Havner Deserves Roster Spot, Second Chance

Just when it looks like Spencer Havner could be in a battle to keep the roster spot he worked so hard to earn last season, he comes up with another surprising play that should solidify his spot on this year's team.

Spencer Havner is the type of player who has to prove his worth every training camp to keep a roster spot. This year, he is doing it again.

While the second-year UCLA product has been caught in the middle of a tight race at the tight end position this camp, he made an interception playing linebacker in Saturday night's preseason game at Seattle that put everyone on notice that he is here to stay.

The logic may be difficult to follow. How does a player trying to earn a roster spot at tight end improve his chances by making an interception at linebacker?

In Havner's case, it is just part of the job.

The 27-year-old all but made the Packers' roster last year in camp by being an all-around player, a jack of all trades, a throwback. A linebacker in college and a special teams performer since, the Packers moved Havner to tight end after seeing some natural skills in him while he ran scout team plays at that position the season prior as a member of the practice squad. The move paid almost immediate dividends.

Havner became a star of sorts for the Packers in 2009, even as a part-time player. Third string on the depth chart, he got more playing time when Jermichael Finley got hurt. By season's end, he recorded five touchdowns (including the playoffs), a surprising number considering he was in his first year at a new position. Through it all, the Packers showed faith in his ability, not once altering their play-calling when he was in the game.

Though Havner remained on special teams, his days as a linebacker were over. Or so he thought.

This camp, when injuries challenged the Packers' depth at the linebacker, there was Havner back with his nose in two playbooks.

This camp, when the tight end competition heated up, there was the Packers' coaching staff asking more out of Havner to earn his roster spot.

Spencer Havner scores in the playoff game.
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
And this past Saturday, when Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst tried to lob a pass to tight end Cameron Morrah on a third-and-goal late in the game, there was Havner wrestling away an interception.

Still, Havner's roster spot is no cinch. Undrafted rookie free agent Tom Crabtree is creating some buzz at tight end. Draft pick Andrew Quarless is as physically gifted as they come. And veteran Donald Lee is a favorite of the coaching staff. The only thing set in stone is Finley, but behind him are four players making a pretty good argument to land a spot.

Of course, keeping that many tight ends does not seem feasible. Neither does keeping Havner solely as a special teams player or as a linebacker. Along with the tight ends, the linebacker position, when healthy, is probably the deepest group on the Packers' roster.

Not necessarily helping Havner's cause, too, was an unfortunate motorcycle accident last March in which he broke his shoulder blade. Havner was arrested back home in California on suspicion of DUI, a piece of bad press that sat poorly with an organization interested in finding not only good football players, but good citizens.

Like his broken shoulder blade, Havner has put the nightmare incident behind him. During the OTAs in June, he seemed apologetic and said he only wanted to focus on football. He has done that.

"I don't like to let myself get ahead. I've been sent home before, a few times," said Havner, who has made an active roster coming out of NFL training camp only one time in four career tries. "I don't take it for granted to be able to make the team. I really cherish that."

Just as Havner has gotten his second chance off the field, he deserves to get one on it. He has again proven to be too valuable to let go. And last Saturday night he got back to doing what he does best – making plays when no one expects him to.

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

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