In less than a week, Brandon Miree has risen from the practice squad to starting at fullback for the Green Bay Packers.
Miree, promoted to the 53-man roster from the practice squad this past Tuesday, continued his rapid ascension by being named the starting fullback for Monday night's game by Head Coach Mike McCarthy on Saturday.
Miree will replace veteran William Henderson, who hasn't fully recovered from having arthroscopic knee surgery in late August and has admitted his play hasn't been up to the high standard he has set during his 12 years in Green Bay.
The Packers picked up Miree from the Denver Broncos after the final roster reduction at the end of training camp. Originally a seventh-round draft choice by the Broncos in 2004, Miree spent two seasons (one on injured reserve, the other on the practice squad) in Denver's zone-blocking system, and the Packers feel his experience as a lead blocker in that system could help jump-start their sluggish ground game.
"He has a history in it, so that's probably his strength as a fullback," McCarthy said. "He's had a very good week of work."
Miree, a feature back for two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh before being drafted by the Broncos, also has shown solid pass-catching skills out of the backfield, and he could contribute on special teams as well on Monday night.
Meanwhile Henderson took the demotion as a professional, vowing to get himself back into shape to continue competing for his spot.
"I'm still recovering, still trying to get myself right," Henderson said. "I have to take it as a challenge in some way, shape or form to get myself prepared to compete, whatever the situation may be.
"I'm not done playing football, I'm just not starting this week. That's my attitude."
Henderson feels he's been playing at about 85 percent since having his knee scoped nearly six weeks ago.
"Coming back from injury and saying I'm stable enough or strong enough is one thing, but that extra explosiveness as a power blocker, it's different," he said. "It's a different amount of rehab and a different amount of responsibility for this knee."
Running back Ahman Green was downgraded from probable to questionable for this week after he tweaked his hamstring in practice on Friday.
Green played with a tender hamstring last week, but McCarthy said this injury is his other hamstring.
"I'm hopeful he's going to play, just based on the information we have," McCarthy said. "But it's just part of our game. We have to get Mo and Noah ready to go."
'Mo' is backup Vernand Morency, whom McCarthy plans to work into the early downs, with Noah Herron on third downs. Both will play regardless of Green's health, but their overall workload will depend on Green.
"You're a professional, this is your job, and you have to prepare as if you're the starter," Morency said. "You never know at any particular moment something might happen."
Morency has been getting more comfortable with the offense and could be primed to up his contributions. Acquired in Week 2 in a trade, Morency was named the Packers' special teams player of the week against Detroit.
Status quo, with Spitz perhaps ready to go
McCarthy said the starting offensive guards Monday would be Daryn Colledge on the left side and Tony Moll on the right, as has been the case the past two games. Jason Spitz, out since the season opener with a bruised thigh, could be healthy enough to suit up.
Depending on Spitz's availability, McCarthy said he would either be a primary backup, or he could get a few snaps at guard as part of a rotation. If so, Monday night's game would be a key part of the competition among all three rookies for the starting guard positions. Spitz has taken snaps at both right and left guard in practice this week.
"You have another football game to evaluate your players, and that's always the best information," McCarthy said.
Upgraded on Friday from doubtful to questionable with his sore ankle, starting defensive tackle Ryan Pickett fully participated in practice on Saturday. But he said the ankle, though feeling better than on Friday, was still quite sore.
"I'm not moving as well as I can or I'm used to moving," he said. "It's coming along, I just wish it would speed up so I can get ready for Monday."
It appears as though his availability will be a game-time decision, and a key one for the defense, as Pickett has been the most consistent interior defensive lineman this season and the Packers are facing the league's top-ranked offense in Philadephia.
"Coach said they're going to try me out Monday before the game and see how it feels," he said. "If it feels good, he's going to let me go. If not, he's going to sit me out."