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Dolegala Returns To Add Quarterback Depth

The Packers got down to the 85-man roster limit by releasing two players and putting two others on injured reserve.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Officially, the Green Bay Packers got down to the 85-man roster limit on Tuesday by making three roster moves. Unofficially, they are at 86 players and will need to eliminate one more player from the roster.

With Jordan Love nursing a strained throwing shoulder and iffy for Saturday’s preseason game against the New York Jets, Green Bay re-signed Jake Dolegala, a source said in confirming what was first reported by ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky. The Packers didn’t announce the transaction, though, so Dolegala isn’t officially on the roster.

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Green Bay started the day at 88 players and got down to 85 by announcing the release of guard Zach Johnson and the placement of two promising players, receiver DeAndre Thompkins and tight end Isaac Nauta, on injured reserve. For Thompkins (shoulder) and Nauta (chest), their seasons are over.

Later, a source said Green Bay is releasing cornerback Stanford Samuels. That move created the spot for Dolegala.

With some experience in the system, the return of Dolegala seemed like a no-brainer.

An undrafted free agent in 2019, he spent his entire rookie season on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster. But Cincinnati used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft on Jake Burrow. That cost Dolegala his place on the team, and he wound up spending most of last season on New England’s practice squad. In 2021, he auditioned with the Atlanta Falcons at their rookie camp but was not signed. The Packers gave him an extended tryout at the three-day minicamp, and he did well enough to get signed.

However, when Aaron Rodgers decided to return to the Packers just before the start of training camp, they released Dolegala and veteran Blake Bortles. He spent about a week in New England but was released last week.

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Dolegala’s path to the NFL was remarkable. In high school, he suffered a shoulder injury so serious that he couldn’t throw a football more than 10 yards for several months. With that, his scholarship opportunities evaporated. He spent one year at prep school, then took his only scholarship opportunity at Central Connecticut.

“Obviously, there’s an extreme love for the game and then there’s just the competitive side of it,” he said in July. “I hate losing. When people tell me ‘No,’ I want to go out there and prove them wrong. That’s just something that’s been instilled in me forever, growing up, playing everything. That was the biggest thing. People told me I couldn’t do it so I was like, ‘Screw you.’”

For Dolegala, his return likely won’t be for long as he joins Rodgers, Love and Kurt Benkert. But, at worst, the opportunity to practice against the Jets on Wednesday and Thursday and perhaps join Benkert as the quarterbacks available for Saturday’s game means fresh film that can be used to potentially prolong his career.

Nauta, a seventh-round draft pick by Detroit in 2019, was pushing for a roster spot because of his blocking ability. He earned a solid review from position coach Justin Outten on Sunday, a day after starting and playing nine snaps vs. Houston.

“Isaac’s been doing a really good job. He had a strong OTA,” Outten said. “We’ve been utilizing him a little bit more in-line. He’s got a lot of tools in his toolbox as far as being able to do the in-line stuff, the off-the-ball stuff, be a third-down guy that we can lean on. He’s a mentally tough kid, he’s smart, he asks the right questions. He’s got some stuff in his neck as far as when it comes to gameday, he’s a guy you can lean on and he’ll have that leadership in the huddle for those younger guys.”

As for Samuels, he missed part of training camp with a foot injury and is caught up in the numbers at cornerback, a group bolstered by the acquisition of Isaac Yiadom. A two-year starter at Florida State, where his father starred before embarking on a career in the CFL, Samuels recorded eight interceptions in three seasons, including four as a sophomore in 2018. However, he ran a 4.65 in the 40 at the 2020 Scouting Combine and went undrafted.

Samuels failed to make the roster and spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad, logging 13 snaps on defense in two gameday elevations.

The next round of roster cuts is due on Tuesday, Aug. 24, when rosters must be trimmed to 80. The roster must be cut to 53 by Tuesday, Aug. 31.