The Lass Word: Job Security Fades Quickly In This Camp

Will late starts keep these players on the bench or even off the team?

Whoever it was that first said “You can’t lose your job because of an injury” was either drunk or not paying attention.  In the NFL, it happens all the time, and it could happen to a handful of players on the Green Bay Packers roster. 

 

This week General Manager Brian Gutekunst quoted the much more accurate adage “The most important ability is availability” when asked about roster decisions.  Take, for example, cornerback Kevin King.  King missed the first eleven practices of training camp with a hamstring injury.  That allowed first round draft pick Eric Stokes to start with the first unit and show the coaches he could play with the big boys.  Stokes’ play has been up and down, but his draft status indicates the Packers intend for him to be an eventual starting corner.  Since he’s not displacing Jaire Alexander any time soon, it is King’s position on the other side that is vulnerable. 

 

King finally returned to practice last week but did not suit up for the team’s first preseason game.  Stokes started and received generally good reviews.  King’s injury track record does not help him.  In the four years of his rookie contract, he has never played in all sixteen regular season games.  In those years, he missed, in order, seven, ten, one and five games due to injury.  His 2020 season was marked by missed tackles, inconsistent coverage and the infamous gaffe in the NFC Championship game, allowing a Tampa Bay receiver to get behind him for a long bomb score at the end of the half. 

 

King returned on a one year “prove it” deal this season to show he can not only play at a higher level, but can stay healthy through an entire season.  He’s not off to a great start. 

 

Equanimeous St. Brown was also sidelined by a hamstring problem.  A room full of talented receivers is making his prospects for making the team look dimmer every day.  EQ was also denied the opportunity to play against the Texans.   Meanwhile Devin Funchess and Malik Taylor looked impressive.  The addition of Randall Cobb squeezes the unit even tighter.  Like Kevin King, EQ is finally back on the practice field but likely has fallen down the list on a team that may only keep as few as five receivers.   

 

The breakout star of early camp was receiver Juwann Winfree.  Making a few big plays at every practice, Winfree seemed to be forcing the coaches to make a spot for him.  But a shoulder injury put him on the shelf, and he joined EQ as spectators against Houston.  That roster spot is melting away and he’s looking like a practice squad candidate now. 

 

Outside linebacker Randy Ramsey appeared to have the number four OLB slot nailed down, but then he suffered a bad ankle injury and was put on IR, meaning his season is over.  That opens the door for Jonathan Garvin and Tipa Galeai to compete for the position, or maybe someone else not yet on the roster.  That’s an entire season for someone to emerge.  One has to wonder what sort of opportunity will remain for Ramsey by next summer. 

 

Running back Patrick Taylor missed all of his rookie year with a foot injury, and missed the first part of this year’s camp nursing a groin problem.  That gave Kylin Hill the chance to impress early, which he has done.  Even Dexter Williams ran well against the scrubs Saturday night, finishing as the team’s leading rusher.  Taylor, by comparison, looked a bit slow and plodding in carrying the ball nine times for just 22 yards.  Running backs coach Ben Sirmans would not go so far as to say Hill has locked down the number three RB slot, but did comment that “he has put himself in great position” to do so. 

 

And then there is Jace Sternberger.  Packer fans forget that, just one year ago at this time, the tight end position was wide open and up for grabs, and the former third round pick was the favorite to grab hold of it.  But Sternberger, who missed ten games during his rookie campaign, missed four more last year, while Robert Tonyan emerged with one of the best tight end performances in the league.  The ex-Texas A&M star certainly hasn’t helped himself by getting suspended for the first two games of 2021.   

 

Despite Sternberger’s catching a beautiful 34 yard strike from Jordan Love Saturday night, tight ends coach Justin Outten did not speak of him as someone who is a lock to make the team.  “That one play doesn’t really describe the player” Outten said.  “With his consistency, it’s kind of been sporadic.....he’s still having some up and down days with the extra reps that he’s getting.  He’s got to handle it a little bit better.”    With Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Dominique Dafney, and even Bronson Kaufusi working hard, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Sternberger doesn’t make the final 53.  Outten acknowledges that part of the problem was the experience the young player didn’t get because of injuries in the past two seasons. 

