GREEN BAY — Jimmy Graham and Aaron Rodgers have been talking.
And while the Green Bay Packers veteran tight end wasn’t about to tell the world what he and his quarterback had been talking about, this much was evident: Both are highly motivated to make sure Graham is a much bigger factor in the Packers’ offense this season.
“We’re always talking about the future. On the field and off the field, talking about what’s next. (But) I can’t tell you guys those things,” Graham said with a sly smile after the team’s joint practice with the Houston Texans. “We’ll leave it at that.”
Multiple times during a 10-minute conversation with reporters at his locker, Graham referenced the perception that, with his 33rd birthday approaching in November, he’s over the hill. But he believes he’s a good fit for the Packers’ new offense under first-year coach Matt LaFleur, who uses multiple tight-end sets and appears to have big plans for Graham in his scheme.
“When I get those opportunities, I have to show him that I’m the biggest, fastest thing out there. I have to go up and get those grabs for him,” Graham said. “I’ve been focused and I’m ready to get this thing started obviously. We have four more weeks here, but I’m about as fired up as I’ve ever been to go and shut a lot of people up.”
Graham has been open in the past about how disappointing last season, his first in Green Bay, was. He finished with 55 receptions for 636 yards (11.6-yard average) and just two touchdowns, well off the 10 TD receptions he had the previous season with the Seattle Seahawks.
Nevertheless, the Packers paid him a $5 million roster bonus in March, and Graham said he’s motivated to prove it was the right call.
“This is an offense where they matchup a lot of formations, and the run to the pass. And for me, that’s all good,” Graham said. “And, they like to use the tight end quite a bit. I think we’ve got a dynamic group of tight ends and we’ve got a good mix of veterans and young kids. I’m excited to see what we’re going to do this year. I really am.
“Everybody thinks I’m old and slow now, so, we’ll see what happens.”
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Starting center Corey Linsley did not practice because of a biceps injury but said afterward that it wasn’t a major injury – although it could keep him out of Thursday night’s preseason opener with the Texans.
“It’s just a minor thing, so we’re just trying to be smart about it (and) not make it a major thing,” Linsley said.
Linsley said he couldn’t pinpoint when the injury happened, saying it gradually bothered him more after practicing on Family Night and again on Sunday. He said an MRI showed no major damage.
“Obviously I’m trying to get back as soon as possible,” Linsley said.
Cornerback Kevin King sat out his second straight practice with a hamstring injury but general manager Brian Gutekunst downplayed the seriousness of his injury. King suffered a season-ending hamstring injury last year, ending his season after six games.
“I wouldn’t say it’s very high. It sounds like he’s going to be OK. It shouldn’t be a long-term thing,” Gutekunst said. “We’ll kind of wait and see. He was having a great camp so far. But hopefully he’ll be out there pretty quickly.”
With running backs Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones still out with hamstring injuries, little-known Tra Carson, a holdover from last year’s practice squad, continues to get work with the No. 1 offense. “Obviously it’s given some other guys some opportunities,” Gutekunst said. “Long-term, I don’t have too many concerns about Jamaal or Aaron right now. But I thought Tra had a great night Friday. He followed up with a really good practice (on Sunday). Guys have to take advantage and those opportunities and he’s done that.”
LaFleur strongly hinted that Rodgers won’t play against the Texans Thursday night, as he expects the two joint practices to be sufficient work for Rodgers. “We haven’t made 100 percent commitment to that,” LaFleur said. “But if we get enough good look I’d just as soon sit him and get him ready for Week 2.”