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Journeyman tackle savors opportunity

Posted May 31, 2012

A player in Herb Taylor’s position can only ask for an opportunity.

It was just an OTA practice, but Taylor was given that chance on Wednesday in a workout open to reporters. With Marshall Newhouse missing practice and Derek Sherrod still recovering from his surgically repaired broken leg, Taylor was taking most of the snaps at left tackle with the No. 1 offense.

Seventh-round draft pick Andrew Datko also took a few of those reps, but Taylor was still plenty busy. He also was the right tackle on the No. 2 offensive line throughout the nearly two-hour workout.

“It just kind of comes with the territory,” Taylor said of the backup duty. “If one man goes down or misses a day for whatever reason, the next man is up and you’re expected to perform the job without missing a beat.”

As the Packers look to solidify their depth at tackle in the post-Chad Clifton era, it appears Taylor will get a long look. He certainly has a better chance to make an impression now than when he joined the Packers last year in Week 16 as an emergency signing after Bryan Bulaga and Sherrod both went down with injuries in Kansas City. Clifton was still out with an injury then, too.

Taylor was active for the final two regular-season games but didn’t play, as the Packers shifted left guard T.J. Lang out to right tackle to get by until the playoffs. Clearly, Taylor has a much better grasp of things now than if he had been forced into action back then.

“It was basically a crash course,” he said. “They told me, ‘You’re dressing out (for the games), and you might have to play.’ It was learning this whole expansive offense in a matter of two or three nights.

“Being able to go through OTAs and sit down and really learn the concepts, learn the plays, it helps out a lot.”

Taylor calls himself “blessed” just to have another chance to continue playing football. Originally a sixth-round draft choice by Kansas City in 2007, Taylor played two seasons with the Chiefs but has since been signed and released by both the Broncos and Giants. Denver has acquired him and waived him each of the last three years.

When the Broncos let him go just before the start of the regular season last year, Taylor could only hope for another call. He played a few games with the Las Vegas club of the United Football League to stay active and in shape. He continued to work out on his own and “keep the faith.”

Latching on with the Packers last December has led to this opportunity in 2012. Despite Clifton’s departure and Sherrod’s injury, the Packers only added one offensive tackle in the draft (Datko) and two in undrafted free agency (Mike McCabe and Shea Allard), so the depth chart at tackle is nowhere near established and Taylor’s ability to play on both the left and right side should help him.

His goal, obviously, is to make the 53-man roster for Week 1, something he hasn’t done since 2008 with the Chiefs. At age 27, Taylor might be looking at his last chance, but thinking about it that way would only create a distraction, so he doesn’t. Mentally, he knows he must stay as sharp as possible to continue fighting for a job.

“Coaches can live with the physical side of stuff. Some guys are going to beat you every once in a while,” Taylor said. “But on the mental side, I think the most important thing is making sure you know your assignment and not making mistakes.

“I come to practice with my lunch pail every day and give it 100 percent. It’s up in the air after that.”

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