GREEN BAY – Tommy Bohanon has played the NFL waiting game before.
Three years ago, the Packers’ new fullback was out of football completely, pouring concrete in Florida and training kids on the side, before he received an invite to work out for teams at the NFL Pro Player Combine in Arizona.
It was through that opportunity Bohanon resurrected his career with Jacksonville, playing in 35 consecutive games (including playoffs) for the Jaguars over the past two seasons.
Now, after eight months on the free-agent market, the sixth-year veteran is ready to make yet another run at an NFL roster spot after signing with the Packers on Monday.
“It was one of those things where I was staying ready,” said Bohanon, who entered the league with the New York Jets as a seventh-round pick in 2013. “I was making sure in all my workouts that I was in shape and doing everything I could so whenever I did get a call, I was going to be ready.”
Bohanon, 28, worked out last week for the Oakland Raiders, but after going unsigned, flew back to Florida and made the five-hour drive from his home in Fort Myers to clean out the place he and his wife, Katie, were renting in Jacksonville.
An hour into the return drive, Bohanon’s phone rang with a call from the Packers, who were in need of a fullback after recent injuries to Danny Vitale (calf) and Malcolm Johnson (groin).
He kept a bag packed with a week’s worth of clothes and cleats for this very reason, but now there was this 26-foot U-Haul to deal with. Fortunately, his father-in-law also made the commute.
“I got the call, so I had to transfer over to my father-in-law’s truck and drive down to the Orlando airport,” said Bohanon, a veteran of 68 NFL games with 30 starts. “I got there right as they were boarding. … It was definitely a crazy 48 hours.”
Bohanon dove right into the playbook as soon as he got to his hotel after signing Monday. The other factor hastening his transition is his past experience playing for current Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in Jacksonville.
Like Hackett, Head Coach Matt LaFleur enjoys utilizing a fullback in his offense. With Johnson already sitting out, Vitale’s early exit from Sunday’s practice forced the Packers to make major adjustments to their team (11-on-11) periods.
Not wanting to waste any time, Green Bay sent Bohanon right out with the first-team offense on Tuesday. While LaFleur is still getting familiar with Bohanon, it’s safe to say the 6-foot-1, 246-pound fullback left a positive first impression.
“I heard some pad-smacking, I know that,” said LaFleur after practice. “He’s a big body, and he threw his weight in there.”
General Manager Brian Gutekunst admits it isn’t easy to find solid free-agent reinforcements on the open market this time of year, with most teams operating at full 90-man capacity.
It gets even trickier with fullbacks since few college teams feature the position. Bohanon was one of the few tried-and-true fullbacks available the team felt could step in right away.
Although most NFL teams either keep zero or one fullback on their active rosters, Gutekunst wouldn’t rule out the possibility of keeping multiple if there are two worthy candidates over the next 2½ weeks.
“I think you’re always looking at how you’re going to play and how many snaps those guys are going to play and does it make sense to keep two on the roster,” Gutekunst said. “I think, with what Matt’s trying to do, we’ve used the fullback quite a bit in a lot of the run-scheme stuff.”
Vitale, who played in the final five games for Green Bay last season, had been putting together an impressive camp before the calf flare-up.
It remains to be seen how much time either he or Johnson will miss. Either way, Bohanon plans to be ready to play as much as needed this Thursday in Baltimore.
“I think there’s definitely an opportunity here,” Bohanon said. “I’m very confident in my abilities. At the end of the day, they’re going to make the decision they make, but I’m going to go out there and do everything I can to make this 53-man roster.”