Packers Slice, Dice Their Way to 53-Man Limit

The Packers got down to the league-mandated 53 players this evening by releasing 23 players, trading Quinn Johnson and Caleb Schlauderaff, and putting two players on injured reserve. Three draft picks failed to make the roster and three undrafted rookies did make the final 53.

Among the moves to get to the league-mandated 53 players by this evening, the Green Bay Packers released quarterback Graham Harrell and receivers Chastin West and Tori Gurley.

The Packers released 23 players, traded fullback Quinn Johnson to the Titans and rookie guard Caleb Schlauderaff to the Jets for undisclosed draft picks, and put rookies Lawrence Guy and Shaky Smithson on injured reserve.

Released were:

— Quarterback Harrell;

— Receivers Gurley, West, Kerry Taylor and Diondre Borel;

— Running backs Dimitri Nance and Brandon Saine;

— Fullback Jon Hoese;

— Offensive linemen Chris Campbell, Ray Dominguez, Sampson Genus and Nick McDonald;

— Defensive backs Anthony Bratton, Josh Gordy, Anthony Levine, Brandian Ross and Brandon Underwood;

— Linebackers Ricky Elmore, Cardia Jackson and Elijah Joseph;

— Defensive linemen Chris Donaldson, Eli Joseph and Jay Ross.

With West and Gurley out, the Packers will keep just five receivers. That's a sign that Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, all of whom sat out the preseason finale because of injuries, will be ready to go for Thursday's Week 1 game against New Orleans.

After going the unusual route of keeping three fullbacks the last two seasons, the Packers went the equally unusual route of keeping five tight ends. The Packers found a taker for Johnson in the Titans, who lost starter Ahmard Hall to a four-game suspension for violating the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy. Hall blocked for 1,000-yard rushers in each of the last five seasons.

Among the tight ends are draft picks D.J. Williams (fifth round) and Ryan Taylor (seventh round). In all, seven of the Packers' 10 draft picks made the roster. The three who didn't: sixth-round picks Schlauderaff (traded) and Elmore (released) and seventh-rounder Guy (injured reserve because of concussion).

"He was a guy we were interested in drafting," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "We had some high grades on him coming out of Utah. We watched the tape, and we're excited to get this young man."

While three draft picks aren't on the roster, three undrafted rookies beat the odds and made it. Safety M.D. Jennings was terrific in Thursday's game against Kansas City, outside linebacker Vic So'oto was dominant the last two weeks and fellow outside linebacker Jamari Lattimore's quickness is an asset in rushing the passer and on special teams.

Without Harrell, the Packers will go with Aaron Rodgers and free agent-to-be Matt Flynn as their only quarterbacks. Harrell, who was signed in May 2010, spent the first 13 games of last season on the practice squad until being promoted after Rodgers' second concussion. Harrell is eligible for the practice squad, and with a so-so preseason, the Packers are taking a calculated gamble that he won't be claimed on waivers.

Also out is McDonald, who made the roster ahead of Evan Dietrich-Smith as an undrafted rookie last year. This year, the tables were turned, with Dietrich-Smith beating out McDonald to be the top backup at the interior positions.

In all, 10 linebackers made the team: starters Clay Matthews, Eric Walden, A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop, reserve outside backups Brad Jones, So'oto, Lattimore and the injured Frank Zombo, and backup inside backups D.J. Smith and Robert Francois.

The Packers also kept 10 defensive backs: starters Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Nick Collins and Morgan Burnett, as well as backup cornerbacks Pat Lee, Davon House and Jarrett Bush, and backup safeties Charlie Peprah and Jennings.

The Packers can begin signing their eight-man practice squad on Sunday. According to sources, the Packers hope to retain Gurley, West, Harrell, Dominguez, McDonald and Ross. Levine, Gordy and Saine would seem to be possibilities, as well.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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