GREEN BAY, Wis. — In order for Packers wide receiver Tori Gurley to make Green Bay’s active roster this season, several factors would have to fall into place. The most important aspect that Gurley could control was having a healthy, productive training camp and proving to coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the staff that he belonged on the roster of a team loaded at receiver.
Unfortunately for Gurley, a groin injury has gotten in the way of that. After missing several consecutive practices, Gurley has been ruled out for the Packers’ preseason opener Thursday night in San Diego.
“Stuff happens,” Gurley told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. “I can’t sit there and worry about it because it’s football. It’s part of the profession. Once I get my opportunity to go back out there, I’m just going to enjoy it like I plan on doing.”
Gurley’s attitude has stayed positive, but his status on the depth chart seems to be falling. With all five receivers from last year’s team returning, when the time comes for final roster cuts later this month, McCarthy would have to keep fewer players at other positions just to potentially create a spot for Gurley.
Last season, Gurley and fellow up-and-coming wide receiver Diondre Borel were on Green Bay’s practice squad. Both undrafted free agents in 2011, Gurley and Borel were considered the next two receivers to eventually be catching passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers on game day.
It’s unlikely that McCarthy would keep seven wide receivers, and even keeping six is not a certainty. But, if there is a spot for only one of them, Borel had already been outperforming Gurley in training camp, even prior to the groin injury.
“I’m still very confident in myself and I’m just going to continue to work,” Gurley said. “Nothing has been taken away from me. I just have to continue to just take it one day at a time and learn from my peers. It’s a process.”
Prior to Gurley’s injury, he had caught the attention of the Packers’ all-time leading receiver, Donald Driver.
“He’s very talented,” Driver said. “Gurley is good. He has all the tools to be a great player.”
Driver also compared Gurley to Jahine Arnold, a wide receiver who came to Green Bay in 1999, the same year Driver did. Arnold appeared in just one game with the Packers that year and never made it back to the NFL.
So take that analogy for what it’s worth.
At 6-foot-4, the tallest of any receiver on Green Bay’s roster, Gurley brings a much different skill set than Borel.
“Tori has a big frame and he’s able to use that,” wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “He has done a good job as far as his physicality and being able to attack the ball at the highest point. Those are all pluses.
“But he just has to get healthy.”
Gurley attempted to practice in a limited capacity on Monday, but that didn’t go as well as hoped.
“It was a test,” Gurley said. “Physically I didn’t feel like I could put my best foot forward while I was out there. It was for the best interest of me and for the team for me to just continue to get the rehab and get healthy before I play.”
When Gurley is able to return, he’ll need a lot of production to make up for lost time. But at this point, catching up with Borel on the depth chart may not be possible for him. It hasn’t just been Gurley’s injury that’s created the separation between the two, but also Borel’s consistent performances in every practice session so far.
Gurley had a contract offer late last season from the Minnesota Vikings but turned it down with the hope of making it with the Packers in 2012. Borel had an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but turned it down for the same reason.
While Gurley has the talent and the size, given all the practice time that he’s already missed, his chances of making Green Bay’s roster this season are dwindling. It may now come down to whether McCarthy decides to keep seven receivers or an injury happens elsewhere at the position.
Otherwise, Gurley may be forced to choose between another season on the practice squad or waiting on an offer similar to the one he got last season from the Vikings.