Training Camp Report: Safety One Of Many Spots Getting Close Look

One of the positions to get extensive scrutiny Thursday in Tennessee is at safety, where new starter Atari Bigby will play close to a full half in making his bid to hold onto the starting job, while backups Charlie Peprah, Tyrone Culver and Alvin Nnabuife get their final opportunities to make the team. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Titans Gameday


S Charlie Peprah runs back an interception in the preseason victory over Seattle on Aug. 18.

There are plenty of roster spots still up for grabs as the Packers enter their preseason finale at Tennessee on Thursday.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said there almost isn't a position on the roster, except long snapper and punter, that doesn't have something to be sorted out before the final roster reduction from 75 to 53 players on Saturday.

One of the spots getting extensive scrutiny is the safety position, where new starter Atari Bigby will play close to a full half in making his bid to hold onto the starting job.

"Atari needs to show that he can be consistent," McCarthy said. "That's really the biggest thing I'm looking for. His impact plays, he's shown that ability and it's exciting. But we need it every down in and out, the communication, that's what I'll be watching from him on Thursday night."

In addition, with Aaron Rouse out with a hamstring injury, McCarthy said he may hold out veteran Marquand Manuel in order to give backups Charlie Peprah, Tyrone Culver and Alvin Nnabuife their final opportunities to make the team.

"I haven't done a good enough job of getting the younger guys reps, particularly in the first half," McCarthy said. "I want to see Culver play early. I want to see Charlie Peprah play early. That's what we're trying to accomplish."

Those three are playing for, quite possibly, just one roster spot, which puts a lot of pressure on them to perform in this last preseason contest.

"You know your time is going to be called a little earlier this game," said Culver, a sixth-round draft choice in 2006. "It's just focusing on what I have to do, what my job is on every single play, and just going out there and executing my assignment. You go out there and do what you're supposed to do and it will all work out."

Even then, the players won't necessarily know if they've earned a spot because the competition has been so close throughout camp.

"A lot of people try to see the writing on the wall, like OK, they might keep this guy, they might do that -- you can't do that," Peprah said. "You can just control what you can control and play your hardest.

"You never know what they're thinking upstairs. You can't worry about it. You just have to be confident in your abilities as a ballplayer and have fun."

The players also know their performances will be evaluated by other teams. Peprah was a roster casualty at the end of training camp last year with the New York Giants and was quickly claimed on waivers by the Packers.

So, even if that "writing on the wall" might be bad news for a player here, there's no reason to give anything less during the game because there may be room for him somewhere else.

"I know I've got to go out there and show what I can do," Peprah said. "I feel I haven't done that yet. Last game was a little disappointing for me, as far as how I feel I played. But there's one more game, and I'm just going to prepare for it like it's my last one. I'm going to go out there and leave it all on the field."

Tight end Zac Alcorn has a similar mindset. The second-year pro from little-known Black Hills State has been battling rookie seventh-round pick Clark Harris for the No. 3 tight end spot and is getting a last chance to make his case.

"Thursday night is a big deal for me," he said. "I just have to step up and play, and hopefully I can show them that I belong here."

{sportsad300}A thin cast

Cornerback and return man Will Blackmon's sprained thumb has actually been diagnosed as a Bennett's fracture, a small fracture and dislocation at the base of the thumb. Because of that, Blackmon has been fitted for a cast on his left hand that will serve as a protective device so he can continue to play.

McCarthy said Blackmon would still take the first punt return in Thursday's game, and then he would give other returners a look after that.

Probably two series for Favre

Last year, quarterback Brett Favre played just one series in the final preseason game, but McCarthy said on Tuesday he would probably play Favre the first two series on Thursday to get a look at a few things on offense.

Emergency snaps

Toward the end of Tuesday's practice, receiver Carlyle Holiday was practicing a quarterback-center exchange. In the event the Packers decide to keep only two quarterbacks on the active roster, Holiday, a former QB at Notre Dame, would be the team's emergency third QB.

"It's just in case," Holiday said. "It's not a big deal to me. If I couldn't take a snap now, there's something wrong with me. I've been playing quarterback for so long.

"For me, I don't just watch my position, I watch the whole field, I'm always into the game, watching everybody and seeing what everybody does. I haven't lost that yet."

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