A day earlier, backup QB Graham Harrell didn’t get an opportunity with the second unit. On Tuesday, he did, and he succeeded as well.
Needing a touchdown with 1:54 on the clock and two timeouts, Harrell drove the offense 60 yards to paydirt. The big play was a 24-yard completion to TE D.J. Williams on a middle seam route that put the ball in the red zone. Three plays later, Harrell fired a back-shoulder throw to WR Tori Gurley, who was covered tightly by CB Sam Shields. Gurley made the adjustment on the ball, juggled it, and hauled it in as he was falling to the ground for a 10-yard TD with 34 seconds left.
Harrell first showed his cool in those pressure situations last summer in the third preseason game in Indianapolis. As the No. 3 QB, Harrell drove the Packers 73 yards for a TD and 2-point conversion that tied the game with 35 seconds left. He completed seven of nine throws on the drive and threw for the 2-pointer. Following a successful onside kick, he completed two more passes for 20 yards to set up the game-winning FG.
Other camp notes:
–The team practiced 2-point conversion plays for the first time in camp on Tuesday. Last season, the Packers attempted just one two-point play on offense, but had to defend six tries on defense. The Packers went 0-for-1 while their opponents went 4-for-6 in 2011.
–Wednesday will mark the final of six straight 8:15 a.m. practices. Beginning on Thursday, practices will be held either at 7 p.m. (with Friday’s Family Night scrimmage at 6:30 p.m.) or 3:30 p.m. for the next two weeks. Following the second preseason game, practices shift to late morning, beginning at either 11:15 a.m. or 11 a.m.
Tags: 2-minute drill, d.j. williams, graham harrell, tori gurley
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 23 Comments »
OLB Erik Walden has been suspended for the Packers’ Sept. 9 regular-season opener. The NFL released the following statement on Tuesday:
“Erik Walden of the Green Bay Packers has been suspended without pay for the team’s first game of the 2012 regular season for violating the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.
Walden will be eligible to return to the Packers’ active roster on Monday, Sept. 10 following the team’s Sept. 9 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Walden is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.”
Tags: erik walden, suspended
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 7 Comments »
Karen Lasater of Pound, Wis. became the one-millionth visitor to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame today. She and her four grandchildren, Rachel, Easton, Paige and Payton, were visiting Green Bay to watch Packers Training Camp.
Beyond the celebratory balloons, football cupcake and a custom jersey enshrined with “HOF 1M Fan”, Lasater was surprised when Packers Hall of Fame and Stadium Tour Manager Krissy Zegers presented her with a lifetime membership to the Packers Hall of Fame.
“You’re kidding,” Lasater said. “I never expected any of this to happen today. It’s a good thing I decided to come over here when I did!”
Lasater said that she had been to the Hall before, but it was many years ago when it was located elsewhere. After spending some time out at Nitschke Field with her grandchildren, she wanted them to experience the team history that can be seen while walking through the over 25,000 square feet of Packers artifacts.
Many people did the same last year, as the Hall welcomed more than 156,000 visitors during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
The group finished their day at Curly’s Pub where President/CEO Mark Murphy made a surprise visit.
To view the photo gallery, click here.
The Packers Hall of Fame is located one level below the main Lambeau Field Atrium floor. For hours of operation and more info, please visit http://www.packers.com/lambeau-field/hall-of-fame/visit.html.
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“Absolutely,” Saturday said after Monday’s practice. “That’s why I came here. When we sat down and I talked to Mike (McCarthy) … ‘What’s the goal?’ ‘To win a championship.’ It’s not to win a division, … it’s to win a championship. I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I’ve only got so many left.”
Entering his 14th season, Saturday went to two Super Bowls with the Colts, winning one. He’s now working with his second MVP quarterback in Aaron Rodgers after snapping to Peyton Manning in Indianapolis for roughly a decade.
“I tell them, those guys are awfully lucky to have me as a center,” Saturday said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “No, I’m just kdding. It’s incredible. How blessed can you be, right? You go from MVP to MVP, and both guys are well-deserving.
