GREEN BAY, Wis. — When general manager Brian Gutekunst spoke on Sunday afternoon about his first cutdown as general manager, he described the Green Bay Packers‘ roster as “fluid.”
He wasn’t kidding.
Gutekunst continued tweaking the 53-man roster on Monday, adding running back Darius Jackson off the Dallas Cowboys‘ practice squad and signing linebacker Korey Toomer. Those are an effort to fill two obvious needs in advance of the team’s regular-season opener Sunday night against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
“It took a little longer than normal,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said following the team’s first post-training camp practice. “We had a lot of movement there on Saturday into Sunday, (and) we were juggling things. . Obviously, I think our transactions reflect that. So, it’s been a long weekend. (But) we feel really good about the 63 players (including the practice squad) in our locker room and we’ll move forward getting ready for the Bears.”
To make room for Toomer, the Packers placed wide receiver Jake Kumerow on injured reserve. By having Kumerow, a Wisconsin-Whitewater alum who was the star of training camp earlier this summer, on the 53-man roster for a day, he is now eligible to return from IR later this season. NFL rules allow each team to bring a maximum of two players back from IR later in the season.
Kumerow injured his shoulder while crossing the goal line on an 82-yard touchdown Aug. 16 against Pittsburgh.
To accommodate Jackson, the Packers waived cornerback Herb Waters one day after he’d made the initial roster.
Before adding Jackson, a 2016 sixth-round pick from Eastern Michigan who has spent time with the Cowboys and Browns but has never played in an NFL regular-season game, the Packers had only two running backs: second-year back Jamaal Williams, who is set to be the starter, and converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery. Aaron Jones, the team’s most explosive running threat last season, will miss the first two weeks because of an NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
The Packers had four other running backs at the end of camp, but the team released Joel Bouagnon, LeShun Daniels and Bronson Hill, and waived/injured Devante Mays. Both fullbacks, Aaron Ripkowski and Joe Kerridge, were also released on the final cutdown. Bouagnon and Kerridge were re-signed to the practice squad Sunday.
McCarthy has said for years he doesn’t like going into games with just two active running backs, but that could be the case against the Bears because Jackson didn’t arrive at the facility in time to participate in Monday’s practice.
“I think those guys are ready to go,” McCarthy said of Williams and Montgomery. “They’re healthy, they give us an excellent 1-2 punch. So, I’m not concerned about that at all.”
Said Williams: “I’m just grateful for any opportunity, and these are the opportunities you want – to get more carries and more responsibility in the offense. Really, you take it for what it is and not take it for granted. I’m doing everything I can to make sure the coaches know I’m going to keep producing at a consistent rate.”
It’s unclear what the Packers will have at inside linebacker alongside veteran Blake Martinez, who tied for the NFL lead in tackles last season. Third-round pick Oren Burks, who sustained a shoulder injury during pregame warmups at Oakland on Aug. 24, was with the rehabilitation group at practice and may not be ready for the Bears.
Gutekunst acquired Antonio Morrison in a trade with Indianapolis last week, and he or Toomer could start if Burks isn’t cleared. Toomer, in his fifth season, has played 46 games (16 starts) and was in camp with the 49ers before being cut Saturday.
“This is always the big challenge when you get to that spot of finishing your 53,” McCarthy admitted. “We’ve had a lot of change. And that’s always the challenge.
“But we’re set and ready to go with all our guys and we’re looking forward to the week of preparation.”