A couple of players seeking their big break in Green Bay will have to get their opportunities elsewhere.
The Packers on Wednesday released punter Adam Graessle and nose tackle Brian Soi.
Graessle and Soi were caught up in numbers games.
The Packers had two other punters on their roster who, while not having as much upside, at least are somewhat battle tested in Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks.
Graessle, meanwhile, hadn’t punted since 2006 at the University of Pittsburgh and was getting his first look by an NFL team. He was found by special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum after launching several monster punts during a kicking camp in the spring and performed well during the Packers’ rookie orientation camp. But during organized team activities, he clearly lacked the consistency necessary to do the job.
“Tough battle, but I’ll tell you what, he was clearly the strongest leg of the three,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Graessle. “I’ll say that about him. He’s a young man that needs to keep chasing the dream. He did a nice job when he was here. We’re getting to the point where I think all the teams are in the NFL (with 80-man rosters). It was kind of hard to go forward with three punters.”
So, the Packers figure to head to training camp with Kapinos and Brooks battling it out.
Kapinos punted well in his four games last season after being signed off the street to replace the ineffective Derrick Frost. Two of those games were played in single-digits temperatures and a third at a breezy 22 degrees. In his one warm-weather game, at Jacksonville, he averaged 43.5 yards per punt with no return yards allowed.
Brooks punted in a half-dozen games last season for Washington, which selected him in the sixth round after an award-winning career at Georgia Tech. A groin injury hampered his effectiveness, and he allowed two touchdown returns. The Packers signed him to the practice squad in December. During his senior season at Georgia Tech, only 19 of his 65 punts were returned.
“We don’t have a lot of experience there, I think that’s fairly obvious,” McCarthy said. “There’s a lot of charting, there’s a lot of evaluating with those two young guys. You can’t ask more from them for what they’ve done since they’ve been here. They’ve been here every day. They’ve spent a lot of time with Shawn Slocum and Curtis (Fuller, Slocum’s assistant), and they’re continuing to work. But we’re not going to answer that question this spring or this June. Is it summer around here? It doesn’t look like summer around here. But we’re not going to answer that question in June.”
Brooks has the stronger leg. That was apparent as the punters kicked off to the side while the others practiced on Wednesday. He coffin-cornered one from the opposite 45-yard line.
But, as Kapinos told our Matt Tevsh last week, there’s more to punting than distance.
“I think the Packers are looking for a steady punter, a consistent guy,” he said. “Big legs are always sexy, but in terms of being the type of punter you want to be in the NFL, a guy like Jeff Feagles is someone I look towards, a guy like Tom Tupa, Matt Turk, all those guys have been steady throughout the years. I think it’s just going to take a guy who can manage a game well — kick the ball long, kick the ball short — and just sort of improve upon what I did last season.”
Meanwhile, the Bears worked out Frost on Tuesday.
As for Soi, the Packers also released the 334-pound nose tackle prospect. Soi, who has not played in a game that counts since 2005, was signed by Miami after going undrafted in the 2007 supplemental draft and failed to make it to training camp last year with the New York Giants.
After the Packers used their first-round pick on B.J. Raji, who will provide a one-two punch at nose tackle with Ryan Pickett, they no longer needed Soi.
Who’s here, who’s not
The only big name missing on Thursday was safety Nick Collins, who continues to skip the voluntary workouts as he seeks a new contract.
The others: receiver Jake Allen (personal), cornerback Brandon Underwood (still in school) and receiver Lorne Sam (injured). Offensive linemen Breno Giacomini, Scott Wells and Chad Clifton, tight ends Evan Moore and Carson Butler, receiver Greg Jennings, defensive ends Cullen Jenkins and Alfred Malone, safety Atari Bigby and linebacker Nick Barnett either watched all of practice or took part in just the opening jog-through period.
Tight end Donald Lee dropped out with an ice bag wrapped around his right thigh. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews was a limited participant, likely to protect a hamstring injury that kept him out of the first two weeks of OTAs.
While Underwood is still in class, running back Tyrell Sutton made his OTAs debut after missing the first two weeks wrapping up things at Northwestern.
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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. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.