 

I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for these players, who have poured so much into their careers, to have to deal with injuries, while they helplessly watch other players move past them.  But it’s a fact of life in the NFL.  “if you can’t be out there, it’s hard” says Brian Gutekunst.  “It’s hard to get better when you can’t practice.  It’s hard to become a big part of the offense or defense if you can’t be out there.....this train is moving forward, so if you can’t find a way to get out there, it will affect it (keeping your job).” 

 

So, as we progress through these next two preseason games, it will be interesting to observe and analyze the players on the field.  But who is not there may speak volumes as well.  

 

 

 

-----------------------------------

Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

NFL Categories: 
16 points

Comments (36)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
fish's picture

August 19, 2021 at 03:11 pm

Didn't Sternberger miss time in 2020 due to coronavirus? Maybe that was just the practice time before the season began.

While that hampered his development, I wouldn't classify it the same as an injury.

2 points
2
0
CoachDino's picture

August 19, 2021 at 04:29 pm

yes

1 points
1
0
packer132's picture

August 19, 2021 at 06:22 pm

Sternberger has been on the field very litte, due to bad luck or injury. Now he is suspended for the first two games. Whatever the reason, you can't wait for a player to be available. I think he makes the team as suspension will not count for a roster spot, but he could be a possible cut. He needs to blow the socks off in his last week or his time as a Packer could be over.

1 points
2
1
splitpea1's picture

August 19, 2021 at 03:22 pm

The Cobb signing really complicates things. If Funchess, Taylor (who catches almost everything), and Sternberger continue to show well, they should be kept on the final roster. Don't know if it will happen, though.

10 points
10
0
Grandfathered's picture

August 19, 2021 at 08:32 pm

Funchess missed practice again today with a hammy.

2 points
2
0
UGDR's picture

August 19, 2021 at 08:53 pm

Funchess was carted off the field. May be out a while.

2 points
2
0
Packer_Fan's picture

August 19, 2021 at 03:34 pm

Yup, you nailed it. I agree with all the players you noted. Of those, King may have the best chance to make the team and play a lot. But I always had Stokes starting by the end of the season at the least

6 points
6
0
Alberta_Packer's picture

August 19, 2021 at 03:58 pm

There are 2 factors that significantly subtract from the entertainment value of the NFL game. The first is the constant stream of commercials - which frequently interrupts the flow of the game - making it, at times, unwatchable. The second are injuries - that week-to-week makes a fan wonder if their favorite or star player(s) will be able to play or play well. It seems that injury lists are sometimes as long as rosters. There is no professional sport where star players are less available than the NFL or that a team's success is often determined by the rate of attrition. All in all, making the often uncertain spectacle of football, one of the more frustrating to enjoy.

4 points
4
0
Thegravedigger's picture

August 19, 2021 at 05:39 pm

Flags every play. That's my issue. Damn zebras. It's not about you zebra! I don't pay all that loot for the NFL ticket to watch the zebra show.

5 points
5
0
Matt Gonzales's picture

August 19, 2021 at 06:10 pm

That it never going to happen. Over officiating is a byproduct of both the player safety movement and the need to remove judgement calls from officials, which is largely fan driven. On the player safety front, the NFL would be opening itself up for massive legal liability if it didn't do everything possible to legislate out the kinds of hits that cause unnecessary harm or carry unnecessary risk of injury, not to mention the fact that owners don't want to pay massive signing bonuses and guaranteed salaries to players who are going to get broken bones, get knocked out with concussions, etc., and the NFL isn't going to get the top tier talent it needs to out through the meat grinder and have it be a TV marketable product without paying ever growing salaries, higher signing bonuses, larger percentages of salaries guaranteed, etc.

The zebras are not government regulators. They are NFL employees, and they're doing exactly what the league wants them to do, no matter what you hear otherwise from NFL media.

