to write an article on this issue! 😴 Might become apparent during the season.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 02:04 pm

I have seen a .pdf of the original signed letter agreement on NFLPA headed paper. I can no longer find that. However, it says exactly that. I had and used an excerpt during the off season

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 03, 2022 at 11:12 am

Cool. Thanks for noting that.

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 02, 2022 at 01:29 pm

That's why I questioned the timing on when I guy could be signed a bit. It doesn't make sense to have different windows depending on when the team played. Didn't cover byes either.

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Coldworld's picture

September 02, 2022 at 04:55 pm

The NFL typically runs back from the next game. So, for example, a player can not be signed by a team within 6 days if it playing that opponent. So there is a bigger window in a bye week or after a Thursday game etc. in this case the language is four players per “game week”. There is no game week on a bye week and thus no protection as I understand it.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 02, 2022 at 10:55 am

So, 705K/18 weeks is $39,166 per game check for a rookie (0 credited seasons) guys.
A PS guy makes $11,500 per week. $39,166 minus $11,500 = $27,667.

2 players x $27,667 per game = $53,333. Times 17 games = $940,666. That's almost 16% of the Packers remaining cap space.

GB has $6M in cap space per OTC. [That does not include any incentives players might earn. It also does not include any not likely to be earned game active bonuses that might actually get earned. Bakh has $565K in such bonuses we hope he is going to earn by playing all 17 game. Tonyan's cap number increases by $600K and Cobb's increases by $242K if they play every game. Total possible deduction is $1.9M per Ken Ingalls, assuming incredible health by the team as a whole.] So, subtract $940K from that if you want to promote 2 guys every week. Note that if you promote veterans from the PS to the 53, the cost goes up but since all of the current guys on the PS earn the minimum that does not at present apply to the Packers.

All players promoted from the PS end up on the Active Roster for game day, because it would be goofy to leave them inactive. As long as there are 8 OL active, only 48 players are active/eligible to play in any single game. The 55 roster is not wrong way to think of things, but there is that 48 player limitation.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 02, 2022 at 11:36 am

Though OTC reports $6M in cap space for GB, that includes a slew of guys (10) on IR who count a whopping $5.6M. Those ten guys count between $430K (split contract guys) to $915K for Vernon Scott. All or at least most of them will get injury settlements or be released as soon as they can pass a physical. An 11th player, Kylin Hill, counts $475K while he is on the PUP.

So, the $6M is likely quite a bit more. I don't have any info on the seriousness of each player's injury, so I cannot quantify how much extra cap space GB is likely to receive as these guys come off IR with settlements or by release at some point during the season. It could be a couple of million or perhaps $5M more.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 02, 2022 at 11:17 pm

Wow. Impressive work that is greatly appreciated. What other site has such intelligent content?

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MooPack's picture

September 02, 2022 at 03:15 pm

Abernathy on PS. Rico Gafford released. Per Packers . com

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Minniman's picture

September 02, 2022 at 03:57 pm

"The Packers chose to go young and inexperienced at receiver, keeping all three drafted rookies, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure on active."

My one hope for this year is that Rodgers and OC (more Rodgers coercing the OC) don't try and make these kids play the highly nuanced, technical passing game that he likes to play - the fact is that he's going to have to accede to overlay the opportunities that he sees at the line, with the capabilities of these kids....... or he's going to get disappointed and frustrated...... or worse, develop "davante-vision" with Aaron Jones, Tonyan and Lazard.

With 2 legit burners in Doubs and Watkins, he may actually enjoy seeing a double post route!

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 02, 2022 at 04:21 pm

Did you mean Watson? Watkins was fast many injuries ago and he's quite a bit heavier now than when he came into the league, I don't think he'd be considered a burner.

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Minniman's picture

September 03, 2022 at 02:43 pm

Thanks LL, sorry, yes I meant Watson.

...... Watkins is a whole other conversation of "strengths" - I guess we all get to cross our fingers and toes and wait!

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LLCHESTY's picture

September 04, 2022 at 12:55 am

We haven't seen him in game action so who knows how quick he is. The article about him doing a lot of weight training this offseason makes me think he wants to muscle guys this year. I don't think you can have as many lower body issues as ges had and not lose some speed but those guys are doing some pretty advanced training these days so I could be wrong. He is 14 lbs heavier than when he ran the 4.43 in 2014.

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MooPack's picture

September 02, 2022 at 07:44 pm

If the Packers are able to bring back Kicker Ramiz Ahmed, who would you let go off the practice squad? My money would be on WR Travis Fulgham. Not sure how he made it anyway.

From Gute:
“We’re very hopeful Mason’s going to be back in time,” Gutekunst said. “We still have a little ways to go, so the plan is to bring Ramiz back to the practice squad and have him there in case we don’t get there. But he’s progressing very nicely and we expect him to kick Game 1. But we’ll be prepared if he doesn’t.”

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SpikeHyzer's picture

September 03, 2022 at 02:17 pm

This site is so wonky and double posts when I think I've clicked once. It's so SLOW.

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SpikeHyzer's picture

September 03, 2022 at 02:17 pm

Yeah, this isn't really new news. The PS has historically almost always allowed a team to keep almost all of its players from pre-season who were in serious contention for a roster spot (the COVID rules put in place and now extended almost assures you can keep them all).

It's becoming like the shuttle run by David Stearns for Brewer pitching depth. It just makes sense to have expanded the PS and allow teams to keep the guys they've trained in their own system. I almost wish they could travel to games and suit up after half time if someone is injured and going to miss the rest of a game.

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