Notebook: Punters Show Nice Touch

QB Graham Harrell (Orlin Wagner/AP)

Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan keep the ball out of the end zone during a punting drill at Wednesday's practice. Plus, the Packers replace one quarterback with another; Mike McCarthy pleased with attendance; plus much more.

Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum couldn't recall such a lengthy punting period in which no balls bounded into the end zone for a touchback.

During Wednesday's organized team activity, punters Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan combined to kick 17 balls from the opponent's 45-yard line. With a decent wind at their back, Masthay's nine kicks were either caught or downed at the 10.6-yard line, on average. Bryan's eight punts were either caught or downed at the 11.9-yard line, on average.

By the raw numbers, Masthay won this round of their punting battle. He also had the best kick, with Pat Lee falling backward to stop the ball at the 3-yard line. He had three balls downed inside the 10 compared to one for Bryan.

Masthay also showed a strong leg while taking a couple reps kicking off.

Roster move

Record-setting Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell worked out for the Packers after the practice and was signed. The odd man out, surprisingly, was Harvard's Chris Pizzotti, who has looked better than undrafted rookie Noah Shepard in both practices open to reporters (Wednesday and the rookie camp).

Harrell, who went undrafted in 2009 and spent the season with Saskatchewan of the CFL, is the only quarterback in NCAA history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season, and his 134 career touchdown passes is a record.

None of the quarterbacks — Aaron Rodgers included — looked especially good on Wednesday. Shepard lost the ball before throwing it early in practice, threw a pick-six to cornerback Trevor Ford and uncorked a wobbly pass that resulted in one of the defensive players yelling "quack, quack."

Role call

Packers coach Mike McCarthy has to be excited by attendance. Other than unsigned Johnny Jolly, Atari Bigby and Tramon Williams, just about everyone else was present. Al Harris continues to rehab his knee with his own training staff, and Charles Woodson was gone after practicing on Tuesday.

"When I was with Marty Schottenheimer from 1993-98, pretty much the whole team was there in March, April, May and June," McCarthy said. "Green Bay in '99 was different. That was not the case in '99, and then when I went to New Orleans the whole football team was there during the spring. That's why I felt it was important when I returned here that that program was in place, because it's an opportunity for your players to individually improve. It's an opportunity for the coaches and players to get on the same page, and then more importantly, you are able to maximize those OTA practices when you come together. You're not trying to catch up this guy and put this guy on the same page. That's really all I know and that's the way that we'll always go about it."

Present but not practicing were linebacker Nick Barnett (knee), safety Will Blackmon (knee), tight end Spencer Havner (collarbone), tackle/guard T.J. Lang (wrist), center/guard Jason Spitz (back), safety Derrick Martin (ankle), wide receivers Donald Driver (rest, presumably) and Brett Swain (knee) and defensive end Ronald Talley (knee). Rookie running back James Starks watched, as well, for unknown reasons. Left tackle Chad Clifton appeared to do everything but 11-on-11. There was no sign of Canadian receiver Shawn Gore, either.

Four-point stance

— Blackmon told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that he's been moved to safety. The 6-foot-1 Blackmon has no interceptions in four seasons. Allen Barbre, who bombed at right tackle last year, played some left guard and left tackle. Nick McDonald and Evan Dietrich-Smith spent a lot of time flip-flopping between guard and center.

— Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Brad Jones is the starter at left outside linebacker. But Brady Poppinga took the No. 1 reps on Wednesday.

— Without Woodson, Harris and Williams, Brandon Underwood, Jarrett Bush and Lee alternated as the top cornerbacks. Lee and Bush had interceptions, with Bush adding a couple of nice breakups.

— Sports Illustrated's Peter King put the Packers atop his preseason rankings. "If Peter thinks that high of us, that's great, but there won't be any games that are going to be won this week, so it's irrelevant," McCarthy said. "But it's nice when people say nice things about you, I guess."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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