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Get in and get out healthy

Posted Aug 27, 2012

For the players at the top of the roster, Thursday’s preseason finale will mean very little, a few snaps at most.

For those at the bottom, it could mean a whole lot, as in their future.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday he’s inclined to follow the playing-time format he has employed in past preseason finales, meaning the starters on offense and defense will play probably one or two series at most.

He then summed up his message to the rest of the players who are fighting for a job, whether it be on the 53-man roster, on the practice squad, or in another city.

“This is it, and everybody’s watching, not just the Green Bay Packers,” McCarthy said. “Everybody understands how important this last game is, and you want to have good film every time you go out on the field, that’s practice and game alike.”

The games always mean the most, of course, because the competition is unfamiliar and the film is available to the entire league. The Packers have staged competitive roster battles at various positions throughout training camp, and decision time is near.

On the defensive line, for example, 2011 seventh-round pick Lawrence Guy and veterans Daniel Muir and Phillip Merling could be competing for one roster spot. Jarius Wynn was released on Monday in the cutdown to 75 players.

“Hopefully some guys make some hard decisions for people upstairs,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said.

Another unanswered question is whether the Packers will keep a sixth receiver on the roster, and if they do, will it be Tori Gurley (pictured), Diondre Borel, who are practice-squad holdovers from a year ago, or will a newcomer like Jarrett Boykin pull an upset?

“This is an opportunity to do something great, so I’m just going to leave it all on the field,” Gurley said.

“You see guys around you start dropping like flies, but that’s part of the business. All we can do is continue to work.”

That work continued Monday at Ray Nitschke Field with starters on both sides of the ball taking scout team snaps, another indication of the very limited action they’ll get on Thursday.

Before his weekly briefing with reporters was abruptly ended by a shaving-cream pie to the face courtesy of fullback John Kuhn, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said running the scout team took him “back to the old days.” He even celebrated a completion to outside linebacker Erik Walden – who was masquerading as a tight end at the injury-thinned position – with a leaping, backside bump.

Meanwhile, Raji called the scout team work “different” but classified it as “being a good teammate.”

“You’re giving the guys a look that are going to get the majority of these snaps and give them the best chance to go out and make somebody’s team,” he said.

The 75-man roster will have to be reduced to 53 by Friday night. In getting to 75 on Monday, the Packers released fullback Jon Hoese, in addition to Wynn, placed six players (including LB Desmond Bishop) on injured reserve, and assigned two (TE Andrew Quarless and LB Frank Zombo) to the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which keeps them inactive for a minimum of the first six weeks of the regular season.

McCarthy noted that just getting down to 75 players wasn’t easy, and it won’t get any easier later this week.

“This is the worst time of year for any head coach,” he said. “I know it is for me personally.”

For the players, it simply depends on where they stand.

“A lot of jobs are up for grabs with those guys,” Rodgers said of the bottom half of the roster. “For the ones, we want to get in, get out and not have anybody go down.”

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