Linebacker Nick Barnett usually chatted up cornerback Joey Thomas before practice, but when Barnett did not need see him on Wednesday afternoon he assumed Thomas had suffered an injury.
Instead Thomas' absence was because the Packers waived the second-year cornerback on Wednesday afternoon.
"It's kind of a shock," Barnett said.
The Packers had high hopes for Thomas, a 2004 third-round draft pick. He entered training camp as the starting left cornerback, but injuries to his calf and hip sidelined him for the majority of the summer.
He earned the start against the Cleveland Browns Sept. 18 but made a crucial gaffe during the game. Thomas jumped outside, and Browns rookie wide receiver Braylon Edwards beat him inside on a slant for an 80-yard touchdown.
Last week he made another egregious error. On a 3rd down-and-five in the second quarter, the Packers had stopped the Cincinnati Bengals to force a punt, but the officials then called Thomas for an illegal use of hands. The Bengals received the first down and went on to score a touchdown on the drive.
Thomas' play had slipped on the field, and he had not assumed proper responsibility for his actions off of it.
"You've got to be accountable and honest with what you're doing and how you're doing it," Head Coach Mike Sherman said.
Sherman said Thomas probably saw the roster move coming.
"I think so," he said.
Sherman thought about waiving Thomas on Tuesday night. He then slept on the decision before talking to Executive Vice President and General Manager Ted Thompson on Wednesday morning.
Mike Hawkins or Jason Horton will take on increased roles with one of them likely assuming the nickel cornerback position formerly occupied by Thomas.
"My obvious role is to step up," Hawkins said. "I'm ready to play."
Thomas had recorded 16 tackles and three passes defensed during six games this year. He saw action in 14 games last season, registering 15 tackles.
Sherman admitted the difficulty in parting with someone the team had drafted with high expectations. He, however, wished Thomas well on another team.
"I hope he gets a job someplace else," Sherman said. "He's a good kid. He hasn't been a distraction in the locker room at all. As far as I know, he's a very good person."
His teammates remained confident that another NFL team will sign Thomas.
"He'll catch on real quick," cornerback Ahmad Carroll said. "He'll probably get picked up today or tomorrow."
Thomas' roster move did not serve as a message of how short-lived an NFL career can be.
"This is the NFL," Barnett said. "We already know the message."