Notebook: Return For Top Returner

Will Blackmon returns to practice after resting his ailing knee. Plus, we have comments from all three coordinators, injury updates including Justin Harrell, and much more from Tuesday moring's practice.

Will Blackmon had missed about a week-and-a-half of practice to give his surgically repaired knee a much-needed respite.

On Tuesday morning, he got out of bed, said his knee felt better than ever and decided it was time to get back on the practice field.

"I'll be ready for Philadelphia (for Week 1), no question," Blackmon said. "It's not even a concern about the opener. The main thing is just make sure that I do this comeback strong and do it right because this injury is a nine- to 11-month comeback. I can sit there and be cool and be prideful and be like, ‘Yeah, I came back in seven months, I came back in eight months.' The bottom line is, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 months, as long as you're ready for the first game, that's the most important thing."

Blackmon worked mostly with the second team at safety and was his usual smooth self catching the ball out of the JUGS machine during a punting period.

It was important for Blackmon to get back to practice. While he said he can return punts "in my sleep," he needs to get acclimated as he makes the transition from cornerback to safety.

"That was the tough thing with me resting is I wanted to get out there and get some reps at safety," Blackmon said, "because I can sit in the meeting room and go off things and tell the coach that, yeah, I know this and I know that, but to translate it to the field, that's the most difficult part. For me to get out there, that was the hard part and that's the most important part, too."

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Blackmon, while primarily a safety, would be in the mix at cornerback in the nickel and dime packages.

"I had a chance to watch Will out there today," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He looks really good in the return game. It was good to have him back there. But Will is definitely a factor at the safety position and the corner position. It's good just to get Will healthy and hopefully we can stack some practices with him."

Tuesday night notes

A few quick hitters as an update:

— Ryan Grant was back with the starters after missing two practices with a concussion. Also back were linebackers Nick Barnett and Cyril Obiozor.

— Cornerback Al Harris shadowed the corners and did a little backpedalling during the opening job-through. It's the first sign that his remarkable comeback from a devastating knee injury will reach the practice field sooner rather than later.

— Daryn Colledge is taking most of the first-team reps at left guard, though Bryan Bulaga did work with the starters as well as with the second unit at left guard and left tackle.

— Practice was supposed to be in pads but McCarthy had the players in shells. "That's all we needed to get what we needed accomplished," he said.

— In both practices, scout teams ran plays from future opponents. After a day off on Wednesday, the team will work on some Seattle stuff on Thursday in preparation for Saturday's second preseason game.

— Justin Harrell was out again. There were no new injuries since the morning practice.

Coordinators corner

Capers, along with offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum, were made available to reporters after the morning practice.

Slocum, on who's winning the punting battle between Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan: "Great question. Those guys are doing such a good job. You can see the stats after the game, they had the same gross average. It's hard to say at this point, and I thought we would see some separation after the first ballgame because we had Family Night that we treated like a ballgame. But we'll go into this game and we're going to continue to rotate them. Part of that process is to keep both of them active throughout the entire game so that they get that feel, what it's like in the fourth quarter. What I want to see out of those guys is better production in the fourth quarter if we're punting."

Capers, on the No. 3 cornerback battle between Brandon Underwood and Pat Lee: "Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood are going to be very important to us, with not knowing exactly where Al (Harris) is. Those guys have been working hard. I think Saturday night was a good experience for them. I think you learn a lot going against other teams and seeing how they compete against other teams. What we've got to see out of those guys is just progress every week throughout the preseason. There's no question, right out of the gate against Philly, we're going to see great skill there with their receivers. (DeSean) Jackson and (Jeremy) Maclin are two of the best young receivers, and their tight end (Brent Celek) had an awful lot of catches last year. We'll see a number of those teams."

Philbin, on the Browns' blitz-heavy scheme last week: "We tell our guys all the time, and it's good for us as coaches, is a reminder that you're not in control. On Saturday, we told the guys, ‘Worry about the stuff you can control. You're not the defensive coordinator of the Browns. You don't know what they're going to call. What they call is what they call.' It's a good lesson for coaches, too. You can't get too caught up in it. They had some nice pressures and it caused us some adjustments and slowed us down a couple times here and there."

Harrell's back acts up

On Monday, Justin Harrell told Packer Report that his cantankerous back felt fine coming out of Saturday's preseason game. So, on Tuesday morning, there was Harrell, limited to spectator status. McCarthy said Harrell's back "tightened up."

"I saw him do two or three good things in the game, where he got on a block and threw the block with a little bit of explosiveness, that type of thing," Capers said. "As I've said from the beginning, the key for him is to stay out here working. Because for a start, I thought he did some decent things Saturday night."

Some good news, though, came on impressive young tight end Tom Crabtree. His injured hand and wrist was a bone bruise and a sprain rather than a break. The training staff is experimenting with casts that will limit the pain while allowing him to play up to his ability.

"We found out yesterday it's not a break or anything, so from that standpoint, it's nothing that's going to hurt me long term or career-wise," he said. "I said, ‘Hey, let's cast it up and get me out there.'"

Also back was center/guard Jason Spitz (calf).

The injury list from the morning practice: receiver Brett Swain (knee), running backs Ryan Grant (concussion) and Kregg Lumpkin (hamstring), safety Derrick Martin (one-a-day schedule with ankle), linebackers Alex Joseph (quad), Clay Matthews (hamstring), Nick Barnett (knee), Cyril Obiozor (calf), linemen Evan Dietrich-Smith (neck sprain), and Mark Tauscher (rest) and Chad Clifton (rest).

Meanwhile, cornerback Al Harris was asked if he's still shooting to play in Week 1: "Umm, well, it doesn't really matter what I'm shooting for on a personal note, you know what I mean? When I get out there, that's when I'll be out there."

Four-point stance (Ted Thompson edition)

— I asked general manager Ted Thompson if he would consider keeping all five tight ends: "Yeah, that's possible. Sure. Again, it sort of messes up your equation at other spots, but it depends how it works out."

— With only two healthy halfbacks, will Thompson consider adding someone to the mix? "First of all, it has to be someone that you think you would like to add to the group, that is worthy, rather than just a guy to take up a spot, and is there availability in that regard, what the talent level is. So you just kind of look at it."

— Thompson did add to a short-handed linebacker corps last week with the signing of Green Bay Blizzard indoor player Maurice Simpkins: "We worked him out twice. He had really good workouts on two different occasions. There were some other people we brought in and he looked so much better than those other guys. We really got a little thin at linebacker so we wanted to add a guy and we had the ability, but we didn't add him just to add him. We added him because he had a good workout and he played well in the situations he was in before and he's doing a good job now."

— With some national reporters in town, they of course had to ask about Aaron Rodgers' progression: "I've said this before here, I do think the old way of becoming a quarterback in the NFL, which is to come into the league and be behind a really good player and watch that player play, I think that's beneficial. I think it was for Aaron. I'm sure it was frustrating for him, from time to time. I'm sure in terms of the yardage and the statistics and stuff, McCarthy would take credit for that, for his offense. But I think Aaron has done a good job, and he's got a long way to go. We hope."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, 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.


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