Assuming he survives training camp without any setbacks to his knee, when Quarless suits up for the Sept. 8 season opener at San Francisco, it will have been a whopping 644 days between NFL games for Quarless, who took over for Finley as the starter as a rookie in 2010 when Finley was lost for the season. Before his injury, Quarless had become the team’s most well-rounded tight end, capable of blocking in-line and making plays in the passing game. A return to health would give the offense a big boost.
Player to watch
It isn’t exactly Rick Manning taking over in centerfield for the Milwaukee Brewers for Gorman Thomas, but the departure of fan-favorite and social-media junkie Tom Crabtree after the Packers didn’t tender him as a restricted free agent broke plenty of hearts in Packer Nation. Mulligan wasn’t brought in until after Crabtree’s departure, and although he isn’t much of a pass-catcher -- he has 14 career receptions – the similarities apparently end there. “I don’t think it’s apples-to-apples. I think he’s got a different makeup than Crabby did,” tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. “Not only with his personality but in terms of what he can contribute to the team. I think he has a role that will suit him and it wouldn’t have suited Crabby. I just find that he’s a little bit more, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? He’s probably more businesslike. Not as loose and free-spirited. He’s a little more tight.”
Reserve playing time.
Finley is the clear-cut starter and Quarless is No. 2 if healthy, so the question about coach Mike McCarthy’s tight-end favoring offense is who else will get the snaps. Certainly Mulligan will see plenty of action on obvious run downs because of his blocking acumen, but it’s a big year for Williams and Taylor, neither of whom made an appreciable jump last year in their second NFL seasons. One player to keep a close eye on is the athletic Bostick, who earned an offseason roster spot as a tryout player at the post-draft rookie orientation camp and spent the season on the practice squad. He’s a young player from a tiny school still finding his way, but there’s talent there.
It’s certainly fair to expect much from Finley, given the compensation level he’s at. Not only is he pocketing $8.25 million in the final year of his contract, but his $7 million per year average ranks him fourth on the team in average annual salary, behind only quarterback Aaron Rodgers ($18.6 million), outside linebacker Clay Matthews ($11.6 million) and cornerback Tramon Williams ($7.6 million). Safety Morgan Burnett, who signed a four-year extension worth $24.75 million last week, has a lower average annual salary ($5.2 million) because his 2013 pay ($1.323 million) remained unchanged with the new deal.
“I think you have to have a very positive attitude because I think every player in this locker room has high expectations for themselves. I think everyone feels like if they put the effort and hard work towards it, they will get their opportunity. I think what’s key for people like myself is understanding and trusting coaching and decision-making and understanding that patience is a virtue, especially in this business. You see people get impatient, you start seeing them get upset, lashing out at teammates and coaches in the media. I think the people who can sit back, learn every day, be patient, that’s what I’m taking it as. In the same spectrum of things, I am getting out there in the fullback role now that Kuhn’s down, and I love it. I get to be on the field, making plays. I don’t think making plays is just catching the ball. It takes 11 people to make one thing work, and it’s very cool to be part of that.” – D.J. Williams, on his approach to his limited role in two seasons.
Next: Offensive line.
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.