Finalizing an NFL roster, particularly with respect to the last few cuts, is a numbers game, and as the Packers reduced their roster to the NFL-maximum 53 on Saturday, some curious numbers emerged.
Here are a few, and how General Manager Ted Thompson assessed them and the current roster during his news conference on Saturday:
As of Saturday evening, the Packers are two under the league limit, perhaps to give them the flexibility to sign players released by other teams that they feel could help right away.
"Rosters will get shuffled around a little bit over the course of the next two days, so we might (add)," said Thompson, who wouldn't tip his hand as to what he might be planning.
"I'm sure we won't be at 51 forever, but during the course of the season all teams will fluctuate between 53 and 50 sometimes. There have been teams that have gone the year with 50 players, but right now we felt comfortable with what we did today."
This applies to two positions, the less-than-usual number of receivers on the roster and the more-than-usual number of tight ends.
With the release of four receivers, including veteran Rod Gardner and fourth-round draft pick Cory Rodgers, the Packers will enter the regular season with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Robert Ferguson and Ruvell Martin, unless they decide to bolster that depth with one of their open spots.
Martin was thought by many to have a chance to make it as a fifth receiver, but not necessarily a fourth. Cut the last two years in training camp by San Diego, Martin impressed the Packers with his 6-foot-4, 217-pound frame and the matchup problems it could cause opposing secondaries. He caught a 2-yard TD pass in Friday's preseason finale against Tennessee, one of three catches in the game.
"Ruvell was here for the entire offseason, so I think he deserves to have a place on this team," Thompson said. "He's also played well. I thought he especially played well yesterday. He's got good hands, good size, he's learned how to use his body."
The Packers also kept a fourth tight end in Tory Humphrey, considered a longshot to make the roster with incumbents Bubba Franks, David Martin and Donald Lee composing one of the team's deepest top three at any position. Humphrey's play on special teams and his ability to play fullback in a pinch certainly helped his cause.
"We just felt like we were blessed to have some pretty good tight ends, and we felt it didn't make sense not to keep the best players," Thompson said. "And we felt like he's one of those best players."
That's the number of rookies and first-year players to make the roster, one sign of just how young the Packers will be this season. The first-year players (who have previously signed with other teams or played professionally elsewhere but never made an NFL roster) are Martin, Humphrey and punter Jon Ryan. The other 11 are rookies, including 10 draft picks.
"We felt after the mini-camps and into the spring that we had some pretty good rookies and young guys we felt would have a chance to compete for a roster spot," Thompson said. "And that's the way it's worked out."
One of those rookies was cornerback Will Blackmon, a fourth-round draft choice who missed all of training camp with a broken foot. There was speculation Blackmon would remain on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list, meaning he couldn't be moved to the 53-man roster for the first six weeks of the season, but the progress of his recovery indicates he could be ready to play before those six weeks would have expired.
"I don't get too far into the medical thing, but he's doing really good, and it's not going to be too, too far," Thompson said. "At some point we'll probably do a little bit like we did with some of our other guys, where he'll start practicing on a limited basis, but I don't know when that will be."
The only non-drafted rookie to land a spot was defensive end Jason Hunter, a Division I-AA product whose pass-rushing speed off the edge continued to get noticed as training camp progressed.
In the preseason game against Atlanta, Hunter's pressure and pass deflection led to an interception by teammate Johnny Jolly that set up a touchdown. Friday against Tennessee, he added a half-sack and nearly recorded a sack of the elusive Vince Young.
"He's just kept getting better," Thompson said. "Coming into the NFL from Appalachian State, it's a bit more of a jump than coming from a big school from a major conference, but he's continued to get better and he plays as hard as he can play every snap. He had some success yesterday, getting some sacks and things like that, so that was good."
This refers to the number of linebackers from the 2005 opening-day roster now on the 2006 roster, a reflection of the significant overhaul at the position.
While Nick Barnett and Brady Poppinga return, the Packers have added draft picks A.J. Hawk and Abdul Hodge as well as free agents Ben Taylor and Tracy White, who beat out second-year pro Roy Manning for the sixth and final spot in a very close battle.
"We just walked it through and tried to rate everything," Thompson said. "At the linebacker position it's not only your play at linebacker but your play on special teams and all that, and we felt like Tracy did a nice job. Roy did too, in fact he had a very good game yesterday. I'm sure he's probably going to be working tomorrow."
Thompson felt the same way about running back Najeh Davenport, the most notable name to Packers fans among the players released.
Davenport, a fourth-round draft pick in 2002, rushed 217 times for 1,068 yards and seven TDs in four seasons as a Packer but has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, including this summer.
"It was a difficult one," Thompson said. "He's been here and done a good job, he did everything we asked. He battled through some injuries. We had some teams inquire about him, but nothing ever came to fruition...Najeh I'm sure will be working somewhere tomorrow."