Ted Thompson obviously had something up his sleeve.
After saying his team is usually “not very aggressive” in pursuing trades, the Green Bay Packers’ general manager added: “It’s possible we could make one in the next couple days.”
And sure enough, the Packers swung a trade, sending outside linebacker Lerentee McCray to Buffalo for an undisclosed 2018 draft pick, according to the Bills’ Web site. The move was one of seven made by the Packers to get down to the 75-player limit by Tuesday’s deadline.
The biggest beneficiary of the trade might be Jayrone Elliott. If Thompson had decided to go with six outside linebackers, it would have been Elliott and McCray battling for that last spot. With McCray moved to Buffalo, Elliott could stick with Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, Datone Jones and third-round rookie Kyler Fackrell.
“I don’t think I’m safe,” Elliott said. “Heck, we’ve got good guys. All of us. We’re not oblivious to the situation. We all sit down and talk about it. We can’t keep seven, eight guys. All of us can play and, wherever we’re at, I feel like we all can contribute to any NFL team.”
Elliott was one of the top defenders on the roster during the first week or so of training camp but his production on defense had declined as training camp had progressed. Then, Elliott sustained an injured hamstring during Friday night’s preseason game at San Francisco. Rather than making a strong final push, the injury sidelined Elliott for practice this week and will keep him out of Thursday’s preseason finale at Kansas City.
“I got into it with the doctor on the sideline, trying to get back out there, but he kept me calm and told me to trust what I’ve put on film,” Elliott said. “I wanted to get out there and make a play. It seems like I haven’t made one in forever. I wanted to go out there and make some plays and continue to fight.”
While Elliott is hopeful that he’ll be ready for Week 1 at Jacksonville – and if not that game, then Week 2 at “Minnesota, for sure” – the final 53-man roster can only handle so many players sidelined by short-term injuries.
Elliott, however, has a strong supporter in his position coach, Winston Moss.
“I feel confident about what Jayrone is as a person and as a player,” Moss said on Monday. “Every single year, he’s grown. Even though it might not show itself now, I believe in him and what he can do and what he can become. I’m not disappointed (in his performance), but I am patient that, given enough opportunities, Jayrone will come through for us.”
With the trade of McCray, it appears Elliott will continue to get those opportunities with the Packers. Because of the depth at outside linebacker, Elliott might not be asked to play many snaps on defense. However, he’s been a stalwart on special teams. The Packers’ special teams took a major step forward last season. Giving up on the third-year pro, especially in light of injuries to Chris Banjo (hamstring) and Jeff Janis (hand) and a four-game suspension for Demetri Goodson, would be a step back in that phase of the game.
“It’s a vote of confidence because you’re with him every day,” Elliott said of Moss’ comments. “That’s one thing he’s instilled in me is a lot of confidence. He lets us play ball. He don’t want us being robots out there sticking to the playbook. He wants us to go out there and make plays and do it within the boundaries. When you’re playing with guys like Clay, Nick, Pep and Datone, he lets us do it. It’s fun. And it’s even a better feeling when your coach believes in you.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.