2013's Pain Becomes 2014's Gain

Green Bay's roster has received an influx of talent with eight players returning from stints on injured reserve last year.

The Green Bay Packers have added a lot of talent during the offseason.

There were street free agents Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion to fortify the defense.

There was a nine-person draft class led by first-round safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Another 17 rookies were added in college free agency.

That lengthy list of 28 players overshadows another big list: the 2013 injured reserve list.

A whopping 15 players ended their seasons on Green Bay's injured list. Of that group, inside linebacker Sam Barrington, tight end Brandon Bostick, offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, receivers Kevin Dorsey and Myles White, running backs Johnathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris, and cornerback Casey Hayward are back.

"We have a lot of guys back," coach Mike McCarthy said after last week's organized team activity. "We have a lot of guys that personally feel like they have something to prove. I really like what I've seen so far. It's good to have those guys back. A healthy football team is a good football team. History will show that, too."

Perhaps the key comeback player is Bulaga, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Don Barclay, an undrafted rookie in 2012, started 14 games last season in place of Bulaga at right tackle. According to ProFootballFocus.com's grades, Barclay ranked 22nd among starting right tackles last season. In 2012, Bulaga ranked 19th. However, in 2011, Bulaga was the league's fourth-best right tackle. Barclay gave up eight sacks last season, according to PFF. Bulaga yielded five sacks in 21 starts in 2011 and 2012.

"He's a hell of a player," guard Josh Sitton said. "He was a first-round draft pick for a reason. He's a stud. ... I think he looks good. The first week, I know he told me he was a little bit shaky here and there, just (because) he hadn't done anything in a year. But this week, it seems like he's back to normal. It's a pretty good transition. He's the type of guy that's going to work his (butt) off to get healthy, and he's done that. I think he probably could have played at the end of last season at some point from what he told me. But he'll be just fine."

Hayward is another key comeback player. He intercepted six passes as an all-rookie performer in 2012 but played in just three games last season due to never-ending hamstring issues. The Packers went from 18 interceptions in 2012 to 11 in 2013.

"Definitely big with patience," Hayward said. "But you know what? God gives hard tasks for some people. I'm one of those guys; I feel like I can handle it. I think I handled it well. I think I was able to help some of the younger guys if I see something on the field. So, I was really able to help them that way. I was able to become a student of the game more."

Two players with intriguing potential are Barrington and Bostick.

Barrington, a seventh-round pick in 2013, played special teams in seven games before going on injured reserve with an injured hamstring. He'll be given a shot to earn a role at inside linebacker. The Packers didn't address the position in the draft, so he's essentially the top "newcomer."

Bostick has the athleticism to offset some of Finley's production if he doesn't return to the Packers. In 11 games, Bostick caught seven passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. He missed the final two regular-season games with an injured foot, which is keeping him on the sideline for the offseason practices.

"I thought Brandon made some real strides by the end of the season," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said last month. "His effort level was really high. He seemed to have a better understanding of what he was being asked to do. As with everything, great effort can overcome a lot of bad technique. In his case, that was happening at a much greater level as his technique improved."


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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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