With Injuries, Nobody Grabs Hold of WR Battle

Seventh-round pick Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey haven't practiced in a week. Jordy Nelson will be out for the rest of training camp and Randall Cobb dropped out on Tuesday with an injured biceps. That leaves ample opportunities for the young receivers to step up.

"Be prepared" isn't just for the Boy Scouts.

Being prepared is part of running a team. In late April, with Donald Driver having retired and with Greg Jennings' future in doubt, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson prepared for the holes in the receiver corps by drafting Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey in the seventh round.

At this point, about the only thing Thompson knows about them is how they look in hats.

Johnson and Dorsey barely participated in the offseason practices and they've barely taken part in training camp. Both dropped out during Day 2, and neither Johnson (knee sprain) nor Dorsey (hamstring) have gotten on the field since.

"We're anxious to see," Thompson said on Tuesday following the ninth practice of training camp. "It makes it difficult for everybody, difficult for them, it makes it difficult for us."

Johnson doesn't appear to be anywhere close to getting back on the field. He ran on Tuesday and got mixed reviews.

"I'm trying to get my range back and I'm still a little stiff," he said. "Once I get my range fully back, I think I'll be good, but I've been making a lot of progress.

"(The trainer) could see that I wasn't lifting my knee all the way so he told me to cool it down and just lift your knee up. So, I was doing it at a pace where I was able to lift my knee to the proper form and everything, and then continued doing that. I did some other running where they took weight off and I was able to lift my knee a little higher to get my range. It's just a battle each day."

Without Johnson and Dorsey, there have been ample opportunities – and there will even more opportunities with Jordy Nelson out for the rest of training camp after knee surgery on Monday.

Holdovers Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross have had more good moments than bad and are well ahead in the battle to be Nos. 4 and 5. Boykin, in particular, had a good day on Tuesday. Boykin and Ross are on pace to be core members of the special teams, as well. Both are on all four units, with Ross not just in the mix as returner but serving as the personal protector on the punt team.

"I've just got to earn it," Ross said. "It's not going to be given. It's not going to be something that's handed to me. I don't expect that at all. I expect to work for it, and that's all I can do at this point is be the best I can and see what happens."

Undrafted Tyrone Walker has had his moments, too – including a couple of key catches on the Graham Harrell-led touchdown drive on Saturday night -- and probably has been the most consistent of the rookies. Myles White had a strong offseason but struggled a bit early in camp before getting back on track the past few days.

"Very proud of Tyrone Walker," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after Saturday's scrimmage. "I think he's really made some great strides. He's a guy who's been showing up in practice."

With all of that as a backdrop, Johnson knows patience is a virtue. The longer his absence, the longer the odds he can make the team and contribute.

"It is a hard situation," he said. "‘OK, I have to get out here. It's my job.' But I need to be healthy. It's a balancing act but I just have to make sure I do the right things to get to my full health as quick as I can. I don't want to concern myself too much about, ‘Damn, this is my job. I have to hurry up and get back,' because if I hurry up too fast and something else happens, then what? I want to make sure I take the necessary precautions so that when I do come back, I'm able to perform at a high level and be able to come back as quick as I can."

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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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