For an update on the kicking competition and some sloppy moments during Thursday’s practice, check out today’s feature story. As for other news & notes:
–Bigger presence: Head Coach Mike McCarthy couldn’t be happier with the start to camp of veteran S Morgan Burnett. It’s a big year for Burnett, who signed a contract extension just before camp began as he became the elder statesmen at the safety position with the departure of Charles Woodson.
Burnett had an interception in Wednesday’s practice, and then on Thursday, he chased down a deep ball intended for Jarrett Boykin and knocked it out of Boykin’s hands just as it appeared the receiver was going to have a TD catch.
“It’s not just the upgrade in his play, it’s the upgrade in his exertion of leadership and command in the back end, which is critical in our defense,” McCarthy said. “This is the Morgan Burnett that we know, and I think it’s now just being expressed a little more openly to everybody else. He’s doing exactly what he needs to do.”
Woodson’s departure in some senses forced Burnett into a bigger leadership role, and he also said he feels more comfortable being vocal and forceful with his calls now that he’s in his fourth season.
“As a safety, I have to be loud and decisive with my checks and calls, be the quarterback of the back end, and make sure we get lined up and ready to play,” he said.
“There’s no pressure (with the new contract). It’s really an honor and a blessing to know your organization is standing behind you. It motivates you not to let them down.”
–Officials on campus: A crew of NFL officials was working Thursday’s practice, and they will be at practice both Friday night and for Saturday night’s scrimmage inside Lambeau Field.
The officials will also take part in some of the players’ meetings to go over rules, rule changes and answer questions. The players will also be given a full presentation of rule changes and points of emphasis on Friday (a presentation also will be made to the media on Friday, and packers.com will put the highlights of that here in the blog).
McCarthy welcomes the interaction the players and coaches have with the officials at this time of year, because it only adds to a regular daily meeting the players have during camp that focuses on a specific rule or rule change.
“At the end of the day, everybody wants the same thing,” McCarthy said. “They want to make the right calls, and we want to make sure we’re coaching our guys the right way, because you don’t want to be talking about this on Sundays.”
–Spirited play: CB Loyce Means, formerly of the CFL, got a chance on Thursday to work with the No. 1 nickel defense and appeared pretty fired up about it. Early in practice, he took WR Myles White to the ground in a mini-scuffle on a screen pass and then hopped up and got in on the tackle. Later, in a one-on-one drill, he knocked away a pass on a post route to White.
Means was then beaten for a TD on an inside-out move in the end zone by WR James Jones, but Means looked agitated after the play, suggesting he thought Jones got separation with an illegal shove.
–Tough customer: Evan Dietrich-Smith is a starter in training camp for the first time in his career, and he’s showing no interest in letting anyone challenge him. After one play on Thursday, Dietrich-Smith was moving very slowly and trying to stretch out his arm and/or shoulder as he walked back to the huddle, but as Don Barclay jogged in to replace him and give him a breather, Dietrich-Smith waved him off and took the next snap anyway.
–Great matchup: Two of the early stars of camp, DL Mike Daniels and OT David Bakhtiari — both fourth-round draft picks the last two years — squared off in the one-on-one pass rush/pass blocking drill, and by subjective measure it was probably a draw.
Daniels used his brute strength to push Bakhtiari well into the backfield, but Bakhtiari managed to keep himself between Daniels and the QB the whole time. Daniels then showed off his strength again in blasting undrafted rookie lineman Lane Taylor off the line before Daniels finally met his strength match in veteran G Josh Sitton, who successfully held his own.
The best block of the day may have been turned in by LT Bryan Bulaga. In the set-the-edge drill against the outside linebackers, Bulaga locked up rookie Andy Mulumba, who has made a good early impression, and then lifted and planted the undrafted free agent on his backside, almost like a wrestler.
–Not his best day: WR Randall Cobb was not at the top of his game with two glaring drops during the workout. On the first, in a one-on-one drill against CB Micah Hyde, Cobb cleanly beat Hyde with an inside-out move but then had the pass bounce right off his hands. Later, in team work, he was open on a go route but had the ball glance off his hands as S Jerron McMillian was closing fast.
“We need to catch the football better,” McCarthy said. “I’ve never been part of a perimeter group that accepts anything less than 100 percent. That’s what we’re striving for.”
–Injury update: S David Fulton (foot) returned to practice after sitting out on Wednesday, and DL Johnny Jolly (ankle) also returned after dropping out early the previous day.
“Johnny has always been a tough guy, always practiced hurt,” McCarthy said. “That was no surprise to anybody. That’s a part of what makes him a unique football player, and obviously with the opportunity he has, I’m sure he’s going to take full advantage of it.”
S Sean Richardson, who had neck surgery last year, still doesn’t have a determination on his future, but it could be coming soon. Richardson has remained as optimistic as possible, all things considered, but there is a chance he won’t get medical clearance to return to the field.
“All the opinions from the doctors now have to weigh in and a final decision needs to be made,” McCarthy said.
Tags: bryan bulaga, david bakhtiari, evan dietrich-smith, johnny jolly, loyce means, mike daniels, mike mccarthy, morgan burnett, randall cobb
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