If necessary, McCarthy prepared to go with just two RBs

Posted by Mike Spofford on September 19, 2013 – 4:36 pm

With RB Eddie Lacy (concussion) and FB John Kuhn (hamstring) still not having practiced this week, Mike McCarthy said on Thursday he’s prepared to go into Sunday’s game at Cincinnati with just two running backs — James Starks and Johnathan Franklin — if he has to.

RB Johnathan Franklin

RB Johnathan Franklin

“I’m prepared. That’s my job,” McCarthy said. “The preference is not to go into the game with two running backs. We’ll be much better prepared than we were two years ago in Kansas City.”

McCarthy referred to that game as a “hard lesson,” as the Packers’ only healthy RBs for that contest were Ryan Grant and Kuhn, and Grant had bruised ribs coming in. McCarthy said the game got to a point in the second half where “it was time to run the ball,” but Grant had to sit out a series or two and the Packers didn’t have the firepower in the backfield to make it go.

The Packers do have one RB on the practice squad, rookie Michael Hill from Missouri Western, so if neither Lacy nor Kuhn can play, Hill would be a possible third back, but a player would have to be released in order for Hill to be signed to the 53-man roster.

An emergency option would be WR Randall Cobb, who has carried the ball out of the backfield at times the past two seasons, but McCarthy said he’d never put Cobb in a workhorse-type position.

“I don’t want to make a living running the ball with Randall Cobb, let’s be honest,” McCarthy said. “Randall is a dynamic player, but he doesn’t need to be lined up behind center carrying the ball 20 times. That’s not the plan.”

It’s also not the plan to automatically sit all of the Packers’ injured players because the bye week is coming up, though McCarthy did indicate S Morgan Burnett (hamstring) is a “longshot” to play this week.

In Thursday’s full-pads practice, CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring) joined Burnett, Lacy and Kuhn as a non-participant, while TE Jermichael Finley (toe) and DE Johnny Jolly (neck) practiced but were limited. G T.J. Lang (back) was added to the report as a limited participant, but McCarthy didn’t believe his injury was anything serious.


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CB Casey Hayward still out; more on injuries

Posted by Mike Spofford on September 18, 2013 – 4:44 pm

CB Casey Hayward

CB Casey Hayward

Packers CB Casey Hayward has been ruled out for the third straight week to start the 2013 season with a hamstring injury, so the earliest Hayward could see the field this season will come after next week’s bye.

“He just tells me he’s making progress,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “He had a similar injury. This one wasn’t supposed to be as bad as when he hurt it the first time, the day before he came back for training camp, so he’s making progress.”

Hayward missed the first three full weeks of training camp before returning to practice, but then he aggravated the hamstring when he tried to play in the third preseason game vs. Seattle, on Aug. 23. He has not practiced since.

Also missing practice on Wednesday were CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring), FB John Kuhn (hamstring), RB Eddie Lacy (concussion) and TE Jermichael Finley (toe). Finley was on the report last week and rested the toe at times and then still played in the game on Sunday.

S Morgan Burnett (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis, but in the portion of the workout open to reporters, he was doing jog-thru work on the scout team, so he may be held out until after the bye week as well.

DE Johnny Jolly is also listed on the injury report with a neck injury, but he was a full participant in practice.


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Josh Sitton, Jermichael Finley miss practice on Wednesday

Posted by Mike Spofford on September 11, 2013 – 4:54 pm

LG Josh Sitton (back) and TE Jermichael Finley (toe) both missed practice on Wednesday, leaving their status for Sunday’s game against Washington in doubt. Also, S Morgan Burnett (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis, but Head Coach Mike McCarthy said it would take the entire week to determine whether or not Burnett can play.

LG Josh Sitton

LG Josh Sitton

Sitton had his back flare up on him during the long flight to San Francisco, but he played the whole game. The long flight back didn’t help matters, though.

