Toward the end of Tuesday’s practice, as the backups battled in a two-minute drill, running back Cedric Benson stood next to quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the sideline and away from their teammates.
Benson has a lot to learn and not a lot of time to do it. By the time he takes his first real practice reps on Sunday, the cutdown to 75 players will be eight days away and the cutdown to the regular-season limit of 53 players will be 12 days away. Benson will have six practices and two preseason games to show that he’s worthy of a roster spot and a role on the offense.
At practice on Monday and Tuesday, Benson was limited to spectator status, per rules under the collective bargaining agreement. To get up to speed on the playbook, Benson has been staying late and attending position coach Alex Van Pelt’s “young-guy meetings.”
“Sharp. He’s astute,” Van Pelt said after Tuesday’s practice. “He’s putting the extra time in. Since he’s got here, he’s been in my hip asking questions, asking Aaron, getting extra work on the side. He seems to pick it up pretty quickly. The system in Cincinnati had some similar terminology so there’s some carryover there. I’m excited to have him. Any time you can add somebody with the productivity that he’s had and with the experience that he brings, it’s good for our room.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning, general manager Ted Thompson indicated Benson isn’t just a “training camp guy” to get the team through a spate of injuries at the position.
“We did a lot of work on Cedric, as you do at all positions, we were constantly watching tape,” Thompson said. “Eliot (Wolf, the director of pro personnel) and his crew were doing up evaluations and we get together as a group and watch stuff. We like what we saw with Cedric. As we went further into training camp, we realized that you can never have enough horses. It’s a tough position to play, a tough position durability-wise to stay out there. We felt like he’d be a good addition to our group and we think he can help that group out. What that means, whether he’s the starter and all that, that will be determined down the road. We just felt like adding another quality back was good for us at this time.”
Returned to practice: S M.D. Jennings (personal reasons); DE Ryan Pickett (personal reasons).
New injuries: None.
Old injuries: WR Shaky Smithson (ankle); WR Diondre Borel (groin); RB Duane Bennett (knee); FB John Kuhn (ankle) CB Davon House (shoulder); RB Brandon Saine (hamstring); FB Jon Hoese (hamstring); CB Sam Shields (elbow); RB James Starks (turf toe); TE Eric Lair (knee); LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring/knee); G Ray Dominguez (ankle); WR Greg Jennings (concussion); TE Jermichael Finley (quad).
Active PUP list: OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring), DL Johnny Jones (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg) and TE Andrew Quarless (knee).
The week ahead
There is no practice on Wednesday, with a home preseason game against Cleveland starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The Packers will not practice on Friday and Saturday. Practice is set for 11:15 a.m. on Sunday and Monday (both in pads) and 11 a.m. on Tuesday (helmets). There’s another day off on Wednesday before preseason game No. 3 at 6 p.m. Thursday at Cincinnati.
— Jordy Nelson had the play of the day with a long reception up the left sideline from Aaron Rodgers. Nelson made a one-handed catch as it appeared his right hand was tied up by cornerback Casey Hayward. Also, on back-to-back plays, linebackers Brad Jones and D.J. Smith (deflection) intercepted Graham Harrell.
— Packer Report will publish our second roster projection before Thursday’s game. Thompson will not be doing the same. “I don’t try to pre-judge it. I let it go its course. There’s been too many times where you kind of think this is probably going to happen, and then all of a sudden somebody has a dynamite game and it’s completely different. So I let it run its course. These guys, we tell them they have a chance to make our team, so they’re going to have a chance to make our team. And they still have a chance to make our team.”
— With injuries leaving just three healthy backs (Alex Green, Marc Tyler and Nic Cooper), rookie receiver Curenski Gilleylen is getting a crash course at the position. Gilleylen played running back at Nebraska as a senior, though he played in just one game and had no carries.
— No decisions have been made, but expect Aaron Rodgers to play into the second quarter and Graham Harrell to play most of the rest of the game against Cleveland. “I think it’s very important to see as much of Graham Harrell as we possibly can,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s where he is in his development. He doesn’t have a lot of playing time under his belt. Really, last year is the most significant time he was able to have in a preseason. So, I feel like he’s a little behind as far as opportunities based on his age and how long he’s been out of college.”
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.