GREEN BAY — Geronimo Allison’s suspension only lasted one game, but the Green Bay Packers’ second-year wide receiver still feels like he needs to make up for lost time during Sunday night’s game at Atlanta.
“I’m glad to be back with my brothers, glad to get back out there,” Allison said Wednesday after practicing for the first time since being reinstated to the 53-man roster on Tuesday. (I’m) just looking to go out there and just have fun and make as many plays as I can.”
That’s what he did against the Falcons last season, when he was promoted from the practice squad before the team’s Oct. 30 game in Atlanta and promptly caught two passes for 21 yards — one for a 17-yard gain and the other for a 4-yard touchdown.
Allison made a lot of plays in preseason and during training-camp practices, too, which explains why the Packers figure to integrate him into the offensive game plan against the Falcons right away.
“You’re looking for the second-year leap and Geronimo, in my view, has taken that,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Allison, who caught 17 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie (including playoffs). “He’s bigger, stronger, playing with a ton of confidence. He can play all four positions in the wide receiver room and he’s a playmaker. I thought he improved in yards after the catch.
“He’s really improved from his rookie year.”
LINE DANCING: Three of the Packers’ top four tackles — including starting left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle/illness) — appeared on the team’s injury report Wednesday. Bakhtiari was listed as having been a limited participant, while Bulaga was home sick and second-year backup tackle Jason Spriggs is out multiple weeks with a hamstring injury suffered while blocking on a place kick during last Sunday’s game.
With that much uncertainty at tackle, the Packers promoted undrafted rookie free agent Adam Pankey from the practice squad. Pankey, a tackle in college at West Virginia, played both guard and tackle during training camp.
Because Bulaga, who didn’t play against the Seahawks because of his Aug. 23 right ankle injury, was sent home from Lambeau Field on Wednesday because of illness, McCarthy couldn’t say how much further along his ankle is in the healing process. After the game Sunday, McCarthy said the medical staff was adamant about holding Bulaga out against the Seahawks.
“I think clearly our roster reflects (that) we have some guys on the offensive line who are injured, banged up,” McCarthy said. Asked about Spriggs, McCarthy said he’ll be out “a couple more weeks.”
RETURN ENGAGEMENT: McCarthy seemed genuinely disappointed that the team decided to part ways with veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois and cornerback LaDarius Gunter, who were released to make room for Allison and Pankey on the 53-man roster.
“Those are tough releases. You’re talking about two excellent men and did a good job here,” McCarthy said. “Those guys are good guys, good Packers. Tough to see them go.”
Gunter was the team’s No. 1 corner during the second half of last season and played a whopping 1,060 snaps (85.8 percent) including the team’s three playoff games. Only safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett played more.
McCarthy called Gunter a “good football player and even a better teammate” and praised him for the way he “he practiced hard and played harder and was always available.” Left unsaid was the fact that the same couldn’t always be said of the team’s other young corners.
McCarthy suggested the team might want to bring Francois and Gunter back once their offensive line injury issues are resolved, but Gunter was claimed by the Carolina Panthers Wednesday.
“Anytime you sit down and you release a player, particularly these two, I hope I’m fortunate enough to coach those guys again,” McCarthy said.
SCHEDULING CHANGE: One week after holding his Wednesday practice late in the afternoon — the Sept. 6 practice kicked off at 3:15 p.m. and had players still at the stadium after 6 o’clock — McCarthy shifted back to the schedule he’d used for many years, with practice at 12:45 and players being able to head home after post-practice meetings.
While McCarthy said “it wasn’t a vote” to change back to the previous schedule, he did listen to his players, who didn’t like the late practices.
“It’s like anything,” McCarthy said. “You listen to your bartenders, who are the players. … And you take in information.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers joked that the only people happier than the players about the shift back to the early schedule are reporters.
“I know you guys are all happy about Wednesday as are we. It’s back to semi-normal,” he said with a chuckle. “You guys can get on with your lives and so can we.”
EXTRA POINTS: Rodgers has another great line about opening the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday night. “It’s going to be electric ... It’s going to be great,” he said. “It’s too bad Chick-fil-A isn’t going to be open.” The Falcons’ new home features an in-stadium Chick-fil-A location, but the restaurant is closed on Sundays, per the company’s policy. … Veteran outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who made his Packers debut last week and suffered a concussion, did not practice Wednesday. … To take Pankey’s spot on the practice squad, the Packers signed guard Darrell Greene, a former undrafted free agent from San Diego State who spent most of last year on the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad.