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Torn ACL Helps New Tight End Reach New Level

The Packers signed tight end Daniel Crawford and defensive lineman Josh Avery following the retirement of rookie receiver Bailey Gaither.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – With Josiah Deguara and Dominique Dafney on the comeback trail, the Green Bay Packers fortified the tight end group by signing undrafted rookie Daniel Crawford.

Crawford takes the place of undrafted rookie receiver Bailey Gaither, who was not present at practice on Monday and decided to retire. With the arrival of Randall Cobb, Gaither was one of 13 receivers on the roster. He’s the second player to retire during camp; 2020 sixth-round guard Simon Stepaniak retired a few days ago.

Also on Tuesday, according to a source, the Packers are signing a defensive lineman.

After missing the 2018 season due to a torn ACL, Crawford caught 37 passes for 443 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games as a junior and 21 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown in six games during his COVID-abbreviated senior season.

That year away from the game was key in his development.

“I always knew that I had the toolbox to make it to the next level but there’s certain things you’ve got to do to put things together,” he told the College2Pro podcast before the draft. “I started putting them together a year after I got injured. I took that year off to watch a lot of film. I was able to look at the game from a different standpoint and see what it was that coaches were looking for from their players, what mentality it took and what physical shape and level you had to be in. I took that to another level, whether it was in the classroom, in the film room, in the weight room. I knew I had the talent but it was more so the tangible things of what makes a pro a pro.”

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Crawford was born in Williamsburg, Va., and spent time in The Netherlands before moving back to the United States in third grade. He played soccer overseas but switched to football in the U.S. He made the move to tight end during his sophomore year of high school in Macomb, Mich.

“I played defensive tackle and I played a little bit of offense” in youth football, he said. “Always wanted to have the ball in my hands but they had the black tape on my helmet because I was too heavy. They kept me on the line. I got to high school and I told them, ‘I need to be able to touch the football or else I’m going to stick with basketball.’ So, they let me try out at tight end and it’s been rolling since.”

Crawford jogged onto the field early in Tuesday’s practice. Coach Matt LaFleur interrupted the tight end drills so Crawford could meet his new teammates.

At NIU’s pro day, he measured 6-foot-1 3/4 and 245 pounds. He ran his 40 in 4.70 seconds.

In the podcast, Crawford said athleticism and route-running are among the strengths to his game.

“I’m pretty good with the ball in my hands, especially after the catch,” he said. “I’m not just a guy that’s going to catch the ball and get 5 yards. I’m trying to turn a 5-yard play into a 50-yard play. I’m not afraid to block. I like to get my face dirty.”

Gaither overcame a torn Achilles at San Jose State. Gaither wore No. 80; Crawford was given No. 80.