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Ball-Hawking Whitehead Provides Depth in Packers’ Secondary

Jermaine Whitehead, a safety who spent part of the summer in the slot, showed his ability to get the football during his final season at Auburn.

Jermaine Whitehead didn’t make the team but he made a good impression.

After all, the Green Bay Packers kept six safeties coming out of training camp. If that’s not unprecedented, it’s at least pretty rare. Whitehead was No. 7. Despite the outrageous depth on the roster, the Packers re-signed Whitehead to the practice squad.

On Monday, with injuries wiping out the depth at cornerback, general manager Ted Thompson decided to promote Whitehead rather than seeking a veteran cornerback.

“It’s a big moment in my career, big moment in my life,” he said on Tuesday. “Just happy to be able to offer something that they’d like to put on their team.”

Whitehead’s versatility played a role in his promotion. While he’s a safety, he played frequently in the slot during training camp and the preseason — a role similar to that of Micah Hyde. Cornerback Damarious Randall, who’s out following groin surgery, played frequently in the slot, as did fellow cornerback Quinten Rollins, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury. So, while Whitehead’s immediate niche will be special teams, he at least provides some depth in the defensive backfield.

“I think bringing me up may have had something to do with that,” he said. “It’ll be their decision. Whatever they want.”

Whitehead showed a nose for the football during training camp and even back in the offseason. No surprise there. During his senior season at Auburn, Whitehead intercepted six passes despite being suspended for four games for an altercation with a coach.

“Going into that season, I had made it a big deal to get the ball,” he said. “It turned my career around in college to get my hands on the ball a little more. In that season, I found out my thing that I needed to do to get the ball. I hate that I got suspended that season. I definitely would have ended up with more. But one a game, it ain’t bad.”

“I don’t think everybody carries that trait,” he added. “I pride myself on that. I watch a lot of elite safeties and they end up on ESPN by getting the ball. That’s one of the biggest things defensive players do is get that ball.”

At the 2015 Scouting Combine, Whitehead ran his 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds and posted a 37-inch vertical leap. He went undrafted and spent most of his rookie season on the 49ers’ practice squad until he was signed to Baltimore’s active roster for the final two regular-season games. He didn’t play in those games, meaning the native of Greenwood, Miss., could make his NFL debut against the Falcons and their top-ranked passing attack on Sunday.

“We’re playing against a great team, great opponent,” he said. “I’m more than willing to put my ‘A’ game on the line vs. anybody.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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