In what might have been his final game action until the regular season begins, Chad Clifton was overmatched against the Colts’ dynamic Dwight Freeney.
Still, even though Clifton allowed two sacks, a quarterback hit and was called for holding, coach Mike McCarthy — at least publicly — harbors no concerns about his 35-year-old Pro Bowl left tackle.
“I have all the confidence in the world in Chad Clifton,” McCarthy said after Sunday’s practice. “Like I’ve stated, Chad Clifton’s played at a Pro Bowl level in my time here, and I expect him to play at that level this year. He had a handful of plays I’m sure he wishes he had back.”
Because of his age, injury history and importance to the team, the Packers have nursed Clifton through the last several training camps. That’s been taken to an extreme this year, though. There have been practices in which Clifton doesn’t take any reps at all in team periods and other practices in which he takes only a handful of snaps.
McCarthy, however, dismissed the notion that Clifton wasn’t in game shape. The first of Freeney’s sacks came on the final offensive play of a no-huddle, 14-play drive. The holding, against a backup defenssive end, came after plays of 11, 34 and 15 yards in which the linemen had to hustle to the line in another no-huddle sequence.
However, McCarthy said Clifton does extra conditioning on the side and that his rep count at practice wouldn’t be adjusted because of a couple of miscues against the Colts. That said, he appeared to be getting more work on Sunday, though that just might be a coincidence with the season-opening game against New Orleans less than two weeks away and Clifton to play little, if at all, on Thursday against Kansas City.
“There’s a lot of information that goes into a player’s reps in practice,” McCarthy said. “It’s not just, the guy didn’t play well on two plays, now we’re going to practice him more the next day. That’s not how it works. There’s obviously a lot of time and thought that goes into Chad Clifton. Chad Clifton’s played a lot of football here, he’s played at a Pro Bowl level in my time here in Green Bay, but he’s had significant medical issues in the past. So, his practice time is discussed on a daily basis, and it’s something where you have to find the common ground between getting the man ready but also making sure he’s ready for the games (physically). There’s a process. It’s not affected by the way he performs or doesn’t perform two days ago.”
The Packers released three players, leaving them with 83 players ahead of Tuesday’s mandatory cut to 80. Receiver Brett Swain and tight end Spencer Havner were finished in Green Bay on draft weekend with the decision to select receiver Randall Cobb in the second round and tight ends D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor in the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively.
McCarthy said the Packers released Swain and Havner early to give them a shot at hooking up with another team.
“It’s something that’s never easy, particularly with guys you’ve had a chance to work with for a couple of years,” McCarthy said. “They’ll always be a part of the Super Bowl team. We wish them the best.”
Also released was undrafted rookie lineman Theo Sherman.
Returned to practice: WR Shaky Smithson (shoulder), WR Randall Cobb (knees), WR Greg Jennings (knee).
“The knee’s feeling better,” Cobb said. “I feel good but not great. I don’t feel like myself but I’m still able to go and get a little bit done. I want to make sure I get back in the flow of things. The big picture is to be back for Week 1. It’ll be up to the training staff to see if I’m ready to go for this week.”
Out of practice: S Anthony Levine (concussion), S Nick Collins (back), CB Josh Gordy (shoulder), LB K.C. Asiodu, LB Frank Zombo (shoulder), G Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (shoulder), WR Jordy Nelson (knee), TE Jermichael Finley (ankle), DE Lawrence Guy (concussion), DE Mike Neal (knee), DE C.J. Wilson (concussion).
Nelson and Finley were injured against the Colts and would be “challenged” to play against Kansas City.
New injury: WR James Jones dropped out of practice (knee bruise).
— Ryan Grant lives in Edgewater, N.J., which he said is four miles from Manhattan and right in the heart of Hurricane Irene’s path of destruction. “I just found out that my house is flooded. Basement’s pretty bad — about 3 feet of water sitting in it. My weight room, my bathroom, my laundry room, my garage, they’re all flooded. As we speak, they’re pumping water out. So, that’s not cool to get out of practice and hear that. I’m glad everybody’s safe. We can deal with a little water.”
— It’s possible Marshall Newhouse will be the No. 1 backup at offensive tackle instead of first-round pick Derek Sherrod, who appears to be struggling with a knee injury and wore a bulky brace for the first time on Sunday. “I thought he was up and down during camp,” McCarthy said. “I think probably the last week or so he’s strung together some real quality work. There’s days when I was excited about him, and there’s days when he could do better. He’s talented. I’m sure when it comes down to it, we’ll be looking for him to push for one of those tackle spots.”
— Mason Crosby, who made the game-winner from 50 yards on Friday night, hit all six field-goal attempts into the wind on Sunday, including kicks from 53 and 56 yards. “Winning a tight game like that, all our games we lost were close games, and field goals are an important part of that,” Crosby said. “And I think I’m going to ride that. It’s preseason, but it’s important to make that kick, so when we get it in the regular season, know how it feels and go out and execute.”
— It’s been a mostly fight-free training camp but tight end Ryan Taylor and outside linebacker Ricky Elmore — a pair of rookies — got into a pretty good fracas during a one-on-one run-blocking drill. Elmore appeared to take exception to Taylor continuing his block after the whistle. Tight end Andrew Quarless appeared to jump into the battle to help Taylor, so linebacker Brad Jones rushed in to pull Quarless away. The drill ended after order was restored.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.