GREEN BAY – Geronimo Allison was disappointed but undeterred when he found out his fate during the Packers’ final round of roster cuts at the end of training camp.
The undrafted rookie receiver out of Illinois hoped a strong preseason in which he led the offense with six catches for 119 yards would catapult him onto the 53-man roster.
Yet, Allison wasn’t disenchanted when he was informed the Packers were waiving him. Instead of testing the waters elsewhere in the NFL, Allison signed to Green Bay’s practice squad the next day with the goal of finishing what he started.
The Packers rewarded the 6-foot-3, 202-pound receiver for his perseverance Monday when they promoted him to the active roster after Jared Abbrederis was placed on injured reserve.
“This is just a blessing,” Allison said. “When the opportunity presents itself, you have to make the most of it, and try to go out there and stack success going forward.”
Allison was joined on the active roster by defensive back Jermaine Whitehead, who also was signed from the practice squad on Monday after safety Chris Banjo was placed on IR.
The prevailing reason Allison stayed with the Packers was he felt at home both in the offense and locker room. Even if he wouldn’t be active in the opener, he was confident the Packers could turn to him at some point this season.
The Packers quickly took notice of Allison’s potential after he caught 106 passes with 1,460 yards in 24 games (22 starts) over two seasons with the Fighting Illini.
Allison’s length and ability were showcased in the Packers’ third preseason game against San Francisco when he caught three passes for 78 yards, including a 51-yard reception.
Still, Allison and the Packers believe the rookie receiver benefitted greatly from his past seven weeks on the practice squad, refining his technique and learning from the veterans.
“Clearly different receiver today than he was in Week 1,” said Head Coach Mike McCarthy of Allison. “I think he definitely challenged for a 53 spot. We felt fortunate to have him on our practice squad.
“He and Whitehead both were guys at the 53 that were involved in a lot of conversation. It’s an opportunity that both of these guys are ready (for). They’re more prepared today than they were coming out of training camp.”
Since the regular season began, Allison said there hasn’t been too much of a transition. He still studies the same way he did in training camp and takes notes in the receiver meetings.
The only thing that changes now is the sense of urgency that he could be called upon in Sunday’s game against Atlanta instead of being only a spectator on game days.
The Packers currently have seven receivers on their active roster, so Allison isn’t making any bold proclamations about what his role will be in the offense.
However, the receiver is excited about the possibilities after the Packers threw the ball 56 times in last Thursday’s 26-10 win over the Chicago Bears.
After impressing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the coaches during training camp, Allison plans to just be himself now that he’s on the active roster.
“It feels like the time is now, so I just have to step up and be prepared for it,” Allison said. “I am who I am. I go out there and know my job and try to do my job to the best of my ability. I know the material and try to be on the same page with Aaron and just make plays.”
Whitehead, a first-year defensive back out of Auburn, spent last season with the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens before signing with the Packers in May.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder had eight tackles and a pass deflection during the preseason before re-signing to the Packers’ practice squad the day after final cuts.
McCarthy said Whitehead will be looked to help on special teams with injuries mounting in the secondary. The Packers now have seven players on their injured reserve list after Banjo (hamstring) and Abbrederis (quad) were added on Monday.
“These medical decisions stress the roster and you have to make tough calls like that, but Jermaine has done a lot of nice things,” McCarthy said.