News: The Packers released cornerback Trevor Ford and three undrafted rookies – quarterback Noah Shepard, outside linebacker Tim Knicky and safety Khalil Jones. Views: The noteworthy one here is the release of Shepard, who to our knowledge, was one of only two quarterbacks the Packers worked out or brought into Green Bay during the pre-draft process. A run-pass threat at South Dakota, Shepard possessed plenty of zip on his balls but only too rarely threw a spiral. That clears the way for recently added Graham Harrell, the former Texas Tech superstar who went undrafted and unwanted by anyone in the NFL last year, as the odd's-on favorite to make the practice squad, since it's a long shot that the team would bring in another quarterback with only three practices left before training camp.
The other big winner is Frank Zombo/Robert Francois. Zombo, Knicky and John Russell were the three outside linebackers the Packers added after the draft. Knicky appeared to be the early front-runner – he was a pass-rushing ace at Stephen F. Austin and frequently earned the first rep when the rookies were put on the field during the first couple offseason practices. The Packers need a fifth outside linebacker, and he'll come from the group including Francois, Zombo and Russell. Russell, a former defensive tackle at Wake Forest, seems like a project. Zombo (6-3, 254) was a productive player at Central Michigan and Francois (6-3, 253) was a late addition to the practice squad last season. At the one practice open to reporters last week, Francois was given a couple reps with the second unit.
As for Ford, strike that up as a victory for undrafted rookie Sam Shields, the raw-as-meat speed demon from Miami who should get a few more reps. As for Jones, he was the receiver-turned-safety. I guess I'm a bit surprised that they've given up so early on that project.
Finally, why release the four players now, with the minicamp on the horizon? The Packers needed to clear roster spots to start signing the draft picks, who do not count against the 80-man roster limits until they're signed. Expect seventh-round pick C.J. Wilson and maybe sixth-rounder James Starks to be in the fold soon.
News: Commissioner Roger Goodell will be dropping by when the Packers hold their annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field on July 29. Views: What an opportunity for some lucky shareholders to get to ask The Commish some questions. Of course, it's all a PR campaign as the NFL tries to position itself in the war of words between itself and the players with labor strife on the horizon. Not sure it's necessary, since the those greedy, spoiled, overpaid players (not my words or beliefs) are always the losers in the Court of Public Opinion.
What's interesting to me in this war of words is that Green Bay seems to be central to the battle. Which makes sense, since the Packers are the only team that opens its financial records and, thus, the Packers' bottom line will be used as ammunition by the league and the players. The Goodell announcement comes on the heels of the NFL using Packers President Mark Murphy as the public voice of the labor battle with appearances on a national media conference call, a lengthy segment on NFL Network and a spot on ESPN Radio earlier in the week.
What's interesting/bizarre to me is how negatively that some fans view Murphy. Probably the never-ending hangover from that guy with the initial BLF. That the league is using Murphy – a former player and NFLPA vice president – as the face and voice in the labor battle speaks volumes to the importance of the Packers' president.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.