“Aaron is an absolute stud. I’ve been impressed with his work ethic, I’ve been very impressed with his knowledge of the offense, and I’m excited to have a chance to win with him. Let’s go try to put another trophy on the shelf, man.”
The Packers brought Saturday to Green Bay to help them win, of course, but also to possibly help tutor a center of the future. The best candidate at the moment is Evan Dietrich-Smith, whom Saturday already has taken under his wing. Saturday said he’s been feeding Dietrich-Smith various “little tricks of the trade.”
“I keep telling him, you have to try all these things, and once you get them, they help you go a long way,” Saturday said. “They look really good in a game. When you practice them against the same guy every day, it may not look as good. But you get accustomed to doing them in the game and they’re going to make you a better player.
“He’s a great kid. The kid’s got a great future ahead of him and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
Elsewhere on offense, WR Tori Gurley continues to get opportunities to use his 6-4, 232-pound frame on jump balls. The QBs gave him repeated tries at an end-zone/corner-fade, and he came down with the first two. The first one was in a one-on-one drill against CB Casey Hayward, and after the catch, Rodgers encouraged Gurley to celebrate with the crowd. Call it a “Nitschke Leap” for Ray Nitschke Field, but the crowd was eating it up.
“I’m just having fun,” Gurley said. “I see how (Donald) Driver gets the crowd going, so I was like, you know what, I can do the same myself. Every time I catch a ball, I just wink at somebody and enjoy myself.
“I look forward to “Lambeau leaping” pretty soon.”
Gurley’s other jump-ball TD came over CB Otis Merrill in an 11-on-11 red-zone period. In a later red-zone team period, QB Graham Harrell tried to go up top to Gurley, but CB Davon House played the ball well and kept it from Gurley’s grasp.
“He plays his technique well and he uses his size,” Gurley said of House, who’s 6-1, 195. “He was able to make some plays. I got him and he got me. We’re just going to keep competing, and hopefully Family Night, I have the better showing.”
Tags: aaron rodgers, graham harrell, jeff saturday, jump ball, mvp, tori gurley
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 20 Comments »
News and notes from Monday:
–General Manager Ted Thompson commented on the pre-camp release of safety Charlie Peprah: “Charlie’s a great guy. He’s one of us. He helped us win a Super Bowl. We just felt it was time to move on.”
–Thompson defended a Packers defense that came under a lot of fire last season: “Our offense was clicking every week last year. When you’re playing an offense like we had last year, you have to up the ante a little bit. I think we were a little better defensively than the numbers project.”
–Rookie quarterback B.J. Coleman is getting a full dose of coaching from the trio of Head Coach Mike McCarthy, Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements and Quarterbacks Coach Ben McAdoo, and Coleman is already showing signs of improvement.
“They’re unbelievable at developing the quarterback position. The other piece of it is Aaron (Rodgers), watching him and how he goes about his business, how he operates this offense. I feel very confident when the ball comes out of my hand. I’m just getting there. The biggest thing is making sure you’re like a sponge.”
–Packers wide receiver Tori Gurley was a teammate of O.J. Murdock’s at South Carolina. It was reported on Monday that Murdock, a wide receiver for the Tennessee Titans, had died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“Coming out of high school, he was ‘The Man.’ He was one of (Steve) Spurrier’s first highly touted guys to come to South Carolina,” Gurley said of Murdock, who Gurley described as a “laid back guy.”
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LB Clay Matthews spoke to reporters after Saturday’s practice for the first time in training camp, and when asked whether the Packers’ defense would improve in 2012, he basically said the Dom Capers-coordinated unit has no choice.
“We need to be better,” he said. “Obviously when you finish 32nd, that’s not acceptable, especially for the way in which we played the first two years under Dom’s scheme. So we need to get better, we will get better, and I think the guys we brought in here, the attitude, the learning experience from last year, I think we will be better.”
