Good News: Lee, Harrell Practice

While Tramon Williams, Johnny Jolly and Atari Bigby were absent because they have not signed their restricted free agent tenders, two oft-injured players were on the field for the first practice of OTAs.

The headlines say Tramon Williams, Atari Bigby and Johnny Jolly skipped the first practice of organized team activities because they have not signed their restricted free agent tenders.

The good news, however, is who was on the practice field.

Two of the biggest draft disappointments of the Ted Thompson era, 2007 first-rounder Justin Harrell and 2008 second-rounder Pat Lee, were on the field for the first voluntary offseason practice, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Lee didn't play last season after hyperextending his knee on a kickoff return during the preseason, and his absence was felt again and again after Al Harris and Will Blackmon also were lost to season-ending knee injuries. It certainly wasn't Thompson's plan to have Jarrett Bush being a pseudo starter by manning the nickel corner for the final seven games.

The Packers didn't draft a cornerback and didn't add a veteran in free agency, so it's vital that Lee stay healthy and contribute. He's played in just five games in his career, with one tackle and one pass defensed. With so little game experience, Lee desperately needs as much on-the-field work as possible, so the absence of Williams (contract), Harris (knee) and Blackmon (knee) is probably a blessing.

With Thompson having invested draft picks on Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson to fortify the defensive line, this almost certainly is Harrell's last chance. Harrell has given the Packers practically no return on investment after they made him the 16th overall pick of the draft. Harrell, who is signed through 2012 (the final season is voidable), has played in only 13 games in his career and sat out all of last season after his troublesome back gave him grief in training camp.

Outside of the unsigned restricted free agents, only Harris (excused) was not in attendance, though left tackle Chad Clifton (knees), guard/center Jason Spitz (back), guard/tackle T.J. Lang (wrist surgery), linebacker Nick Barnett (knee), safety Derrick Martin (ankle surgery) and Blackmon (knee) did not practice.

Meanwhile, the Packers assigned numbers to the three undrafted free agents who were signed after successful tryouts at the rookie camp. What's noteworthy is safety Anthony Levine was given No. 34. That was the number worn by Ahman Green last season.

Practice on Wednesday, as well as practices on Wednesday, June 2, Wednesday, June 9, and Wednesday, June 16, will be open to fans (weather permitting) and start at 11:15 a.m.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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