|Packers stick with TE Humphrey through injury|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 12 June 2008 23:15|
However, after nearly trading in his football pads for a pair of brown shorts after the Packers cut him three years ago, Humphrey has learned a thing or two about perseverance.
Plus, the Packers still think he has what it takes.
``He can definitely be a No. 1 tight end in this league,'' quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. ``No doubt about it.''
Humphrey signed with Indianapolis as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan in 2005, then was waived and signed with Green Bay. But the Packers cut him near the end of training camp, and he found himself back home in Michigan with nothing to do.
``We were in Lansing, my wife was at Michigan State finishing her degree,'' Humphrey said. ``Actually, I was about to get a job at UPS before they called me back.''
Green Bay added Humphrey to its practice squad in November 2005. He came back to make the team the following season, playing mostly special teams until he sustained a season-ending hamstring injury in a game at Minnesota on Nov. 12.
Humphrey rehabilitated the injury, and came into training camp last year hoping to break into the rotation with the No. 1 offense - a chance to prove he belonged on the field once the regular season rolled around.
Instead, he got another bad break: He broke his leg on the first day of camp.
``It crossed my mind when I first got hurt,'' Humphrey said. ``It was like, 'Here we go again.' I mean, I knew at some point I would be back, but it was like, 'I can't believe it happened again.' Because the first year, I did my hamstring, the first day of camp, and then I break my leg. So it was like, 'Here we go again.'''
Humphrey has thought about what he might do if he can't play football, a plan that might include going back to school to finish his degree in entrepreneurship and working in advertising.
All that will have to wait because the Packers are sticking with Humphrey.
``Coach McAdoo told me they still like me, they still believe in me,'' Humphrey said, referring to Packers tight ends coach Ben McAdoo. ``They just want me to stay healthy and get me on the field.''
With Humphrey out of the picture and veteran Bubba Franks being used mainly as a blocker last year, Donald Lee had a breakout season with 48 catches for 575 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season - and another touchdown in the Packers' NFC championship game loss to the New York Giants.
Now, Lee enters camp as the presumptive starter, Franks is gone, and Humphrey hopes to compete with third-round draft pick Jermichael Finley, an athletic tight end out of Texas, for repetitions in practice.
The Packers also have three undrafted rookie free agent tight ends on the roster: Maryland's Joey Haynos, Stanford's Evan Moore and Northwest Missouri State's Mike Peterson.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said that while Humphrey is still ``feeling his way around some things,'' he has the potential to fit in well with the offense.
``They are all very similar,'' McCarthy said of Lee, Humphrey and Finley. ``I think their strength is their athletic ability, the ability to play in space. When you have the 250-pound man as athletic as those three, it gives you the ability to do things from the backfield, out in space. It also carries over to special teams.''
Rodgers said Humphrey has improved every day he's been on the field since he was cleared to participate in voluntary Organized Team Activity (OTA) workouts last week.
``The vitals are there: He's very athletic, he's got good hands,'' Rodgers said. ``But he's getting his feel back. I don't think it comes back right away playing out there, reading linebackers, leverage, getting off the press, guys right on him. So he's doing a nice job. He's caught just about everything I've thrown to him, and he's going to continue to improve.''
Humphrey sees himself as another downfield threat who can complement Lee, and expects to have an opportunity to get on the field.
``There's always opportunity for anybody if they go out there and make plays and are consistent,'' Humphrey said. ``Everybody has a chance.''
Finley sat out Thursday's OTAs after bruising his knee in practice last week, allowing Humphrey a few more reps in practice. Humphrey made it count, catching a touchdown pass from Rodgers in a team drill.
``You never want to see anybody hurt, but I'm not complaining about the extra work,'' Humphrey said.
And he's not taking another chance with the Packers for granted.
``When I'm walking in the building sometimes, I get taken aback that I'm here, after all I've been through,'' Humphrey said.