“It’s feeling better than it did Monday and Tuesday, but I don’t know, we’ll see,” Sitton said. “We’ll be able to gauge it more as the week goes on.

“It’s one of those things that comes and goes, and hopefully it’ll go away before Sunday.”

Sitton had a rough second quarter in San Francisco, getting called for three penalties — two holding and one illegal hands to the face — while trying to block All-Pro Justin Smith. Long story short, Sitton wasn’t crazy about the calls.

“You can’t really do anything about the officials,” he said. “I don’t necessarily agree with a couple of the calls, but you can’t do anything about it. Screaming and complaining about it isn’t going to get you anywhere. Old ‘94’ (Smith) out there is a pretty good actor. He likes to throw his hands up in the air a lot, pretend like he’s getting held. Nothing you can do about that.”

If Sitton is unable to play on Sunday, McCarthy said that Marshall Newhouse would be the next lineman in. Newhouse started primarily at tackle the past two years, so one possible lineup would put Newhouse at right tackle and move Don Barclay to Sitton’s left guard spot. Newhouse also could play guard, though he hasn’t done so in a regular-season game in his career.

“Things are kind of open,” Newhouse said. “We’ll be flipping a lot and taking a lot of reps and things are still up in the air as far as that’s concerned. I know the offense well.

“There shouldn’t be any dropoff. I’ve always prepared mentally like I’m a starter, and in 2011 when my number was called, I was ready.”

Finley will be “hard pressed” to practice on Thursday, according to McCarthy, but any decision on his game status would wait until at least Friday.

“I’ve got the mentality that I want to play,” said Finley, acknowledging that the best medicine for his sore toe is rest. “I don’t have it in my mind that I want to sit down Sunday. We have four days until Sunday, so if it’s up to me, I’m going to be out there.”


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News & notes: Johnny Jolly took nothing for granted

Posted by Mike Spofford on September 2, 2013 – 4:30 pm

For the latest on new backup QB Seneca Wallace and some thoughts from the undrafted rookies who made the 53-man roster, check out today’s feature story. Here are some other news & notes.

–Jolly took nothing for granted: From the outside looking in, it appeared Johnny Jolly was a sure bet to make the team after such a strong preseason, but Jolly confessed he wasn’t sure of anything on cutdown Saturday.

DE Johnny Jolly

DE Johnny Jolly

“I had my phone in my hand all day,” he said. “I was checking it. I was on my toes all day.

“I didn’t know. I was scared all the way up until the last minute. It’s a blessing that I’m here. I don’t have to worry about that now.”

Making the team after a three-year absence is impressive in itself, and now Jolly wants to contribute to the defense and add to this remarkable story. He hasn’t played in a real NFL game since 2009, when he was a key cog in the Packers’ top-rated run defense, and while he said the long wait was the hardest part, he doesn’t spend any energy looking back anymore at the opportunity he wasted.

“I might drive myself crazy thinking about how good I could have been, coming from 2009, which was a good season, up until this point,” he said. “If I worry about that, I won’t be able to focus on what I have going right now.

“It’s amazing that I’m even back in this situation. I have to take advantage of every chance I get.”

–Barclay starts at RT: It took a while for him to find a home in training camp, as the coaches were trying Don Barclay at backup center and guard, as well as the right tackle spot he played last year.

RT Don Barclay

RT Don Barclay

But once Barclay got to right tackle for good, he did his thing. By all appearances, he has won the starting job and will open the season at RT in San Francisco on Sunday, with rookie David Bakhtiari starting at LT and veteran Marshall Newhouse backing up both spots.

“As far as our tackles, I like all three tackles,” Mike McCarthy said. “Don started today at the right tackle. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marshall plays in the game. Don is very consistent. He’s physical, and he’s a young ascending player. We’re going to need all those guys.”

Barclay said he continues to get more and more comfortable working alongside RG T.J. Lang, after having played next to Josh Sitton last year as a rookie. He said it made a difference to be in his second year because he knew more about what to expect and how to watch film.

