Mark Tauscher, a fixture at right tackle for the better part of a decade for the Green Bay Packers, was among five veterans released by the team Friday.
Linebackers Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar and Brady Poppinga and defensive lineman Justin Harrell also were released.
None of the cuts was particularly surprising, given that all five are coming off season-ending injuries. But the release of both Barnett and Chillar does leave the Packers thin behind starting inside linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop.
”We want to thank all of the players for their many contributions to the Green Bay Packers throughout their careers,” general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. ”During their time here, they have been valuable members of our organization and our community. We wish all of them the very best in the future.”
Packers players reported to camp Friday, and the team will hold its first practice Saturday night.
Just before camp opened, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his wife, Jessica, added a new member to their family, welcoming a baby girl late Thursday. In a statement Friday night, the team said daughter Isabella Conroy and her mother are healthy and resting comfortably.
The Packers also announced the signing of seven draft picks: second-round Kentucky wide receiver Randall Cobb, fifth-round Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, sixth-round Utah guard Caleb Schlauderaff, sixth-round Appalachian State linebacker D.J. Smith, sixth-round Arizona outside linebacker Ricky Elmore, seventh-round North Carolina tight end Ryan Taylor and seventh-round Arizona State defensive end Lawrence Guy.
The Packers will welcome back free agent kicker Mason Crosby, who agreed to a five-year contract earlier this week, but are resigned to losing free agent guard Daryn Colledge to Arizona and running back Brandon Jackson to Cleveland. Other decisions loomed as teams could officially begin signing free agents Friday evening.
Friday’s announcement was a quiet ending to a standout Packers career for Tauscher, whose 2010 season ended when he was put on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. His agent did not return messages left by The Associated Press, so it wasn’t clear if he intends to try and continue his career with another team.
The native of Marshfield, Wis., played in college at Wisconsin and was taken by the Packers in the seventh round of the 2000 draft. He started 14 games as a rookie and became the Packers’ starting right tackle for most of the first nine seasons of his career, with the exception of an injury-shortened 2002 season.
Tauscher had a season-ending knee injury in 2008, and the Packers didn’t bring him back to start the 2009 season. But with the offensive line struggling to protect Aaron Rodgers that year, the Packers re-signed him. Tauscher took back his starting job and stabilized the line’s pass protection in the second half of the season.
Green Bay has taken offensive tackles in the first round of the past two NFL drafts, Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga in 2010 and Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod this year. With veteran Chad Clifton presumably starting the season at his customary left tackle spot, Bulaga could play right tackle while Sherrod starts the season as a backup.
With Barnett coming off a season-ending wrist injury, his release was expected; the team told him he would be let go earlier this week, and the veteran discussed the decision in a series of posts on his Twitter account – including a joke about not complaining about team photos, an acknowledgement that his complaints about injured players not appearing in the Packers’ Super Bowl team photo might have soured his relationship with management.
Slightly more surprising was the release of Chillar, whose 2010 season ended because of a shoulder injury. Chillar received a four-year contract extension in December 2009. Without Barnett and Chillar, the Packers may have to look for additional inside linebacker help to back up Hawk and Bishop.
Poppinga, a fourth-round pick in 2005 who had been relegated to a backup role the past two seasons, had his 2010 season ended by a knee injury.
Then there’s Harrell, the team’s first-round pick in 2007. He played in only 14 games in four seasons with the Packers because of a rash of injuries, including a knee injury in the 2010 opener at Philadelphia that ended his season – and, now, his Packers career.
The team signed two more undrafted free agents, Oklahoma State defensive end Chris Donaldson and Temple defensive end Elisha Joseph, and waived first-year safety Michael Greco and first-year linebacker Curtis Young.