Mr. Versatility Stating His Case

What's next? Fullback? Guard? The Packers' Spencer Havner has played four positions this training camp after adding a new one on Thursday. His versatility just might earn him a roster spot.

Odds are that Spencer Havner will have some sort of nickname if he makes the Packers' regular-season roster.

"Some of the guys have thrown some stuff around," said Havner after Thursday morning's practice, "but nothing's stuck yet."

Havner has been the Packers' all-everything player this training camp. No one has put in more work. A linebacker by trade, the 2005 UCLA product has played three positions — inside linebacker, tight end and special teams. After Thursday morning's practice he can add one more — outside linebacker.

With Jeremy Thompson and Clay Matthews III sidelined by injury and Aaron Kampman given a practice off, there was the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Havner pulling off his utility-man routine by taking snaps at right outside linebacker.

"He has a familiarity with it already because he's an inside backer," said outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. "He's athletic and he's a smart kid. ... He might be playing wide receiver next week, you never really know. He's one of those kinds of athletes that can do a lot of different things."

While Havner might be a stranger to some, he is anything but inside the Packers' locker room. This is really his fourth season with the Packers, though he is listed as a first-year player. Havner signed with the Packers as a practice squad player in 2006. He was released during final cutdowns the past two seasons, before re-signing to the practice squad. He was elevated to the Packers active roster for the first time on Dec. 5 and played in each of the final four games as a special-teamer, recording three tackles and downing two punts inside the 10-yard line.

This season, though, is different for Havner. He is only focused on a roster spot, not the practice squad, and is making a better than average case playing multiple roles. As early as this offseason, when he started playing some tight end, Havner said Packers coaches have told him they want him to be a versatile guy. It was Wednesday night, however, when he found out about playing outside linebacker. He might even see some action there in Saturday night's preseason opener against the Browns at Lambeau Field.

"This is part of Spencer Havner's plan," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Spencer will play special teams, offense, and then defense will be the order that he'll play in the game. Now, the matter of how much and so forth, that will be determined."

Havner has handled the double-duty surprisingly well. While a tight end on Tuesday night, he beat Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins for a touchdown. On Thursday, he beat the tight end with a decisive inside move to stop a running play and raced around the corner to put pressure on quarterback Matt Flynn.

"I saw him come around the corner, too," a fired-up Greene said. "What I've got to do now is have him sticking his face into people and bull rush, and all that other stuff will be that much better for him."

With gameday rosters limited to 45 players, Havner knows this offense-defense multi-tasking is a way to add value so he can do what he does best: play special teams. He's with the starters on every unit — punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff, kickoff return and field goals/extra points. That's a strong signal of his chances of making the team. Still, he knows that Saturday might be his best chance to impress in game action, if not selling his worth enough in practice. So far he has handled the workload, which includes learning two playbooks, quite well.

"The first preseason game might be a lot of work, but I think as we go, the starters might get some more playing time. So I just take it as it comes," said Havner. "(Saturday night is) a big opportunity for me to show these guys that I can play and deserve a spot on the team."


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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