GREEN BAY – The obvious question for Herb Taylor Sunday afternoon – when a throng of reporters descended upon the unassuming offensive lineman at his locker – was, Why?
Why keep at it? Why not give up the NFL ghost? Why not take his Texas Christian degree – he majored in advertising/public relations and minored in social work – and settle into a regular-guy life with wife Kari and son Khalen?
“Why not?” the Green Bay Packers backup left tackle replied. “I didn’t feel like it was time for me to stop. I had the opportunities.
“I’m not a quitter. Until absolutely nobody calls me, I’m going to keep on fighting.”
The Packers called him last December, when rookie first-round draft pick Derek Sherrod broke his leg in a Dec. 18 loss at Kansas City, leaving the Packers – already without longtime starter Chad Clifton – perilously thin at the most important spot on the line.
At practice on Sunday evening, they were thin there again. With starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse out with a concussion he suffered during Friday night’s annual Family Night Scrimmage and Sherrod yet to be cleared by the medical staff to begin practicing, Taylor worked with the No. 1 offense all night and fared well. He stonewalled outside linebacker Clay Matthews in their 1-on-1 pass-blocking battle, and kept Matthews off Harrell during 11-on-11 drills.
It wasn’t until the final few plays, when he was beaten by rookie Dezman Moses off the edge in the 2-minute drill and didn’t get downfield quickly enough for Harrell to get the final play off that he had a negative moment.
"I like him," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think there's a rawness to his ability for where he's at in his career. I think there's a lot of football ahead of him."
While it’s unclear what the Packers would do if Newhouse had suffered a serious, long-term injury, Taylor got the nod with the starters over rookie seventh-round pick Andrew Datko, who has not had a good camp to this point. Taylor, in contrast, had been non-descript – which for an offensive lineman means not bad.
“For guys in my position, your first reaction is just try to make the team. That is your first goal,” Taylor said. “Your second goal is trying to fit into the system and trying to help out in any way possible, whether it’s backing up, starting, doing kickoff return — whatever it is.”
Taylor entered the league in 2007 with Kansas City as a sixth-round pick from TCU, where he’d been teammates with Newhouse for one year. He played in two games as a rookie (and was active for three others in which he didn’t play), then saw action in all 16 games the next year for the Chiefs, including one start at left tackle and eight games with action on offense.
But the Chiefs cut him on the final roster reduction before the 2009 season, and while he caught on twice with the Denver Broncos in December of that year, he didn’t play. The New York Giants claimed him in January 2010 and he spent the offseason with them, but he was released on Sept. 4 and was out of football all year.
“(That) was probably the (toughest) year,” Taylor said.
After the year out of football, he headed back to Denver in January 2011, but again was released on the final roster cutdown on Sept. 6. He was then out of football again – save for a brief stopover in the UFL – until the Packers called after Sherrod’s injury.
Although he didn’t play, he was active for the final two regular-season games and inactive for the playoff loss to the Giants.
“You’ve got to give credit, No. 1, to Herb and you’ve got to give credit to the personnel department,” McCarthy said. “You find a guy like that once in a while and sometimes an individual needs an opportunity to step away or learn from his past experiences. He’s been a very consistent, workmanlike player since his time here. I really like what he brings to the table.”
If this were the regular season, there’s a good chance the Packers would move right tackle Bryan Bulaga to left tackle, shift left guard T.J. Lang to right tackle and bring Evan Dietrich-Smith, whom they consider their No. 6 lineman, off the bench at left guard.
But for now, it looks like Taylor will hold down that spot until Newhouse returns, which McCarthy didn’t rule out for Thursday’s preseason opener at San Diego. He’s significantly better than Datko, and if Sunday night’s practice is any indication, he isn’t in over his head.
“You don’t ever want to be the weak spot in the offensive line. My plan is to come in there and make it as seamless as possible,” Taylor said. “Everything counts. Every game counts. Every snap counts. When you get the opportunity to go out there, you have to make it worthwhile and you have to give it all you have because things change and things happen. So you have to be ready when you’re called upon.
“I have to make good on every opportunity that I get. Whenever they call me to go out there, I have to make it count.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.