Packers’ young receivers respond vs. Chiefs
GREEN BAY — Packers wide receiver Tori Gurley likes to play in pressure situations. Considering that he is on the bubble to make Green Bay’s active roster this season, Thursday night’s preseason finale was certainly pressure-packed for the 2011 practice squad player.
With his NFL future on the line, Gurley performed very well in the Packers’ 24-3 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I think I play better under a lot of pressure,” Gurley said. “That’s something my mother taught me at a young age. She said, ‘Hey, for you to be that x-factor, you have to be able to perform when all eyes are on you.'”
Gurley’s biggest play was a 54-yard connection in the second quarter from Graham Harrell. With only one defender chasing him, Gurley got open near the goal line and hauled in the pass, coming up one yard short of the end zone.
Still, it was the big play that Gurley needed to show the coaching staff he was ready to make the team.
“I think I’m going to be able to sleep good tonight because I know I put out great film,” Gurley said. “That’s all the coaches have been talking to us about. ‘Hey, everybody’s watching, but you need to continue to do the little things.’ Finally, the little things I’ve done showed up with big-play results.”
Gurley finished with two catches for 69 yards, but he also drew a pass interference call in single coverage along the right sideline.
“Tonight I just showed that I’m versatile, and I just pray that it’s everything Green Bay needs,” Gurley said. “If not, then I feel like that film is going to talk.”
Late last season, the Minnesota Vikings tried to sign Gurley off the Packers’ practice squad, but he declined the offer. If Green Bay attempts to stash Gurley away on the practice squad again this year, it’s highly unlikely that he would pass on a similar opportunity from another team.
Gurley’s confidence was already high going into this game, and he said it’s still the same now.
“Next week it’s going to be a game and people are going to forget all about that preseason game, “Gurley said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter after the roster is set. This is the most I played ever. I felt like I was running suicides on the football field.
“Now it’s just little things I have to work on to give myself an edge over my competitors.”
One of those little things could be Gurley’s ability on special teams, where he seems to have a knack for hurrying an opposing punter.
“The wing tried to block me and I pushed him back into the punter several times and had my hand trying to block the punt,” Gurley said. “Little things, just being able to show that I’m all for this team. I want to win a Super Bowl. This year, if it’s me running on kickoff or punt return or whatever, I want to be out there so I can have the opportunity to do something special with this team.”
Roster cut-downs are Friday at 8 p.m. and Gurley is one of nearly 20 players who are battling for the final 10 available spots. The Packers will likely keep all five wide receivers from their 2011 team — Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, James Jones — so it’s up to general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy whether they want six or more on their active roster this season.
Gurley offers great size at 6-foot-4, but fellow 2011 practice squad receiver Diondre Borel has much better speed. Added to the mix late in training camp is Jarrett Boykin, who has been playing very well and has huge hands that would benefit the Packers in possession situations.
From tight end Jermichael Finley’s perspective, he likes all three of them.
“I thought they did a great job tonight,” Finley said. “Gurley and Boykin. I’ve been looking at Boykin the whole camp. The guy has got some talent on him, for sure. You’ve got different things in all three of those guys.
“The next 48 hours, it’s going to be a challenge.”
Finley added that he’d like to see one or “maybe two” of them end up on the team’s final 53-man roster.
“This time of the year is just so tough on a lot of people,” Finley said. “Hopefully they’re around.”
Boykin led Green Bay with five receptions for 82 yards in the win over the Chiefs, catching all five pases thrown his way and bringing one of them in for a touchdown. Gurley and Borel each had two catches. After one of Borel’s receptions, he made a very nice play to gain several extra yards after the catch, juking one defender along the way.
Neither Borel nor Boykin stuck around for long after the game to speak with reporters.
It’s possible that the Packers end up releasing Gurley, Borel and Boykin, hoping to keep as many of them as possible on the practice squad. But if Thompson and McCarthy decide to keep one of them, they have a very difficult decision in comparing three very different wide receivers.
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