Packers Add Another New Specialist to Challenge Starter

Packers Wirtel Signing

Getty Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers looks on in the second half against the New York Jets during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 21, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Corey Bojorquez isn’t the only new specialist headed to Green Bay.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst announced on September 2 that former Los Angeles Rams long snapper Steven Wirtel had been signed to their 16-man practice squad, introducing a new challenger to the mix for starter Hunter Bradley as the team continues looking for ways to improve its special teams unit.

The Packers already shook up one of their starting specialist spots during the initial 53-man roster deadline on August 31, trading a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Rams to acquire a new punter in Bojorquez along with a 2023 seventh-round pick. Bojorquez will take over the starting punter job for JK Scott, who was released following the trade, but he has not yet arrived in Green Bay for his first practice.

Bradley, who was drafted in 2018 along with Scott, seemingly defended his job earlier in the summer against fellow long snapper Joe Fortunato. The latter had been signed during the offseason to push Bradley, but Fortunato was waived after the first week of training camp and left Bradley as the team’s lone long snapper.

With about 10 days to go until the start of the 2021 season, though, the Packers have secured themselves a second option at the position, even if only for emergency purposes. They also have a second kicker (JJ Molson) signed to their practice squad as a backup plan for veteran Mason Crosby.

The Packers also waived second-year defensive lineman Willington Previlon from their practice squad in a corresponding move to clear space for Wirtel. Previlon was a 2020 UDFA signing for the Packers and spent his entire rookie year on their practice squad.

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Gutekunst Publicly Backs Bradley

Criticisms about Bradley aren’t difficult to find. The 2018 seventh-round pick had arguably his worst season in the NFL last year, snapping too high or too low on multiple occasions with Scott’s solid hands keeping many of them from hurting the Packers. One rough moment, in particular, came during the Packers’ divisional-round playoff game against the Rams when Bradley hooked a terrible snap to Scott on an extra-point try and ended up botching the entire play.

Packers insiders were also quick to jump on Bradley’s case after one of his bad practice sessions this summer. According to Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated, Bradley hopped three of his six snaps off the turf while the team was practicing field goals last week, stirring up concerns again about his ability to get the job done.

Gutekunst, however, did not echo those concerns when talking with reporters on September 1 following the team’s initial roster cuts, looking a little confused when he was asked “why” Bradley had been retained as their long snapper and giving him a vote of confidence heading into the 2021 season.

“I think in Hunter’s time here in, what, three years now, he’s been really consistent,” Gutekunst said Wednesday. “In games, I think he’s only had a handful of snaps that we would consider not great (and) none that have really cost us. I think Hunter’s done a really good job for us and he’ll continue to be our snapper unless … we can find better.”

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