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Packers take character risk with TE Quarless

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers began the NFL draft by addressing their biggest need right away, finding a potential left tackle of the future in Iowa's Bryan Bulaga.

After that, Packers general manager Ted Thompson picked up players who could push veterans for playing time — although not necessarily at the positions they were expected to address in the draft.

The Packers traded up to take Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett in the third round, providing potential competition for Atari Bigby. Andrew Quarless, a fifth-rounder from Penn State, could push other tight ends. A pair of draft picks could figure in at 3-4 defensive end.

The team didn't address needs at outside linebacker, cornerback and punter. But Thompson said injuries sometimes test depth at unexpected positions, so he's generally better off picking the best player available.

"It's a long season," Thompson said. "And you have to be able to (find players) to maintain and sustain your success. The more guys you can get, the better off you are."

That said, Thompson acknowledged that he's still working on finding outside linebacker help, and coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged that the Packers are "not where we need to be" in terms of depth at the position.

Green Bay took Bulaga in the first round, then picked up Purdue defensive end Mike Neal and Burnett on Friday.

The Packers then kicked off Saturday by taking a calculated character risk, selecting Quarless in the fifth round.

Quarless emerged as a pass-catching threat for the Nittany Lions last season, with good size — 6-4, 254 pounds — and 4.58-second speed in the 40-yard dash. Pairing him with athletic third-year tight end Jermichael Finley could create matchup problems for opposing defenses.

Quarless acknowledged that he faced a long list of questions about his character from NFL teams.

"I really just spoke the truth, and spoke from the heart," Quarless said. "Just really let them know that I'm not the guy that I used to be, and that I've grown."

According to a scouting profile distributed by the Packers, Quarless was suspended by the team for an underage drinking citation in 2007, then suspended again for a DUI charge in 2008.

Quarless also confirmed reports that police found marijuana in his apartment in 2008, but said it wasn't his. Quarless said he subsequently took a drug test, the results of which he said "spoke for itself." Quarless also said he quit drinking after his DUI and hasn't had a drink since then.

"I think we felt comfortable with him," Packers tight ends coach Ben McAdoo said. "He's a young man that's been held accountable for his mistakes, and he's held himself accountable. As we move forward, we think his best days are ahead of him."

Quarless caught 41 passes for 536 yards with three touchdowns as a senior. His blocking skills need work, but he says he's up for the challenge.

Finley comes into the 2010 season as the Packers' No. 1 tight end after a breakout year. But the Packers like to use multiple tight end formations and Quarless will push Donald Lee and Spencer Havner — who was injured in a motorcycle accident — for playing time.

"Obviously, it creates some good competition in the room," McAdoo said.

The Packers continued to build their offensive depth later in the fifth round, taking Texas Christian offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse with a compensatory pick at the end of the round. They did not have a fourth-round pick after trading up to take Burnett on Friday.

Newhouse played left tackle at TCU, but Packers offensive line coach James Campen said they'll look at him as both a tackle and a guard.

"I'll play anything and everything," Newhouse said.

Green Bay took an injury risk with Buffalo running back James Starks in the sixth round, rolling the dice on a player who missed the 2009 season after having surgery on his right shoulder. Starks said the injury is fully healed.

"I'm very confident in my abilities," Starks said. "I'm going to prove to a lot of people that I'm healthy, that I can do a lot of things that (others) said I couldn't do."

He rushed for 1,103 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2007, then had 1,333 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2008. He also was a prolific receiver. Packers running backs coach Edgar Bennett said Starks' versatility is one of his strongest assets.

The Packers took another potential 3-4 defensive end, East Carolina's C.J. Wilson, in the seventh round.