GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson inexorably proved to be a medical marvel by running for nearly 2,100 yards and becoming NFL MVP last season, a year after shredding the ligaments in his left knee.
Andrew Quarless also succumbed to a major knee injury in December 2011, but the Packers' young tight end wasn't fortunate to take the Peterson-esque express lane back to football.
After missing the entire 2012 season following reconstructive surgery on his right knee, Quarless appears to be as good as new on the field again.
"Clearly the best shape that I think he's been in since he's been a Green Bay Packer," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I'd like to think he's fully past his injury. Sometimes, it takes a full year and a half to do that. He looks really good."
A fully recovered Quarless was cleared for the organized team activities, which are in the second week coming out of the Memorial Day weekend.
Quarless said the OTAs have given him his first opportunity to test the knee via running and cutting on pass routes since he went down in a heap in the Packers' Dec. 4, 2011, game at the New York Giants. Quarless suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments on kickoff coverage late in that game.
"I think it was just the preparation, getting the strength back and doing all of the workouts that prepared me," Quarless said of his full-time participation in OTAs. "They kind of threw me into it, which is not a bad thing. I kind of want to push it myself."
That Quarless did in the Packers' open workout Tuesday, when he turned a screen pass from Aaron Rodgers into what would have been a huge play in a competitive situation by cutting and bursting upfield ahead of the defense.
"I have all the confidence in the world that he's ready. Just watch him play -- he's probably moving better than he did before the injury," McCarthy said.
At first blush this spring, the team's decision to not re-sign rugged tight end Tom Crabtree, who bolted for Tampa Bay as a restricted free agent, was prudent with the expectations of a Quarless comeback.
The fourth-year player is as capable as Crabtree as an in-line blocker but an upgrade as a pass catcher. As a rookie in 2010, when the Packers took him in the fifth round of the draft out of Penn State, the 6-foot-4, 252-pound Quarless picked up the slack for injured Jermichael Finley with 26 catches for 284 yards and a touchdown in the team's run to the Super Bowl title.
A Finley-Quarless combo at tight end could be just what the Packers need to keep the vertically inclined offense humming after losing two veteran wideouts in the offseason -- Greg Jennings to rival Minnesota in free agency and Donald Driver to retirement.
"I really look for him to make an impact and definitely give us that player that we all felt was coming on there at the end of his rookie year," McCarthy said of Quarless. "He's the one guy that has shown an ability to play on the line and off the line. We're challenging the other tight ends to do so. He can clearly play all four positions for us in the tight end playbook. He looks good."
Before team management decides whether to show him the money, nose tackle B.J. Raji may have to show he can produce a great deal more.
Raji could very well head into next season playing for his next contract. His five-year rookie deal as a first-round draft pick in 2009 is up at the end of the season, and the prospect of him receiving a contract extension by then is purely speculative at this point.
"I'm not really going to talk contracts," Raji said Tuesday. "Obviously, the Packers are a great organization, and I'm sure they'll do right by me. I'll just leave it at that."
As they work on wrapping up the deals for this year's rookie class --- only defensive end Datone Jones (first round) and running back Eddie Lacy (second round) are unsigned -- the Packers still will have about $10 million in salary-cap room this year. That would give them the flexibility to hammer out something with Raji possibly before the start of the season, but general manager Ted Thompson may be apt to have the 2011 Pro Bowl selection play to earn a big payday.
Raji ranked second among Green Bay's defensive linemen with 51 tackles last season, but he didn't have a sack for the first time in his career.
"But, according to 'Trgo' (defensive line coach Mike Trgovac) and Coach McCarthy, they felt last year was probably one of my best pass-rushing years. So go figure," Raji said. "Obviously, I'd love to have the numbers to support that."
The desire to lock up Raji for the long term doesn't seem to be as great as it did earlier this spring when the Packers shelled out whopping extensions to Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews. All three players are represented by David Dunn.
The Packers bumped their offseason roster to 89 players -- one short of the maximum -- by signing undrafted rookie safety David Fulton on Tuesday.
The 6-foot, 196-pound Fulton had six interceptions, including a team-high four last season, in his college career at Division II Chowan (N.C.) University.