Injuries Ruin Young Players' Offseasons

From potential starters like Alex Green and Derek Sherrod, to intriguing rookies like Mike Daniels, several players have spent their offseasons taking mental reps and rehabbing injuries instead of pushing for playing time and honing their craft.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy likes to point to the offseason as the time when his team makes the gains needed to play winning football.

However, as the Packers' offseason reaches its crescendo with the three-day minicamp that begins on Tuesday, several young players — including two potential starters — will be watching from the sideline.

Running back Alex Green tore his ACL while blocking on a kickoff at Minnesota on Oct. 23. The third-round pick's rookie season was a total washout, with three carries for 11 yards and one reception for 6 yards.

Green's been attacking his rehab with a fury in hopes of being available for the start of training camp. But for now, he has to be content taking mental reps at practice.

"It's a little teaser," Green said of watching these practices. "I can't wait to get back out there. It's going to make me hungrier."

The door is open for Green, if he's healthy enough to run through it. The team appears to have closed the door on veteran Ryan Grant, James Starks hasn't been healthy since his junior year of college and Brandon Saine, Marc Tyler and Duane Bennett entered the league as undrafted rookies.

In a sense, it seems like the Packers are betting on Green.

"I wouldn't say that," Green said, "but I feel like they probably trust me a little bit. They've seen me rehab a lot and know I'm progressing pretty well."

The second potential starter who is sidelined is last year's first-round pick, offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, who broke his leg on Dec. 18 at Kansas City. Even if healthy, Sherrod would have entered the offseason behind Marshall Newhouse. Newhouse, after all, beat out Sherrod to be the No. 2 left tackle coming out of training camp last year and held his own in 11 starts in place of veteran Chad Clifton.

What would have been a heated battle now and the headlining battle of training camp appears to be no battle at all. Sherrod "hopefully ... can be ready for training camp," coach Mike McCarthy said a couple of weeks ago, but it's hard to believe he can push Newhouse without the benefit of 12 offseason practices.

"He was doing very well until the Kansas City game," offensive line coach James Campen said. "You felt good about having him being a tackle who can play both sides. His development was slowed because of the lockout. I expect him when he gets back, he'll pick up (where he left off). That is a very strong-minded, tough kid now."

Another young player who could have used an offseason of work is tight end Andrew Quarless, who sustained a season-ending knee injury at the Giants on Dec. 4. Quarless caught 21 passes in 13 games in 2010 but just three in 10 games in 2011. However, the coaches thought Quarless' blocking was about on par with designated blocking tight end Tom Crabtree. He's the only tight end on the roster who is a proven commodity in the run game and the pass game.

"I was growing a lot, growing tremendously," Quarless said last week. "Everything was positive, everything was on the upswing. But I don't like to look back. To me, it is what it is. These things happen in a career. It's all about coming back stronger. That's where my head is at right now. I'm excited. Rehabbing, my leg is bigger than it's ever been. I'm not going to lie, I'm putting on weight. It's been good, this rehab so far."

Two rookies who have been on the shelf are fourth-round pick Mike Daniels, a defensive tackle from Iowa, and undrafted Jaymes Brooks, a guard from Virginia Tech who was one of the top players in college free agency. Daniels sustained a torn labrum before the Hawkeyes' bowl game but played anyway; Brooks injured his hamstring at his pro day.

"Watching the film and learning," Daniels said when asked how he's getting better. "I'm out there watching the guys going through individual and going through practice, so there's a lot of tape out there for me to learn from it. It's mental reps. Sometimes, mental reps are just as as good as physical reps."


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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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