One of the guys brought in, of course, is Nick Perry, who has been with the first unit at outside linebacker opposite Matthews since the day he arrived. When he’s not in the middle of a play or drill, Perry is often seen either chatting with Matthews or position coach Kevin Greene, and Matthews complimented his willingness to learn.
Mentoring a younger player is a bit of a new role for Matthews, but he’s embracing it so far.
“We work in unison together, so obviously he needs to look to me to give him advice,” Matthews said. “We’re going to be working together on the field a lot, so I need to be a mentor towards him, whether I want to or not. But I think that’s the natural progression of not only having the same position on the field, but me, as far as my maturation, going into my fourth year, and believing that I can be a leader.”
In other news:
–LB Desmond Bishop admitted he’s a bit frustrated with his recurring calf injury. He’s dealing with it now after having missed three games last season with the same problem. He said he didn’t have a timetable for his return, but he said he’s in no way concerned about this latest problem lasting until the start of the regular season.
“Minor setback,” he said. “It’s not as bad as it was last year. That’s the positive.”
–One player quietly off to a strong start in camp is WR James Jones. He has made multiple catches by leaping high over defenders to haul the ball in, including one Saturday over CB Sam Shields. The only blemish on Jones’ first three days of camp was his fumble on Saturday, when he was stripped by CB Davon House after making a reception. Jones admitted House “got me good.”
“Aaron has been throwing the ball up pretty good, letting us go up and make some plays,” Jones said. “That’s good, because when the games come, it’s going to be a lot of jump balls, a lot of competitive balls, so to get them started in camp early will help us out down the road.”
–Undrafted rookie RB Marc Tyler has changed uniform numbers. Through the spring and the first two days of camp, he was wearing No. 27. On Saturday, he switched to No. 26, which had been S Charlie Peprah’s number. Peprah was released on the eve of camp.
Tyler wore No. 26 in college at USC. That was also the number worn by his father, Wendell Tyler, a former Pro Bowl RB for the L.A. Rams and San Francisco 49ers.
Tags: clay matthews, desmond bishop, james jones, nick perry
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 46 Comments »
Forgotten amidst his breakout season as a receiver in 2011 was the fact that Jordy Nelson remained a regular on special teams, particularly on the kickoff-return unit as a blocker. He has resumed that role in camp, though Mike McCarthy said how much Nelson plays on special teams this year will depend on how the rest of the roster takes shape. Despite 1,263 receiving yards and 15 TDs last year, Nelson isn’t being removed from special teams, but McCarthy doesn’t plan to overwork him, either.
“Philosophically, I believe in starters should or could play special teams,” said McCarthy, who used starting cornerback Tramon Williams as his primary punt returner throughout the Super Bowl season of 2010. “I don’t think there’s an absolute as far as starters play or don’t play. I don’t believe in that theory.”
In addition, WR James Jones could be seen on Friday on the punt-return unit, not with the ball in his hands but either rushing the punter or blocking the gunners on the outside.
“He’s doing some really good things,” McCarthy said. “He definitely has the ability to be a dominant-type special teams player because he is so physical and gifted, and he also can run and play the top-notch gunners.”
There already has been much speculation about how many receivers the Packers will keep on the roster. Practice-squad holdovers Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel are sixth and seventh options at the position at the moment, and McCarthy indicated special teams contributions will play into those final decisions.
Other news & notes from Friday’s practice:
–On the sideline in the Don Hutson Center was a new clock, which was set at 2.5 seconds and would start at the snap of the ball on a passing play. If the clock hit zero before the QB released the ball, the clock’s twirling green and red lights would flash. The clock serves as a reminder of the “internal clock” needed on any passing play, for the QB, receivers and defenders. QBs must release the ball or get out of the pocket, while receivers and defenders have to know when the play transitions to a scramble drill, when their responsibilities and adjustments can change. McCarthy said 2.4 to 2.5 seconds is the range on most pass plays.
