GREEN BAY — The Packers saw enough in Christine Michael’s late-season audition to take another look at the fifth-year running back.
The 26-year-old running back officially re-signed with the team Thursday after rushing for 114 yards and a touchdown in six regular-season appearances last season.
With mounting injuries in the backfield, Michael spelled Ty Montgomery during the final two months of the season after being claimed off waivers from Seattle in November.
While Michael worked to get up to speed on the playbook, his natural explosiveness could be seen in the Packers’ Week 15 matchup with Chicago when Michael busted a 42-yard touchdown in the third quarter of a 30-27 win over the Bears.
“I think he’s learning the offense pretty well,” said running backs coach Ben Sirmans in December. “Some of the things we do, there was some carryover (from Seattle). Maybe some of the terminology is different, but we’ve been spending extra time together.
“He’s just a sponge for learning because he wants to play. He knows the only way he’s going to be able to play is making sure he has a great understanding of the offense.”
The former second-round pick has rushed for 1,080 yards and seven touchdowns on 254 carries during stints with Seattle, Dallas and Green Bay over his first four NFL seasons.
Despite his midseason exit from Seattle, Michael still finished the year as the Seahawks’ leading rusher with 117 carries for 469 yards and six touchdowns in nine games (seven starts).
This will be an important offseason for both Michael and Montgomery, who made an in-season conversion from receiver. Both running backs will now have the opportunity to enjoy a full offseason program under Sirmans’ watch after picking up the playbook and scheme midstream last season.
The Packers currently have Montgomery, Michael, and fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Joe Kerridge, under contract for next season. They also maintain the exclusive rights to second-year running back Don Jackson, an undrafted free agent in 2016.
Injuries to veteran running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks forced the Packers to adjust on the fly with their backfield last season. When the dust settled, Montgomery, Michael and Ripkowski emerged as Green Bay’s top three backfield options.
Those three combined for 698 yards and nine touchdowns on 148 carries (4.7 yards per attempt) over the last nine games of the season (including playoffs).
With Michael’s return, the Packers know they’ll have all three options back in the fold for 2017.