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Preseason is Harrell's time

Posted Aug 14, 2012

Heading into his second preseason game as the Packers’ No. 2 quarterback, Graham Harrell is after one thing: consistency.

That’s the word Harrell kept using as he talked about his goals for Thursday’s preseason contest against Cleveland at Lambeau Field.

“Just consistency, for me personally and for us as a second unit,” he said.

In last week’s opener in San Diego, Harrell and the No. 2 offense went three-and-out three consecutive times before finally driving for a score late in the first half.

Then Harrell directed three more three-and-outs in the second half before putting together another scoring drive, though some dropped passes didn’t help his cause.

“Once we kind of got a first down and got it moving, we had some really nice drives, but we went three-and-out way too many times,” Harrell said at his locker following Tuesday’s practice, the last on-field workout prior to the game. “So if we can move the ball consistently, I think it will be a good day.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said even with the ups and downs it’s clear Harrell has made significant strides. Rodgers referenced a key protection adjustment Harrell made at the line of scrimmage in the two-minute drive at the end of the first half in San Diego that led to a long reception by Randall Cobb.

“When you see a play like that, you know he’s come a long way,” said Rodgers, who added that Harrell is becoming an “expert” in the offense, which is the key.

“It makes everything easier, that’s for sure,” Harrell said. “It just comes with being here longer. The longer you’re here, I think the more comfortable you get in the offense. Aaron’s been here eight years, so I think he knows the offense probably better than anyone, other than maybe the coaches.”

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said the coaching staff would make playing-time decisions on Wednesday, but it sounded as though Harrell would once again play the most of the three signal callers on Thursday.

Having cast their lot with the 27-year-old but inexperienced Harrell as Rodgers’ backup, the Packers need him prepared to step into a regular-season game at a moment’s notice.

“I think it’s very important to see as much of Graham Harrell as we possibly can,” McCarthy said. “That’s where he is in his development. He doesn’t have a lot of playing time under his belt.

“I feel like he’s a little behind as far as opportunities based on his age and how long he’s been out of college. Graham’s ready, and it’s important for him to play.”

Injuries will dictate the division of playing time for Thursday at several other positions, particularly running back. McCarthy said he wasn’t “comfortable” with newcomer Cedric Benson playing without having practiced in pads, which leaves Alex Green, Marc Tyler and fullback Nic Cooper as the only healthy running backs.

Nothing changed as far as the injury report on Tuesday. Safety M.D. Jennings and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett both returned to practice after missing Monday for personal reasons.

The bigger news was off the field, as fourth-year guard T.J. Lang signed a multi-year contract extension. Lang, who dealt with the death of his father late last season, said one of the first things he wants to do with the money is buy his mother a new house.

Both McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson spoke of Lang being a “core player” who proved his value with his versatility early in his career. McCarthy even said that Lang, who started games at both guard and tackle as an injury replacement during his rookie 2009 season, was discussed as a possible option at center after Scott Wells left this past offseason.

Getting a chance to settle in at one spot last year, Lang flourished as he became the starter at left guard. That was the only starting spot available on the offensive line following the Super Bowl, having opened when Daryn Colledge left in free agency.

“I understood at this time last year I was basically going to need to get a starting spot, or my spot on the roster could be in jeopardy. I made a bunch of changes, both on the field and off the field,” said Lang, who has spoken before of curtailing his previous after-hours lifestyle. “I committed myself 100 percent to being a better player. I was glad I locked down that spot.”

So are the Packers.

“I’m very excited for him. The young man earned it,” McCarthy said. “I look for T.J. to continue to grow not only as a person and player but even as a leader on our team.”

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