–With Derek Sherrod (leg) out, Herb Taylor and rookie Andrew Datko have been the offensive tackles with the No. 2 offensive line. On Thursday, Datko was at LT and Taylor was at RT with the second unit. On Friday, they switched spots.
–Dom Capers often likes to work his outside linebackers in pairs. Clay Matthews and Nick Perry form the top pair, of course. The other pairings are undrafted rookie Dezman Moses with Erik Walden and Brad Jones with Vic So’oto.
–The biggest collision of the first two days of non-padded practices occurred when QB Graham Harrell scrambled to his right and fired along the sideline to TE Ryan Taylor. Several players were converging on the area, and as Taylor made the catch, WR Shaky Smithson and CB Casey Hayward collided heads and went down. Both got up and appeared OK.
–Hayward made his first “splash” play of camp, picking off a Harrell pass intended for Borel during a no-huddle period.
–The play of the day was turned in by Cobb, who went deep against Williams as QB Aaron Rodgers ran his patented play-action fake with a deep dropback. Cobb ran underneath the Rodgers rainbow and made an over-the-shoulder, sliding catch with Williams right on him all the way.
–WR Greg Jennings was looking in midseason form, too. Twice in practice Rodgers lobbed one up for Jennings on a go route and the smooth, seasoned pro came down with it both times. On the first, he beat CB Davon House with a diving catch. On the second, the throw came right over CB Charles Woodson’s shoulder and into Jennings’ arms.
Tags: aaron rodgers, greg jennings, james jones, jordy nelson, randall cobb, special teams
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 2 Comments »
Packers team leader Charles Woodson welcomes the kind of verve rookie defensive lineman Jerel Worthy displayed in practice on Friday.
“I like our energy. I think that’s something we were missing last year,” Woodson told reporters following Friday’s practice, which was moved inside the Hudson Center due to rain.
Woodson delivered a kind of an unofficial state-of-the-defense preseason address to reporters. He began his remarks with thoughts on his move from cornerback to safety.
“I’m going to roam a little bit. It’s different than corner. It’ll be fun to play more safety. It’ll play to my advantage,” he said.
He also addressed the attempt to improve a defensive unit that fell to last in the league in 2011, following a No. 5 overall ranking in 2010. Poor tackling was a major contributor to the decline of the Packers defense last season.
“Any time there’s a defect in your game, it has to be an emphasis the next year. We have to make sure our defense is a fast and flowing defense, and if the first guy doesn’t get him, the second guy does,” Woodson said.
Posted in Packers.com Blog | 6 Comments »
Packers second-round draft pick Jerel Worthy attracted attention and criticism for a comment he made at Michigan State about needing to take plays off once in a while. Worthy took no plays off in Friday morning’s practice. The defensive lineman was the high-energy player of practice, which was forced indoors by rain.
Worthy chased after receivers following completions. His voice could be heard celebrating defensive stops and his motor never stopped. Worthy was all over the field and finished a couple of plays on the turf in a tangle of players he created.
Most notably, it appears Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers might have had his two-down lineman nickel defense in mind when Worthy was selected with the 51st overall pick of the 2012 draft. Worthy and B.J. Raji are the two down linemen in the Packers’ nickel defense, and it’s a role Worthy appears to relish. He was a chase tackle at Michigan State and he appears to be reveling in the space he has to operate in Capers’ nickel, which is clearly in Capers’ plans for this season.
Also in Friday’s practice:
…It’s becoming obvious the Packers have a creative role in mind for second-year wide receiver Randall Cobb.
…Backup quarterback Graham Harrell threw arguably the most impressive completion of the morning, a deep out to Cobb, who caught the ball and turned up field to pull away from rookie safety Jerron McMillian, whose coverage on the play was tight.
…Safety M.D. Jennings made an interception off a deflection.
…Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ signature pass might be the back-shoulder throw, and he tossed a beauty of one to Jordy Nelson along the right sideline. Unfortunately, Nelson dropped the pass.
