As we continue our look through the Packers' roster in detail, we come to the midway point of our 90-man roster rankings. In the forties, we find several players who spent much or all of the 2014 season on injured reserve and who are looking to establish (or re-establish) themselves as key contributors this summer.
In perhaps a strange coincidence, nearly every player in this group who missed time in the past year or two due to injury did so because of knee issues. However, every one was back on the field by the end of minicamp and practicing, suggesting that they will be full-go for training camp.
50: Andy Mulumba, OLB
Mulumba was a valuable reserve for the Packers in 2013, regularly rotating in for a few snaps per game and even getting a few starts due to injuries. Last year, he spent much of the season on injured reserve due to a torn ACL, which allowed other players to surpass him on the depth chart. Mulumba also played a key special teams role in 2013, and that role might keep him in Green Bay for another season.
49: Mike Pennel, DT
Built like a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle, Pennel made the team as an undrafted free agent last year and played sparingly behind Letroy Guion. With the Packers having B.J. Raji back healthy and Guion returning, Pennel might not have many opportunities, especially with how frequently the Packers use sub packages.
48: Khyri Thornton, DT
Arguably the biggest rookie disappointment of the Packers' past few drafts, Thornton may have been spared by the hamstring injury he suffered during last year's training camp. He was playing like someone who wanted to get cut, and will need to show a much-improved understanding of the defense and better functional strength this summer. Still, he has a good burst and it's possible that a redshirt year is exactly what this third-round pick needed.
47: Nate Palmer, ILB
Like Mulumba, Palmer was a rookie in 2013 and contributed sporadically at outside linebacker, but had his 2014 season wiped out by a knee injury. Unlike Mulumba, Palmer began working at inside linebacker during last year's training camp, and has been working with that unit all offseason as well. He could be a dark horse candidate to earn some playing time inside, but preference will likely be given to the two fourth-round picks over the past two years, Jake Ryan and Carl Bradford.
46: Jared Abbrederis, WR
A highly productive receiver at Wisconsin, the Wautoma native is another player in this batch who blew out a knee early last year. With his rookie season erased, he looks to be at best the fifth wideout on the depth chart for now, and will need an impressive camp to force the team to keep him on the roster in 2015. Still, Abbrederis has worked his way from a lightly-recruited walk-on quarterback at Wisconsin to earn a scholarship, become an All-Big Ten player, and get drafted in the fifth round, so it would be foolish to count him out at this point.
45: Rajion Neal, RB
According to most reports out of OTAs and minicamp, Neal has a good hold on the third running back job. He has been impressing as both a runner and receiver, much as he did in his limited preseason action a year ago before injuring his knee (seeing the trend yet?). He's not quite the bruiser that Lacy is, nor does he have the decisive burst that James Starks is capable of showing, but he looks like a valid third option who could also contribute on kickoff returns.
44: Tim Masthay, P
The Ginger Wolverine admittedly struggled over the second half of the 2014 season, and will need to fight off some competition in camp this year with Cody Mandell in the fold. Still, Masthay holds several Packers franchise records for punting, and odds are that competition will bring out the best in him.
43: Brett Goode, LS
Remember Goode ever screwing up a snap? No, neither do we. Remember him ever really making a significant impact covering punts? No, neither do we. He just comes in, hits Tim Masthay right in the hands, and keeps himself out of the spotlight, just what you look for in a long-snapper.
42: Jake Ryan, ILB
We mentioned Ryan above, and the rookie certainly is looked at to provide a significant impact in the coming years inside. However, he seems to recognize that his biggest chance to make an impact in 2014 may come on special teams. We see Ryan as having a similar career trajectory to Sam Barrington, if not maybe a bit accelerated - his rookie year will probably be spent mostly learning to adjust to the NFL and the Packers' defense, and he should start filling a more substantial role in his second season.
Oh, and he missed some of his junior year of 2013 with a knee injury, but fought back to return to the field less than seven months after he tore his ACL.
41: Chris Banjo, S
Even though he started last season on the practice squad, Banjo was seen as a key player on the team, especially on special teams, and Packers fans were afraid of losing him to another franchise when he was released. Banjo was brought back onto the active roster late in the season and did not see a snap on defense, but his special teams play was very good once again and he should be seen as a leader on those units.
Players 40-31 will be coming up later today.