On the scale of oddity from National Enquirer stories of "Bat Boy" and "Pig Man" at 10 to "sun rising in the East" at 1, the curiosity of an open berth on the Green Bay Packers roster might rate as a 2 or a 3, but it's peculiar nonetheless.
Record keeping of such events is almost nonexistant, but it's been a rare occurrence when the Packers haven't kept a full complement of players on their post-draft offseason roster. General manager Ted Thompson simply doesn't pass up an opportunity to take an up-close look at a player in hopes that he'll find that next diamond in the rough.
When the Packers released linebacker Victor Aiyewa on May 28 during the first week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in Green Bay and brought the roster count down to 89 of 90 possible spots, some thought the team was clearing room for free agent tight end Jermichael Finley.
The opening of a roster spot coincided with Finley visiting the team's medical staff on the same day. But as of yet, no NFL team has been willing to either clear Finley or agree to a contract with him.
If it wasn't Finley, others might have assumed the Packers were going to sign a defensive lineman, either Johnny Jolly or Ryan Pickett, both of whom are also still on the free agent market.
Jolly is in the same boat as Finley, however, coming off a neck surgery that must be treated with sensitivity. And at 34 years old, the Packers appear to be subscribing to the theory that it's better to let Pickett go a year too early than a year too late.
Regardless, it's stil bizarre that the Packers released Aiyewa only to stall on filling the open roster berth.
If nothing else Aiyewa did an admirable job on special teams last season, making five tackles in just six games. Those five tackles were tied for sixth-most on the team, impressive considering he was signed at mid-season and had little time for coaching before being thrust into action.
Waived without injury designation, it's impossible to tell why Aiyewa was released. For all the public knows, he could have started a fight in the locker room and wasn't worth the headache of keeping around, not to intimate that's what happened. Minus comment from the organization, we just don't know.
There's no shortage of players the Packers brought in for tryouts during their rookie orientation camp, some twenty-plus that left town without a contract offer. Among them was former Maryland linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield who was allegedly told the Packers liked him but didn't have space for him and later went on to try out for the New England Patriots.
There's also Rico Forbes, the raw offensive lineman from the Bahamas that played his college football at Washington State. And there's former Whitewater linebacker Cole Klotz, the small-school, in-state product. Any of the above seem worthy of taking a longer look.
Or how about taking a look-see at a rookie cut from another team, such as former Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith, who was unexpectedly released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? The Packers found Jarrett Boykin in a similar fashion two years ago.
Even bringing in a kicker to keep the pressure on Mason Crosby to perform would be a good use of a roster spot. It worked last year.
It's not as if the Packers can't afford another player. Any unsigned rookie would agree to a deal without so much as asking for signing bonus, anything to keep his professional football hopes alive.
So what are you waiting for, Ted? Don't let that roster spot go to waste. It's the time of year for experimentation.
Sure, any rookie signed in June is a longshot at best. But as the saying goes, you miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.
The risk involved in signing a player is minimal. Take the shot.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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