Packers reach roster limit of 53

When it comes to making the Green Bay Packers roster, versatility is key with coach and general manager Mike Sherman. Especially with reserve players.<p>

With that in mind, Sherman released eight players today, including veteran center Frank Winters, running back Herbert "Whisper Goodman, safety Scott McGarrahan and guard Bill Ferrario as the Packers reached the NFL-mandated 53-man roster limit.

The Packers also released guard/center David Brandt, running back Lamar Smith, defensive tackle Steve Martin and linebacker Steve Josue. Injured rookie wide receiver Carl Ford was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Free agent Grey Ruegamer made the roster mainly because he can play guard and center better than Ferrario and Winters. Ferrario was taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Packers in 2001 but has only played as a backup last year. Winters, 39, signed with the Packers as a Plan B free agent in 1992 and was the team's starting center for eight-plus seasons. Last year, Winters played in all 16 regular season games and a playoff game with 11 overall starts because of injuries to other linemen.

"He's a Packer for life no matter what happens from here on out," said Sherman. "Versatility, the ability to play guard and center, Ruegamer had the advantage in that area. I thought Frank played pretty well in the game the other day. ... It wasn't necessarily what he couldn't do as far as a center goes, it really had more to do with versatility and have eight guys up who could do multiple roles."

Sherman assigned Ferrario to play in NFL Europe this spring to sharpen his skills at center, but Ferrario returned to Green Bay after the NFL-E training camp because he didn't want to play in Europe as war broke out in Iraq. Sherman reviewed practice tapes of Ferrario at center during the NFL-E camp, and when he played center last year during the preseason, but "there wasn't enough there at center to warrant us keeping him as a center/guard combination."

McGarrahan's lack of versatility probably cost him a roster spot. While Sherman liked his ability on special teams, he opted to retain Derek Combs, who was acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs in an off-season trade, and Erwin Swiney, who performed well in the latter part of training camp after a slow start.

Ford tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during Green Bay's final preseason game Thursday against the Tennessee Titans. Sherman consulted with team physicial, Dr. Patrick McKenzie, who said that it will take Ford about 12 weeks for Ford to make a full recovery. Sherman said that Ford's MCL injury is "much worse" than guard Marco Rivera.

"This will afford him the opportunity to get in the weight room, get stronger – he still needs to improve his strength – come back to the April minicamp at 185, 186 pounds, and build upon what he has already brought with him here," Sherman said. "He's a very good route runner. He's been sure-handed, dependable. He practices every day. He's a young Donald Driver-type player, but further ahead than Donald, I believe, at this stage. Donald was a little bit rusty on his route running, but this kid really knows how to run routes. ... I think he has a chance to be a rising star. It's unfortunate it won't be this year."

Sherman liked Tony Fisher's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield better than Goodman and Smith, both were both signed in the off-season as free agents.

The 53-man roster includes five selections from this year's NFL draft – linebackers Nick Barnett (first round) and Hunter Hillenmeyer (fifth round); defensive lineman Kenny Peterson (third round); offensive tackle Brennan Curtin (sixth round); and cornerback Chris Johnson (seventh round).

Ford, a seventh round pick, joins defensive lineman (fifth round) on injured reserve. Lee was placed on injured reserve last week because of a hip injury.

Hillenmeyer may be in jeopardy of losing his roster spot when Torrance Marshall returns Sept. 30 from his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance policy.

The Packers may establish a five-man practice squad after 11 a.m. on Monday. Sherman said that some of the players released in recent days will be asked to participate on the practice squad.

Packer Report Top Stories