Curtin breaks chains of isolation

The curtain is about to rise for the tallest player in Packers history.

Second-year offensive tackle Brennan Curtin, who missed all of training camp due to a freak staph infection, returned to practice Wednesday and got the green light Thursday to play in Saturday night's preseason home game against New Orleans.

The 6-foot-9 Curtin spent his off-season in Green Bay in hopes of solidifying his spot on the roster. When he went home to Florida during the Fourth of July holiday, a boil developed into a staph infection. Worse yet, the infection was contagious, meaning not only was Curtin banished from practice, but he was isolated from his teammates.

So much for an off-season of hard work.

"It's definitely not something you account for," Curtin said after Thursday's lone practice. "It's tough because I felt fine but I wasn't able to be around the team. I was able to run and work out and lift and all that stuff, but I wasn't able to be here. It's tough when you're up here all off-season working out and you kind of have that date set in your head when camp starts and you're ready to go, and then a freak thing happens."

The Packers are high on last year's sixth-round draft pick. For such a big guy, Curtin has great feet, offensive line coach Larry Beightol has said. Those feet finally graced the practice field on Wednesday.

"There's a little bit of rust, naturally," Curtin said. "The other guys have been out there for two-and-a-half weeks, so I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things. But, I feel pretty confident. I came back yesterday, did some things I didn't like, did some things OK. It's more just getting the reaction time back and getting back into the swing of the speed of the game. The best way to go about that is trial by fire. I got thrown in there yesterday, so I kind of got the worst part of it over."

Packers coach Mike Sherman said he expects Curtin to play even though he'll only have a few practices under his belt.

"I was impressed by how quickly he was able to get back into it," Sherman said, adding that the former Notre Dame athlete isn't as "behind as I thought he'd be."

"I would think (Curtin will play) because he's taken all the minicamp reps that he could take," Sherman continued. "He has a lot of money in the bank, so to speak, in regard to his repetitions. He knows his assignments pretty well."

Those minicamps were vital in that regard, Curtin said, because his involvement with the team in the first couple weeks of training camp had been limited to sitting in meetings. Because the infection was contagious, Curtin wasn't allowed on the practice field.

"Given the situation I've been put in, where you're two-and-a-half weeks of not being able to be out here, being at the minicamps definitely helped a lot," Curtin said. "Coming in, basically having a good knowledge of the playbook — there's a few minor details I need to brush up on and kind of get used to — but other than that, I'm not starting from Ground Zero, so that's good."

Despite his lengthy absence, Curtin remains in the thick of the roster hunt. The Packers would like to keep two backup offensive tackles, and only Kevin Barry has a job sewed up. Because of what happened, Curtin returns to the team with extra motivation.

"(Being) away from the team ... was definitely the hardest part," Curtin said. "You start to realize what a great organization this is. The guys are sort of like family. It definitely makes you want it more when you've had something taken away like that."

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