…Undrafted free agent linebacker Dezman Moses appears to be competing for more than a roster spot. He appears to be competing for playing time.
…First-year safety Anthony Levine broke impressively on a pass along the sideline and nearly made an interception.
Tags: aaron rodgers, anthony levine, b.j. raji, dezman moses, dom capers, graham harrell, jerel worthy, Jerron McMillian, jordy nelson, m.d. jennings, randall cobb
Posted in Packers.com Blog | 7 Comments »
Rookie defensive lineman Mike Daniels had waited a long time to finally suit up for the Packers. The fourth-round draft pick out of Iowa missed all of the OTAs and minicamp workouts in the spring due to a shoulder injury. He had undergone shoulder surgery in January following the completion of his college career.
Daniels got to practice for the first time on Thursday as training camp opened, albeit with a harness for his shoulder (rookie LT Andrew Datko, who has a history of shoulder trouble, wore one as well). It won’t be known if he’s medically cleared to practice with pads on until the first padded practice on Saturday — the same goes for RB Alex Green, who also practiced on Thursday for the first time in 2012 following reconstructive knee surgery — but Daniels was grateful to finally get on the field.
“I won’t lie to you, I was a bit nervous at first, but just getting back in the swing of things, it really did feel good,” Daniels said.
Other news & notes from the opening practice:
–With LB Desmond Bishop (calf) out, second-year pro D.J. Smith took Bishop’s reps with the No. 1 defense. He showed up, too, snagging and interception in a 7-on-7 drill and then on the first play of a team (11-on-11) period immediately after, deflected an Aaron Rodgers pass that CB Charles Woodson intercepted.
“D.J. is a guy who might fool you by his size, but he makes a ton of plays out there,” Rodgers said. “He’s really smart.”
–With Woodson playing safety in the base defense, M.D. Jennings became the fifth defensive back in the nickel package, coming onto the field at safety as Woodson moved to the slot.
–The standout player on defense on opening day was probably CB Jarrett Bush, who worked with the No. 1 base defense opposite CB Tramon Williams with Woodson at safety. Bush broke up a pass to TE Jermichael Finley in a team period and then had another impressive PBU in 7-on-7. Later, in the final team period of practice, he was in great position on a jump ball to WR James Jones, but Jones made a remarkable leaping catch to take the ball away from him. Jones made the play of the day there.
–Also worth noting on defense, LBs Jamari Lattimore and Brad Jones were moved from outside to inside during the offseason, but only Lattimore remained inside on Thursday. Jones was back at his more familiar outside spot. It will bear watching as camp continues whether Lattimore and Jones settle in one spot on defense or work at multiple ones.
–It may have had something to do with the portion of the offense being installed, but it was a busy day for the tight ends in the passing game. All of the TEs, from Finley down to undrafted rookies Eric Lair and Brandon Bostick, got their share of throws. Second-year TE D.J. Williams was in on plenty of action, making one nifty leaping catch on a ball thrown slightly behind him. As for any WRs who stood out, Jordy Nelson looked smooth as always hauling in a couple of deep balls, and undrafted rookie Curenski Gilleylen made a diving catch on an out route from QB Graham Harrell. Later, in 7-on-7, Gilleylen reached up to snare one on a crossing pattern.
–Evan Dietrich-Smith is clearly the No. 2 center behind veteran Jeff Saturday, and he even took a few of Saturday’s reps with the first-team offensive line. Two other young centers, former practice-squad player Sampson Genus and undrafted rookie Tommie Draheim, were rotating between taking snaps at center and guard. Draheim is trying to make the transition from left tackle in college at San Diego State.
–P Tim Masthay is K Mason Crosby’s primary holder, but the Packers lost their backup holder to free agency when QB Matt Flynn signed with Seattle. The new backup holder? WR Randall Cobb, who held for two successful Crosby FGs.
Tags: bishop, d.j. smith, daniels, finley, green, jones, lattimore, randall cobb, rodgers, Woodson
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp | 5 Comments »