2 points
3
1
Thegravedigger's picture

August 20, 2021 at 02:01 pm

I'm starting to tolerate the big hit flags. But let's be real. It's not just about lawsuits and all that. It's about fantasy football and offensive production. Last I checked illegal contact wasn't a safety issue. Its just another advantage for the offense. And the refs are only doing there job. But some let there egos get involved. We've all seen it. Truth is. Were all still gonna watch.

-1 points
0
1
Alberta_Packer's picture

August 19, 2021 at 06:53 pm

Another to the list.

2 points
2
0
HarryHodag's picture

August 20, 2021 at 08:32 am

This isn't flag football(though many fans think it is). The nature of the game means there are injuries. The best teams have the depth to carry on. The worst teams fall apart.

Back in the day before the NFL correctly began protecting QB's, many were lost to injury. The Lombardi Packers often didn't have Bart Starr available. They did have a quality backup in Zeke Bratkowski. In the 1965 season, Baltimore's Johnny Unitas missed what is surely one of the greatest games in Packers history. Unitas was hurt, his backup Gary Cuozzo was hurt too, so the Colts had Tom Matte, a running back at QB. The game was tied at 10 in regulation and a sudden death field goal by Don Chandler gave the Packers the ticket to be eventual winners over Cleveland for the NFL title.

Why the history lesson? Bart Starr was dinged up, Unitas out, the Colts backup out, Zeke Bratkowski filling in for Starr at times, the Colts having their running back at QB. The Colts were within an eyelash of winning---because they had an outstanding defense and they had enough depth to go toe-to-toe with the eventual NFL champs.

Injuries are part of the game. Live with it.

3 points
3
0
Thegravedigger's picture

August 20, 2021 at 02:06 pm

I understand that. But tell that to all the fantasy football fans. Cus they are a big reason the NFL is so huge nowadays. It sucks for diehards. But the NFL doesn't give a fuck about us. Because we will be ready on Sundays regardless.

-1 points
1
2
croatpackfan's picture

August 19, 2021 at 03:44 pm

While I do not like what you wrote, I know you wrote the pure truth. Does not matter if you are nice person, if you are hard worker, or how Personnel department treat you after 5, 6, 7 ... 10 seasons that you played well to excellent for the franchize. Only what matter is how you can help franchize today and in near future. That is all. If some young player showing promise, but he is not ready you can give him the chance on PS. But if you have several seasons under belt, all what you get is exiting interview.

0 points
1
1
fastmoving's picture

August 19, 2021 at 05:06 pm

But you got paid for all the seasons you played good to excellent.......pretty fair. So its always a win win and you got what you are worth, most of the time. Just like life works in generell. Everywhere.
You cant get paid for what you did 6 years ago. You got your money right at the time, back then.

2 points
3
1
nostradanus's picture

August 19, 2021 at 04:20 pm

Can’t make the club in the tub

9 points
9
0
mbpacker's picture

August 19, 2021 at 04:47 pm

I could be wrong but I think Jace got a concussion his rookie year which cost him development time, then got Covid last year which set him back, and now even though he the can practice, he has been suspended for poor decision making. As reported, it is a crowded and according to Adams, the most talented room he has seen. So Jace will have to get in gear to make it. Maybe a practice squad candidate.

2 points
3
1
packer132's picture

August 19, 2021 at 06:13 pm

Jace either thrives in the next week or will play the waiting game. He is suspended for the first two games and will probably return for week #3. If he doesn't contribute, he will be cut. He is not going on the practice squad, and maybe even a trade candidate. Practice squad will be packed with 3 OL, 3 WR, RB, TE, LB, and 2 CB's.

2 points
2
0
jannes bjornson's picture

August 19, 2021 at 07:59 pm

Sternberger is on the 53, he's one of Gutedkunst's guys and may end up a better TE than Tonyan. The FANs are rarely correct about any football assessment. Case in point , the steadfast defense of Jackson.

0 points
4
4
KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

August 20, 2021 at 08:36 am

Very true!

