With the Packers' new offensive scheme not requiring the fullback to be a bulldozer as in years past, versatility may be the key to making the depth chart at running back.
Which just may open a spot for a guy like Noah Herron.
Herron, a second-year running back out of Northwestern whom the Packers signed off the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice squad late last season, has been getting snaps at both halfback and fullback in practice this week and getting some attention in the process.
"He's a very natural, instinctive football player," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think he's had a tremendous spring and I think he definitely has a place on our football team if he continues to perform as he has."
Herron did some lead blocking at Northwestern, but not as a traditional fullback. With the Packers placing a higher premium on speed than pure power at fullback in their new zone blocking scheme, Herron is being asked to display any versatility he has.
"The more you can do the better, and I know that, especially as a young player," Herron said. "It's one of those things that's a worst-case scenario. I can get us out of a jam by learning some of that (fullback) stuff."
Herron also has been focusing on skills such as pass-catching and blitz pickup that could lead to a third-down role in the offense. He's hoping to build on a solid finish to his rookie season, when he had a combined 37 carries for 94 yards and two touchdowns in the final two games against Chicago and Seattle at Lambeau Field.
"I think I showed last year that I can carry the load a little bit, as a rookie," he said. "It was a little overwhelming at times, but at the same time it was a great experience."
Playing it safe
Monday's motorcycle accident involving Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led to a short discussion between McCarthy and the team Tuesday morning before practice.
McCarthy said while he can't spend time worrying about what every player is doing off the field, they have to take responsibility for their actions.
"Obviously we're all men, so just be smart," McCarthy said he told the team. "I'm not a fan of motorcycles. I know they're very popular in this part of the country, but the biggest part of the message today was just be smart."
Roethlisberger sustained multiple facial fractures and a mild concussion in his accident Monday and is expected to remain in the hospital a few more days. He was not wearing a helmet.
The incident served as a reminder to the players how quickly and unexpectedly things can occur.
"You don't want to get hurt doing something off the field, but a freak accident can happen anywhere," rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "A lot of guys don't go snow skiing or waterskiing or doing things like that because your body is important. Your life is your body -- your brain and your body -- in the NFL."
New faces like offensive guard Jason Spitz and linebacker Ben Taylor have seen time with the No. 1 units in practice the last couple of days, but McCarthy cautioned not to read too much into that.
Spitz, a third-round draft choice out of Louisville, has been projected as a center down the road in the NFL but is getting a strong look now at guard, the position he played throughout his college career. He has been lining up at right guard, with fellow rookie Daryn Colledge at left guard.
"That whole inside group is very young and we're looking at everybody," McCarthy said. "We're talking about getting the best five on the field and we're continuing to give individuals the opportunity to fight for those positions."
Taylor, a free agent pickup from Cleveland, was acquired for his ability to play any of the linebacker positions and will be given his chance to earn playing time as well.
"We're going to rotate as many guys through there as possible," McCarthy said. "It's all about opportunity and I can't stress enough that we're still going through the learning phase and we're still installing.
"As far as who's ahead of who, it's just creating opportunities and looking at different guys in the different packages, defensively."