“It was a battle all camp, and it’s still being a battle,” Barclay said. “Every day you have to go out there and prove yourself, and solidify your spot every day.”

–Up in the air: McCarthy was non-committal about whom the Packers would use as their primary return man for Week 1, mentioning WR Jeremy Ross, CB Micah Hyde and RB Johnathan Franklin all as candidates. Ross has returned both punts and kicks, while Hyde has worked as a punt returner and Franklin as a kickoff returner.

“We’ve got some work to do in the return game,” McCarthy said. “We have some decisions to make.”

–Injury update: The first official injury report of the regular season will be released Wednesday, but it’s worth noting that two defensive starters who missed the final preseason game with hamstring injuries — LB Brad Jones and S Morgan Burnett — were back on the practice field on Monday.

CB Casey Hayward, who also has been out with a hamstring injury, did not practice, however.

–Fond memory: New practice-squad QB Scott Tolzien recalled a moment from his pro day workout in Madison, Wis., prior to the 2011 draft when McCarthy, unsolicited, came up to chat with him. Tolzien had just led the University of Wisconsin to its first Rose Bowl appearance in a little over a decade.

“Him coming over saying he appreciated what I did in my career there, basically what our team did, what our program did — for a guy like that to come over, he didn’t have to say that,” Tolzien said. “He went out of his way to. You’ll always remember that and appreciate those comments.”


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McCarthy reacts at halftime of #GBvsKC

Posted by Duke Bobber on August 29, 2013 – 8:34 pm

HEAD COACH MIKE McCARTHY
(on his impression of the team in the first half) “Well, we just told the offense it’s a bump-and-run, man-to-man game. This is great work for our quarterbacks against pressure. We’ve got to extend the play more, whether it’s the run-blocking unit, the pass-protection unit—get after the guys on the perimeter. Defensively, I think we’re doing a heck of a job, particularly keeping them out of the end zone here. We had the one penalty that extended the drive. We’re doing a great job on third down. Special teams is always a challenge in this game and we’ve just got to do a better job keeping our sideline management, making sure we’re coordinating who is in this game.”

(on how it feels to return to Kansas City, the place where he began his career) “It’s always special coming back here. Great place.”


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News & notes: McCarthy takes exception to Manning penalty

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 26, 2013 – 5:40 pm

On Monday, Head Coach Mike McCarthy talked about the decision to release K Giorgio Tavecchio and what that might mean going forward, while QB Aaron Rodgers recapped the Packers’ preseason thus far.

Other news & notes …

–Highly questionable call: McCarthy isn’t going to tell LB Terrell Manning to do anything different next time.

LB Terrell Manning

LB Terrell Manning

In the fourth quarter of last Friday’s preseason game vs. Seattle, Manning blitzed Seahawks QB Brady Quinn and drilled him, shoulder to chest, as he released the pass and the two crashed to the turf. Manning was then flagged for roughing the passer, with the official explaining that Manning brought his weight down on Quinn at the completion of the play.

McCarthy doesn’t agree, at all.

“I thought Manning’s hit on the quarterback was textbook,” McCarthy said on Monday. “Frankly, when the quarterback jumps in the air and the linebacker is blitzing, and he hits him with the shoulder and so forth, I don’t know how you don’t have a weight-bearing issue. I think (the problem is) the way the rule is defined and written as opposed to the intent of it.

“I think there needs to be a second action by the defender in a pinning, weight-bearing mode, and that clearly wasn’t the case with Terrell. He hit Brady Quinn, who was in the air, both his feet were off the ground, and when they did hit the ground, he continued in one fluid motion and rolled off. So I didn’t agree with the call at all.”

Manning was visibly upset with the call at the time, but to his credit, he kept his composure for the most part. The penalty came on third-and-8 and gave Seattle a first down, but three plays later the Seahawks punted anyway.

