The Green Bay Packers (5-6-1) have added a new running back to the offensive backfield and have made changes in the defensive secondary. The Packers officially signed veteran halfback Kahlil Bell on Tuesday and released safety Jerron McMillian.
Bell was added to the roster after the Packers placed rookie running back Johnathan Franklin (neck) and released McMillian. Franklin suffered a concussion in a tie against the Minnesota Vikings on November 24th.
On Monday, Bell tweeted that he had signed with the Packers. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy Ted Thompson confirmed the transaction on Tuesday. Bell, who reportedly was signed in favor of former Packers' running back Brandon Jackson, will likely serve as the Packers' fourth running back option behind rookie Eddie Lacy and veterans James Starks and John Kuhn.
Bell previously played for the Chicago Bears and New York Jets. The fifth-year runner from UCLA has 633 rushing yards on 133 carries and one receiving touchdown in his NFL career. Because former practice-squad linebacker Victor Aiyewa took Franklin's roster spot, the Packers had to clear an additional spot for Bell on the 53-man roster.
McMillian, the second-year safety out of Maine, has struggled mightily and often in his sophomore season. McMillian lost the starting safety job to M.D. Jennings after Morgan Burnett returned from a hamstring injury earlier this season before losing his dime-back job in favor of rookie Chris Banjo.
After primarily serving on special teams for the majority of the season, McMillian registered only 15 tackles in 12 games. In his short NFL career, McMillian has 42 total tackles and one interception.
"Anytime you have a young player, you have expectations, but this is something we felt we needed to do," McCarthy said regarding McMillian's release. "As far as his individual performance, it wasn't quite where it needed to be this year. I wish him well."
With the return of second-year safety and former undrafted free agent Sean Richardson, the Packers simply didn't have enough roster space to keep McMillian, a former fourth-round pick. Releasing McMillian likely means that Green Bay will not place quarterback Aaron Rodgers or wide receiver Randall Cobb on the injured-reserve (IR) list, yet.
"(Rodgers) has not been cleared by the medical staff," McCarthy said. "We have not ruled him out for (Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons). Aaron wants to play, but it's a medical situation. He feels good, we'll see if he can get on the field tomorrow. When he is healthy, he'll be given the opportunity to play."
Rodgers hasn't played in a game since breaking his collarbone in a loss to the Chicago Bears in week nine. Since the injury, the Packers are 0-4-1, as quarterbacks Seneca Wallace, Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien have combined to throw two touchdown passes. McCarthy said Flynn would take the starter repetitions in Wednesday's practice.
Rumors swirled that Green Bay would likely shut Rodgers down for the season if they felt they were out of the playoff race, but Rodgers reportedly said this past weekend he will be ready to play against the Falcons (3-9) on Sunday. The Packers sit in third place in the NFC North, 1.5 games back of the Detroit Lions.
Cobb, one of Rodgers' top receiving targets, was placed on the IR with a designation to return after breaking his fibula in a win over the Baltimore Ravens in week six. Cobb is currently eligible to return to practice, but he isn't eligible to return to games until week 15 against the Dallas Cowboys. Whether or not Cobb will return to the Packers this season though is a serious question which has yet to be answered.
McCarthy said Cobb has not been cleared to run yet, but the third-year receiver "looks good" and is making progress towards returning to the field.
In Other News: The Packers signed cornerback Antonio Dennard to the team's practice squad on Tuesday. Dennard, a 5'11, 190-pound defensive back from Langston College, has bounced around the league, most notably serving as a practice squad cornerback with the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants.
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