GREEN BAY, Wis. — This was not the type of mundane Monday that the Green Bay Packers were hoping for.
Left tackle Bryan Bulaga was likely lost for the season with a torn ACL. Free-agent quarterback Vince Young was brought in for a workout and later signed a one-year contract to potentially give Aaron Rodgers a more experienced backup. Kicker Mason Crosby is under fire for making only 3 of 8 field-goal attempts Saturday night in a scrimmage after a season in which he finished with the NFL’s lowest success rate.
It was enough stress for coach Mike McCarthy to decide it was time for a day off. Four hours before the Packers were scheduled to practice, the team canceled it, along with all media availability. Instead of putting their pads and helmets on, players and coaches spent the day having a rare mid-training camp “team-building function.”
Sunday was already an off day for Green Bay, so Monday’s cancellation sure seems like a sign that things aren’t going McCarthy’s way on Day 11 of training camp.
Injuries have piled up, too. Including Bulaga, the Packers have 18 players unavailable to practice. Wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey, and cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward make up just a small number of the notable names who have not been able to practice.
The Packers have to regroup quickly before Tuesday morning, when they return to practice.
The top priority for McCarthy is figuring out what to do at left tackle now. McCarthy made the unprecedented move this offseason to completely swap the right side of the offensive line with the left side of the offensive line.
Bulaga was the key component to that, becoming the new blind-side protector for Rodgers. McCarthy justified the major switch as Bulaga and guard Josh Sitton being the team’s two best offensive linemen and the coaching staff therefore wanting them to anchor the left side.
But now what? Green Bay can move Marshall Newhouse back to left tackle, a spot that had been his since Week 4 of the 2011 season. McCarthy’s lack of comfort with Newhouse at left tackle was evident, though, when the Packers made the big change. Newhouse, a 33-game starter over the past two years, wasn’t even guaranteed the right tackle job. He was put into a competition with several others.
Don Barclay was expected to be Newhouse’s main challenger at right tackle, but Green Bay has instead been training Barclay at center and guard. The results with Barclay as an interior lineman have not been positive. He has botched at least four snaps at center, often rolling the ball back to the quarterback in shotgun. But, after an injury to fourth-round pick offensive lineman J.C. Tretter in May, the Packers decided that having Barclay be cross-trained and more versatile was more important than him vying for a starting spot against Newhouse.
Green Bay’s other fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, David Bakhtiari, has been one of the team’s most impressive rookies. After being near the back of the depth chart early in training camp, Bakhtiari had already begun to emerge as a starting candidate before Bulaga’s injury. If the Packers believe he can handle the responsibility of left tackle right away, Bakhtiari could step into that role. Otherwise, Newhouse could slide back to his old spot at left tackle and Bakhtiari could spend his first NFL season at right tackle.
Derek Sherrod remains a wild card. He’s 20 months removed from breaking his leg, but the 2011 first-round pick has yet to be medically cleared. Still only 24 years old and obviously talented enough to be the 32nd overall pick only a couple years ago, Sherrod could become a possible replacement for Bulaga. But McCarthy will have to look at other options first, and if Sherrod is suddenly made available, it would just be a bonus for Green Bay’s offensive line.
As if that decision won’t be difficult enough for the Packers, the team is going in a new direction at backup quarterback. Green Bay’s plans with Young — the third overall pick in 2006 by the Tennessee Titans — remain unclear, but the one-year contract he signed Monday is an indication that the team isn’t satisfied with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman.
Harrell, 28, was the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback last season, but his one meaningful regular-season snap was a goal-line fumble. He has been steady in training camp, but Harrell’s ceiling as a quarterback is pretty well defined.
Coleman, 24, was a seventh-round pick by Green Bay in 2012. He has had some strong throws in recent practices, but he threw two interceptions — one of which was returned for a touchdown — in the team’s Saturday night scrimmage. McCarthy described the interceptions as the “black eye” for Coleman.
Young, 30, provides a wide-ranging and interesting set of possibilities for the Packers. Once considered an NFL prospect with huge upside, Young was out of the league last year, despite a 31-19 overall record as a starting quarterback. Young last played in a game for the Philadelphia Eagles in November 2011, which was a victory over the eventual-Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
That issue isn’t the last for Green Bay to deal with. Crosby’s struggles from last season — in which he made only 21 of 33 attempts (including 2 of 9 from beyond 50 yards) — are apparently not over. With three years and $7.85 million remaining on Crosby’s contract, the seventh-year kicker is being outperformed by Giorgio Tavecchio, whom the Packers signed off the street to a non-guaranteed deal in March.
Among Crosby’s misses Saturday night were kicks from 33 yards, 37 yards and 43 yards. Those misfires came in perfect early-August weather conditions at Lambeau Field, the home stadium that Crosby should be used to after six seasons. McCarthy publicly stood by Crosby throughout all of last season, often stating “Mason is our kicker” whenever asked what Green Bay’s plan was at that position. But, after Crosby’s outing on Saturday, McCarthy took a different route.
“He definitely didn’t take a step in the right direction with his performance,” McCarthy said of Crosby. “He’s definitely got to do better than that because that’s not going to cut it. . . . I think there’s, just from a fundamental standpoint, I mean, he’s got to do better than that.”
The Packers took an unexpected breather on Monday with no practice and no reporters inquiring as to the latest on the team. When McCarthy and his players are back at it on Tuesday, though, there will be plenty of questions to answer.