Manning on the move

Learning outside LB positions gives rookie better chance of making team

Roy Manning has everything you could hope for in a linebacker. At 6-foot-2, 245 pounds he is big, strong, quick and has a nose for the football. For whatever reason and despite playing at the high-profile University of Michigan, he was passed over in April's NFL draft.

Manning was quickly lured to Green Bay ahead of other teams with the maximum $15,000 signing bonus for free agents and, more than that, an opportunity to make the team. Thus far in training camp, Manning is cashing in.

Manning, who also drew interest from Philadelphia and San Diego after the draft, has manuevered his way to Green Bay's second-team defense. He began camp lower on the depth chart and primarily at middle linebacker, a position he is best suited to play. But with injuries to Na'il Diggs (knee), Kurt Campbell (calf) and Brady Poppinga (hamstring), all outside linebackers, Packers coaches began working Manning at outside linebacker this week.

It has become obvious that the coaching staff is trying to find a good reason to keep Manning, who started 10 games and had 39 tackes and three forced fumbles for the Wolverines last year.

"We're taking a look at him at the Will linebacker position," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "With some of the injuries that we've had, we're trying to move guys around and get a feel. He will be getting some work in the Buffalo game at that position."

The Packers travel to play the Bills in an exhibition game on Saturday (5 p.m. CT). While Manning will be playing the outside linebacker position, he also will be inserted at middle linebacker behind Nick Barnett.

"It's a different perspective and everything out there, but I'm having fun," Manning said.

The Packers probably will keep six linebackers on their 53-man roster. Locks to make the team thus far are Diggs, Barnett and Poppinga, who returned to practice this week. Campbell appears to be headed for injured reserve. Paris Lenon can play all three positions and is valuable on special teams, so he is destined to make the team. The final two spots will be up for grabs between Manning, Ray Thompson and Hannibal Navies.

If Manning can show in upcoming preseason games and practice that he can handle playing on the outside, Navies or Thompson probably will be released. If not, Manning probably will wind up on the eight-man practice squad, where the Packers risk losing him to another team.

In the meantime, Manning is making a case for himself on Clarke Hinkle Field.

"He's been pretty steady since he's been here," Sherman said. "Minicamp, opportunity sessions, preseason. He's a bright kid. Responds well to coaching. We're going to give him another chance at another position."

Chances are, Manning will make the most of it and eventually earn a roster spot.

Todd Korth

Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of and Packer Report. E-mail him at

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