Training Camp Report: Opportunity Awaits Sutton

Rookie running back Tyrell Sutton has taken advantage of the carries he has received thus far in the preseason with a team-leading 140 yards in two games, but his biggest opportunity to date will come Friday night in Arizona. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Aug. 26

Rookie running back Tyrell Sutton has taken advantage of the carries he has received thus far in the preseason with a team-leading 140 yards in two games, but his biggest opportunity to date will come Friday night in Arizona.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that Sutton, who played only in the second half of the first two preseason contests with the backups, will get some reps with the No. 1 offense in the first half against the Cardinals.

Sutton opened the preseason with a game-high 91 rushing yards on 16 carries vs. Cleveland, highlighted by runs of 17 and 12 yards, and followed that up last Saturday with 49 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against Buffalo.

"I think Sutton is a very instinctive runner," McCarthy said. "He's done a very good job picking up the scheme. He had the late start there in the spring. He's just been productive. He's a tough young man, and I want to see him in the game Friday night with the 1's.

"I think those backs, I feel very good about all of them. I'd play with any one of those backs right now. I just don't know enough about Sutton. He's young, he's raw, he's done some exciting things. He has a lot in front of him. You only have so many reps, you only have so many opportunities."

Sutton, who signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Northwestern, faced an uphill battle to land a roster spot in a backfield that already included Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn. It also didn't help that he missed the first two weeks of OTAs due to a league rule that prohibits players from participating in practice until their school year is complete.

"The guys around me and EB (running backs coach Edgar Bennett), they did a great job of helping me every single day," Sutton said. "I went to the school of DeShawn Wynn a couple of nights. We went through the script and we went over the plays and he did a great job of getting me caught up on the ins and outs of the scheme."

Besides getting up to speed with a new playbook, Sutton said pass protection has been one of his biggest challenges so far in the NFL, as it is for many young backs.

"I'm a smaller guy so a lot of guys see me and they want to try to bull-rush me as soon as they come," Sutton said. "It's all about just being technically sound and playing inside out and making sure I am doing what I can."

The 5-foot-8, 213-pound Sutton is accustomed to being one of the smaller players on the field his entire life, going all the way back to his days as a PeeWee football player in Akron, Ohio, when one of his teammates on the South Rangers was NBA superstar LeBron James.

"I think he was 10 (years old) and I was 8," Sutton said. "He was 6-foot-1 and I was like 4-foot-4 or something like that."

Sutton said he looks at his height, or lack of it, as an advantage.

"It's phenomenal because nobody can really see me behind the offensive line or anybody for that fact," Sutton said. "But it's just great. I get to kind of hide and pick and choose where I can go and then pop out at the last second."

Although he will be running behind the Packers' starting offensive line against the defending NFC champions in their stadium, Sutton emphasized that his approach won't change.

"The same as any opportunity; you've got to go out there and seize it and show them that I can play ball," Sutton said. "Nothing more than playing ball. Just showing them that I can go out there and hang with the big boys."

Back at it

Rookie outside linebacker Clay Matthews was back on the field Wednesday for the team's shell practice, his first work since aggravating a hamstring injury in the Aug. 6 night practice.

"Obviously being out for the majority of camp, it's amazing just to be out there practicing with the guys again," Matthews said. "It's something that you take for granted. Just to finally be back and hopefully stay healthy, it's a great feeling.

"I had no problem with it today whatsoever. I found myself pushing it more than I think the coaches wanted me to, so I think that is a very good indicator and very encouraging coming into next week."

McCarthy said he wanted to give Matthews approximately 50-60 percent of the reps on Wednesday, and then the team would see how he responded on Thursday. He is still listed as doubtful for Friday's game.

Prior to aggravating the hamstring injury that was originally sustained during OTAs, Matthews was seeing some reps with the No. 1 defense on the right side, which is where he took all of his snaps on Wednesday.

With both Matthews and second-year outside linebacker Jeremy Thompson sidelined for much of training camp with injuries, veteran linebacker Brady Poppinga stepped into the starting position opposite Aaron Kampman, and has played well in both preseason games, highlighted by Saturday's night's performance vs. Buffalo when he posted an interception and a fumble recovery.

"I'm not afraid of competition and that's what I have done my whole career," Matthews said. "I'm looking forward to coming back and battling with Brady now, so it will be fun. He has been doing an outstanding job and I am one of his biggest fans and advocates. He's been out there making plays."

{sportsad300}Matthews said he felt ready to practice this past Monday, but agreed with the team's decision to give him some more time to recover from a re-occurring injury like his. Barring any setbacks, Matthews is expected to get his first game action in the preseason finale next Thursday at Tennessee.

"This is a long season, but at the same time I want to be out there with the guys," Matthews said. "One more week and I'll be out there. Today was very good from a mental and physical standpoint, just getting comfortable with what I can get away with. It's 100 percent so I'm really looking forward to coming in next week."

Injury/participation update

In addition to Matthews, linebacker Desmond Bishop (toe) also returned to practice.

Remaining out were quarterback Matt Flynn (shoulder), punter Durant Brooks (hip flexor), cornerbacks Pat Lee (back) and Will Blackmon (quad), safeties Charlie Peprah (knee) and Aaron Rouse (hamstring), and defensive end Justin Harrell (back).

McCarthy said Matthews, Flynn and linebacker Nick Barnett (knee) were all doubtful for Friday's game.

With Flynn likely sidelined, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is expected to play the first half with the rest of the starters, with No. 3 quarterback Brian Brohm taking most if not all the snaps in the second half.

McCarthy said Harrell recently saw a doctor in Chicago, received positive feedback, and added that Harrell's rehab had gone very well the last couple of days.

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