2 points
2
0
barutanseijin's picture

August 21, 2021 at 08:34 am

Sternberger has more truthers than Jeff Janis, despite doing far less. Janis was at least good on special teams and made a clutch catch or two in the playoffs.

1 points
1
0
4thandinches's picture

August 19, 2021 at 04:39 pm

Thank you for correctly arguing that the 'you can't lose your job due to injury' statement is false. Just ask JC Tretter or Lane Taylor.

5 points
5
0
jannes bjornson's picture

August 19, 2021 at 08:01 pm

Linsley clearly won the job, Tretter was not a Guard and wanted to start somewhere else. Taylor was just filling a blank. Jenkins was the superior player as a rookie, day one.

4 points
5
1
jont's picture

August 19, 2021 at 05:21 pm

I just hope we aren't adding Funchess to this review. He went out of the scrimmage with a hamstring, and we always read that a hamstring is a tough one to shake, that the slightest over exertion can make it worse.
After a good showing against Texas, he might miss a prime opportunity in the coming week or two to nail down a roster spot.

4 points
5
1
Leatherhead's picture

August 19, 2021 at 05:31 pm

I think Sternberger actually benefits by being suspended the first two games. Some guys will be injured already by the time he’s available.

I expect a trade of a WR. Maybe Funchess.

5 points
7
2
RichBeckman's picture

August 19, 2021 at 06:17 pm

The best employee on the payroll isn't as good as the worst if he or she isn't there.

0 points
1
1
PatrickGB's picture

August 19, 2021 at 09:12 pm

Unless they can work from home.

4 points
4
0
Packers0808's picture

August 19, 2021 at 08:14 pm

I really don't think Sternberger deserves a spot on the final 53. Never is available and bonehead to be using illegal substances and is not available once again! Should be jettisoned especially with depth at TE!

1 points
5
4
packer132's picture

August 19, 2021 at 08:39 pm

He doesn't count on the final 53 since he is suspended for two games. I agree with you that he should be gone. My feeling is that he gets activated on week #3 and doesn't do much after several games and is cut. He had his chances, but never could stay on the field.

1 points
3
2
KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

August 20, 2021 at 08:44 am

Jace's career to date has not been what was expected, or hoped for. He is a motion TE with virtually unlimited potential. Other than Tonyan whose contract is up after this year there is no other TE on the roster who can move and impact the center of the field like Jace.

The Packers could really use Jace moving forward, but it is going to come down to whether he wants it bad enough, and the GBP's see his desire and motivation.

2 points
2
0
ImaPayne's picture

August 20, 2021 at 11:20 am

I just dont get the loyalty mantra of this team. If you get out played by a newbie, you should be gone, next man up, field the best team, adios suckers you got injured too often hit the roadsville.
St Brown has been a bust since day one, Sternbummer the same, king ditto. However, you need bodies who can play to replace busts and if you dont have them, guess who stays.
This team wouldnt miss a beat if the above three were cut. Probably improve the team actually so the real issue may be, how cheap is it to keep these guys.

1 points
2
1
jannes bjornson's picture

August 22, 2021 at 01:57 pm

" we like our guys"

1 points
1
0
ImaPayne's picture

August 20, 2021 at 11:24 am

Lets not miss sight of one thing. If a player is marginal, the injury may be the thing that pushed the player off the team but not the reason. Said player probably wasnt going to make it so the injury sealed the deal.

2 points
3
1
Tedlyflyfisher's picture

August 20, 2021 at 02:17 pm

I’m disappointed that we’re not getting to see Winfree after hearing about how he kept making plays daily in camp. Likewise that we can’t see Funchess Saturday after he had some really nice grabs last week. We have an embarrassment of riches at WR this year!

I am not at all happy with our special teams though. Terrible coverage among other things. We need all 3 phases to contribute to be a championship team.

3 points
3
0
dobber's picture

August 20, 2021 at 03:41 pm

Supposedly Brian Noble went to Ron Wolf shortly after Wolf was hired and asked for some reassurance that his job was secure. Wolf supposedly responded, "your job is secure until I can find someone better to replace you."

...and that's how it should be.

5 points
5
0