Ben Steele Pushes For Roster Spot


One player's absence is another's opportunity.

With two-time Pro Bowl tight end Bubba Franks yet to agree to contract terms, second-year tight end Ben Steele has taken advantage.

"It's huge," Steele said. "The fact that Bubba's not here gives me the chance to get extra reps I normally wouldn't."

One of the stars of Saturday's practice, Steele made several nice grabs, including two in a row down the seam during the afternoon practice.

"He's doing a great job getting open and giving us a chance to get him the ball," quarterback Craig Nall said.

Steele's best catch occurred on a Nall pass that hung in the air. Linebacker Paris Lenon fronted him, but the 6-5 Steele used his body to shield the 6-2 Lenon from the ball.

"I just tried to get up and over him," he said. "Luckily I have that height advantage."

The Packers will likely carry only three tight ends on their active roster. With Franks and David Martin solid bets to make the roster, Steele knows he has his work cut out for him as he battles tight ends Sean McHugh, who caught several passes during the afternoon, and Steve Fleming for that No. 3 job.

With job security on the line, he put in extra work after June's organized team activity. He improved his hands by working with San Francisco 49ers tight end Eric Johnson, one of his best friends, in the Bay Area. They ran routes and caught 150 passes-a-day from quarterbacks including the 49ers' Ken Dorsey.

"Working with him has made me that much better," Steele said. "It's a good friendship to have."

His performance follows a June OTA where he dropped several passes during the first week. Partly from his work with Johnson, he has honed his fundamentals, specifically catching the ball before making a move.

"I just need to relax and catch the ball," he said. "I got away from focusing on the ball and got back to that today."

Although Steele snatched everything else thrown to him, he did drop one catchable ball thrown to him during the afternoon.

The Packers offense has involved the tight end heavily in the passing game thus far in training camp, but pass receiving is only part of a tight end's duties. They also pass block, and going against defensive end Aaron Kampman will help Steele in that department.

"You can't be one-dimensional," Steele said of blocking Kampman. "He plays with good leverage. I'm glad I don't have to go against him on Sundays."

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