Packers notes: Ageless Tramon Williams’ return to Green Bay begins with a pick-6
GREEN BAY – Tramon Williams’ fountain-of-youth return to the Green Bay Packers has amazed coaches and teammates alike throughout training camp. His first game snap back in green and gold was amazing, too.
On the first play from scrimmage of the Packers’ 51-34 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers Thursday night, Williams read rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph’s locked-in eyes, jumped in front of a pass intended for Darrius Heyward-Bey and intercepted it, returning it 25 yards for a touchdown for the first points of the game.
“For a guy who couldn’t play, pretty good,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said facetiously. “Tramon, I can’t say enough about him. And I have said a bunch about him, but I will continue to do that. Not only is he a fantastic player and has been for his entire career as a Green Bay Packer, Arizona Cardinal and Cleveland Brown, but he’s a fantastic locker room guy. You can’t have enough great leaders like Tramon Williams, and I’m glad he’s back in the green and gold.”
The play was the first preseason snap for the 35-year-old Williams, who did not dress for last week’s preseason-opening victory over Tennessee, and marked his first play in a Packers uniform since the final play of the team’s 2014 NFC Championship Game loss in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks.
“Just a routine play. You know, the first 15 plays, you’re going to get a lot of different looks from teams so they can see what your adjustments will be. It just so happened the first look was an empty look,” Williams said. “Most times, most teams run (a) quick game out of empty looks. If you run a lot of blitzes, they know they’ve got to get the ball out quick. I was aware of that and I was ready to make a play.”
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who coached Williams in Cleveland in 2015 when Pettine was the Browns head coach, said he didn’t necessarily envision Williams being able to play into his late-30s as he is.
“No, because it’s rare that you see a corner play for as long as he’s played,” Pettine said of Williams, who played last season in Arizona before signing with Green Bay – where he’d spent 2007 through 2014 – as a free agent. “Just watching film from last year, I got to see the Cardinal film a bunch, it was like, ‘Wow, he’s still playing at a high level.’”
The interception was that kind of “Wow” moment, even as it came against a rookie who telegraphed the play. Heyward-Bey was running a simple out route to the left sideline, and Williams read it perfectly and caught Rudolph’s throw as if he was the intended receiver, not Heyward-Bey.
Rudolph, a third-round pick from Oklahoma State, started in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who underwent concussion testing earlier in the week and did not play, despite doctors determining he had not sustained a concussion.
Rookie cornerback Josh Jackson, a second-round pick from Iowa, and one of the team’s youngest players at 22 years old, then did his best Williams imitation on the Steelers’ first pass of the second half, picking off quarterback Josh Dobbs’ pass on an out route to Damoun Patterson and returning it 22 yards for a pick-6 and a 41-14 Packers lead.
“Just looking at film, I kind of knew it was coming. I just had to play it slow and be sure and precise on my break,” Jackson said. “I just wanted to make sure I didn’t step out of bounds. I was trying to score. It was my mama’s birthday, so I told her I was going to get one for her.”
The legend continues
UW-Whitewater alum and training-camp sensation Jake Kumerow has been making a strong case for a roster spot throughout camp – and even dating back to the offseason program. On Thursday night, he added to the evidence with an 82-yard touchdown catch-and-run and finished the night with three receptions for 114 yards.
On second-and-9 from the Packers’ 18-yard line early in the third quarter, Kumerow caught a DeShone Kizer pass at the Packers’ 28-yard line, against cornerback Brian Allen, took off up the left sideline and then juked safety Nat Berhe around the Packers’ 45-yard line before winning the footrace to the goal line.
The touchdown came a week after Kumerow reeled in a 52-yard touchdown pass from Tim Boyle against the Titans.
