Nerves To Elation For Bubble Boys

The players fighting for roster spots feared for their Packers careers over the weekend. We tell the stories of Charlie Peprah, Justin Harrell, C.J. Wilson, Tom Crabtree and Nick McDonald.

For the players on the roster bubble, it was a long couple of days leading up to Saturday's final cuts.

When the 5 p.m. deadline came and went and that bubble hadn't burst, that feeling of dread turned into a feeling of elation.

We have some of those stories.

The veteran: Charlie Peprah

Peprah, in his second tenure with the Packers, killed some of the time by getting his usual post-training camp haircut.

"I always let it do what it wants during training camp, and then when it's all over, I'll cut it," Peprah said. "We went down to Milwaukee to hang out a little bit — kind of relaxed and got out of town to take our minds off everything. Otherwise, I just laid low."

Peprah will be a backup safety and special-teams performer. He grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, which isn't too far from the site of this year's Super Bowl.

"You don't go jumping up and down but you understand how the business works," he said of his emotions after the deadline had passed. "You're definitely grateful and happy and thankful when you make the cut. Whenever you dodge the ax, it's always a good thing."

The former first-round pick: Justin Harrell

By now, Harrell should be one of the vital cogs on the Packers' defense. However, after not playing in a regular-season game since Dec. 7, 2008, because of back problems, Harrell entered training camp trying to prove he can stay healthy and could finally contribute.

Charlie Peprah and Justin Harrell.
Tim Umphrey/Getty Images
So, while Harrell isn't a star or a starter, making the roster is a jumping-off point on Part 2 of his career.

"Without a doubt," Harrell said about the long, disappointing path his career has taken. "It's been a long journey to get to this point. I knew coming into training camp, I knew it was going to be a fight with the players that we had here. It worked out, I'm here for another year and I've got to take advantage of this opportunity."

Harrell didn't do anything special to pass the time, spending the weekend watching college football and hanging out with his wife and newborn.

With Harrell earning a spot on the roster, he acknowledges it'll be a special moment if he plays against the Eagles.

"Without a doubt," he said. "It's been a long, long time since I was actually involved in a regular-season game. Hopefully I have the pads on and will be able to contribute with this team. It'll be a very exciting feeling."

The late-round pick: C.J. Wilson

A seventh-round pick, Wilson was battling Harrell and returning players Jarius Wynn, Anthony Toribio and Ronald Talley for a roster spot. He didn't have a great training camp but his strong performance against Kansas City in the preseason finale cemented his spot.

"Every day you go out there and work hard, just do your job and not worry about it," he said. "I felt good about myself. The older guys told me don't worry about it and everything will take care of itself, so that's what I did."

Wilson said he passed the time playing video games and visiting some family in Chicago.

"It was a long wait on Saturday," he said. "They didn't call me, so I guess when they don't call you, it's good news. (I was) very relieved. It was different emotions. You're relieved and very happy and honored to get this opportunity. I just thank God for that."

The long shot: Tom Crabtree

Crabtree entered training camp an afterthought at tight end, where Donald Lee had starting experience, Spencer Havner versatility and playmaking ability and rookie Andrew Quarless potential.

But Crabtree, who was signed to the Packers' practice squad in December, stood out immediately with his blocking and special-teams ability. Still, with the depth at the position, Crabtree said he was nervous during the long wait.

"We had Friday and Saturday off so I was trying to find stuff to occupy my time and keep my mind off it," he said. "I did a pretty good job of it. I've got a baby on the way so I put some stuff together, some toys and stuff. It was a long couple days."

But 5 p.m. came and went, and his nervousness was replaced with relief and a sense of accomplishment.

"At the same time, I'm back down to earth pretty quick about it," he said. "There's still a lot of work to be done. I've got to keep impressing people and doing the job, day in and day out. It was exciting for a moment but back to work."

Back to work indeed. This interview was interrupted by strength and conditioning coordinator Mark Lovat, telling him it was time to lift weights.

The longest of long shots: Nick McDonald

The shocker of the weekend was that McDonald made the team.

The All-American left tackle from Division II Grand Valley State showed potential at center and guard but most certainly was a project. He regularly took his lumps during the one-on-one periods at training camp and never really stood out during the preseason games.

He gave himself a 50-50 shot of making the team. At 5:15 p.m., or 15 minutes after the deadline, his phone rang. Offensive line coach James Campen was on the other end.

"It wasn't his cell phone but I knew the deadline was at 5," he said. "It was just the Green Bay Packer number and I didn't know. I heard Camp on the other end and he congratulated me right away.

"He got on the phone and he said, being a free agent and making this roster, it's a huge compliment. He told me that I deserved it and I played well. He expects a lot out of me in the future."

With veteran Jason Spitz being a proven guard and center, chances are McDonald will be inactive on gamedays. McDonald, however, will stay prepared and keep working.

"Whatever role I can do for this team, I'm ready to do," he said. "If somebody goes down, I'm confident that I can step up and fill those shoes. They had me for a reason. I know that reason: I can be a good player."

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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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