According to The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, the Green Bay Packers have released Hunter Bradley, who has been the team’s starting long-snapper since 2018. Bradley, a 2018 seventh-round pick, was on the final season of his four-year rookie deal.
Schneidman also noted that the team was going to give Steven Wirtel the starting job. Wirtel signed with the Packers’ practice squad after final cuts, when he didn’t make the Los Angeles Rams’ roster. He has yet to receive NFL action in the regular season but began his professional career with the Detroit Lions in 2020 and was signed to a futures contract with the Rams in early 2021. In Rams camp, Wirtel practiced with now Packers punter Corey Bojorquez, who was traded for in late August.
In every week of the season so far, three of the Packers’ four “protected” practice-squadders have been quarterback Kurt Benkert, Wirtel, and kicker J.J. Molson, presumably as “in case of emergency” coverage in the NFL’s still ongoing COVID era. The fourth player has been a rotating cast of characters who are typically called up on gameday, but the Packers’ practice squad protection plan may change moving forward now that the team has more clarity at the long-snapping position. It should also be mentioned that Benkert stated on Twitter that he has COVID after missing Monday’s practice, meaning two of the Packers’ usual protected practice-squadders may not be viable options to protect in Week 9.
Beyond Molson, three other practice squad players should be kept in mind for protection purposes: receiver Juwann Winfree, offensive lineman Ben Braden, and running back Patrick Taylor. Winfree and Braden have both been protected and elevated at different points this season, mostly due to injuries. Taylor, on the other hand, is one of only three running backs at Packers practice following Kylin Hill’s season-ending ACL injury. Taylor also returns kicks, which was Hill’s most significant role with the team.
At the moment, the Packers’ roster sits at 49 players, with the additions of receiver Davante Adams (reserve/COVID), tackle David Bakhtiari (physically unable to perform), and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (injured reserve) looming. Should Green Bay bring Bradley up from the practice squad before game day, that alone could get the team back to a 53-man roster.