“I’ve said it before: The practice reps are very important because there’s so many different types of defenses and coverages and pressures that we see in practice. And he’s made plays consistently throughout those sessions,” Rodgers said. “You never know how it’s going to turn out in the game, but last week he was very productive, had a touchdown. Tonight, he made a catch near the sidelines, turns it upfield, stays in bounds and gets a first down. Then comes back, runs a nice route, DeShone puts a great ball on him, he stays inbounds, and turns a 17-yard gain into an 80-yard touchdown.
“I’m very happy with him, I’m happy for him as well. He’s a great kid. From the first time he got here, it’s never been too big for him, and he continues to make plays and that’s how you make the squad, you ball out on game day and you do things on special teams when you’re a fringe guy and you give yourself an opportunity, not just for this squad, but for any team watching 16 on film.”
The only downer for Kumerow was that he said he suffered a shoulder stinger on his somersault into the end zone at the end of the touchdown. But he insisted the injury was not serious.
“Just fell on the shoulder and got a little stinger. I’m fine. Feeling good,” Kumerow said. Asked if the dive was necessary, Kumerow replied, “Nah, I saw that he was getting close. Obviously I ran a long way and I was getting tired. I’m running and running and running and right when I got to the end zone, I felt like diving in just to finish it off. I went for the dive and roll and pop back up. Landed a little awkwardly, but I’m fine.”
McCray, Williams injured
Just a few days after coach Mike McCarthy stopped just short of officially naming Justin McCray as the team’s opening-day starter at right guard, McCray limped off the field with what the team said was a right calf injury.
McCray was out in front of a screen pass to Jamaal Williams and dove to cut-block Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic, and it appeared Bostic’s foot caught him. Three plays later, Williams left the game with what the team said was a right ankle injury. He also did not return.
Afterward, neither player could say for certain whether he would have been able to return to the game had it been in the regular season, but both felt they’d avoided major injury.
“It’s OK. Just (a) twisted ankle at the end of the play,” Williams said.
Said McCray: “I’m fine. I think it was just a kick or a helmet or something like that. Just caught it on the calf. I think I’ll be fine.”
With McCray out, Lucas Patrick (who started at left guard while regular starter Lane Taylor rested his ankle) moved to right guard, Byron Bell (who started at right tackle) moved to left guard, and Jason Spriggs came off the bench to play right tackle.
Taking the night off
While Rodgers, left tackle David Bakhtiari and tight end Jimmy Graham made their preseason debuts, the Packers still held Taylor and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee/rest) out of the game. Wide receiver Randall Cobb (ankle) made his preseason debut but did not catch a pass.
Also sitting out Thursday night were defensive end Mike Daniels (quadriceps); cornerback Kevin King (shoulder); wide receiver/kick returner Trevor Davis (hamstring); running backs Aaron Jones (hamstring) and Devante Mays (hamstring); and safety Jermaine Whitehead (back).
Outside linebacker Nick Perry (ankle) remains on the physically unable to perform list, although he said during the week that he is getting close to returning to action.
First-round pick Jaire Alexander made his preseason debut and started the game in the slot as the Packers opened in their nickel defense on Tramon Williams’ interception.
Reggie Gilbert, who moved ahead of Kyler Fackrell in practice during the week and was working as the No. 2 outside linebacker opposite Clay Matthews with Perry still out, continued his strong summer with 2.5 sacks in the first half Thursday night. … Backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who came on in relief of Rodgers after one series, finished his night having completed 6 of 9 passes for 77 yards (93.3 rating). … Quinten Rollins, who fumbled on a punt last week, had a nifty, elusive 18-yard punt return. … Ty Montgomery lined up as the No. 1 kickoff returner with Davis still out, and Montgomery promptly fumbled on his first return. … Rookie punter JK Scott’s first punt of the night was poor. While it had 4.72 seconds of hang time, it traveled just 29 yards before going out of bounds into the Packers’ bench area. His second was much better, a 46-yarder with 4.81 seconds of hang time, but he was up-and down thereafter. … Rookie receiver J’Mon Moore, who dropped what would have been a long touchdown pass last week, had another disappointing drop against the Steelers.