“At the end of the day, I had to move on quickly because when I’m out there, I’m the signal caller, so I have to get my defense lined up and ready for the next play,” said Manning, who said he hasn’t heard from the league about any possible fine. “Of course I was a little shocked and displeased, but I have to have short-term memory out there to make sure the team is ready to go.

“The coaching staff definitely had my back. They said it was a good, clean hit, keep going. Anytime you have the head coach and everybody else telling you that, you feel pretty confident in what you did.”

McCarthy often has expressed confidence in the league’s efforts toward player safety, but the application in this instance didn’t take all the circumstances into consideration.

“We can’t control the fact the quarterback’s feet are off (the ground),” he said. “In fairness to the referees, those plays happen fast, and I get all that, but I don’t think that’s what we’re looking for.”

–Williams back to work: CB Tramon Williams practiced on Monday for the first time since the first padded practice of camp, which was back on July 28.

CB Tramon Williams

CB Tramon Williams

He’s been nursing a painful bone bruise on his knee since then, but he tested it out in a limited number of snaps in Monday’s no-pads practice, and the early reports were good.

“It felt OK. Coaches limited my reps, obviously, but it felt good for the most part, moving around against different guys,” said Williams, who played some bump-and-run against receivers and didn’t hold back when he was on the field. “I wondered how that would feel, but it held up. It was encouraging.”

Encouraging enough for Williams to feel better about his chances of making it all the way back for the season opener at San Francisco, but as has been his approach, no guarantees.

“I think so,” he said when asked if Week 1 is realistic. “I still don’t want to go out and say that I will be there Week 1, but for me to be out here now, I think it’s definitely a possibility.”

–More on injuries: McCarthy ruled out LB Brad Jones (hamstring) from Thursday’s game in Kansas City, having already done so with S Morgan Burnett and CB Casey Hayward, who also have hamstring injuries.

Rookie WR Kevin Dorsey (toe) and LB Dezman Moses (toe) did not practice on Monday.

RB DuJuan Harris (knee) is getting a second opinion on his injury, so there’s no definitive update on his situation.

–Smooth it out: The backup center position has been a rough spot through much of training camp. Early on, Don Barclay was having QB-C exchange issues before moving back to tackle full time, and lately Greg Van Roten and Patrick Lewis have struggled with some shotgun snaps.

Van Roten is the leader for the backup job but rolled another shotgun snap back to the QB in practice on Monday.

“Greg has been given the majority of (the second-team work),” McCarthy said. “He needs to clean some things up. He had one or two things go on today that he needs to clean up, … and from Seattle.”


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News & notes: WRs Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb on their way back

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 25, 2013 – 5:39 pm

On Sunday, Head Coach Mike McCarthy explained the team’s decision to release QB Graham Harrell, which can be found here. A third kicker was also added to the competition, and you can read about his strong first impression here.

Other news & notes from the day…

–Nelson, Cobb back to work: WRs Jordy Nelson (knee) and Randall Cobb (bicep) were back on the practice field on Sunday, a good sign that the Packers WR corps could be at full strength for the season opener in San Francisco. Both players ran routes during a lengthy jog-thru period and did some conditioning work after.

Neither receiver has played in a preseason game yet, so Thursday in Kansas City would be the last opportunity, but that isn’t taking paramount importance.

“I don’t think it’s going to matter, because if I do play, it’s not going to be much,” Nelson said. “I think that little bit of work is not going to make a difference if I get it or not, but we’ll see.

“I feel good. If it was a regular-season game, we could definitely be going. But we still have to be smart, see what happens, and take it day by day.”

Cobb is taking the same approach. Wearing a compression sleeve on his injured right bicep, Cobb said he will play “free-minded” and not have any worries about the injury when he’s out there full time.

“I can play. If it’s up to me, I’d be on the field (Thursday), but we’re going to be smart about the situation,” he said. “We know what we’re dealing with and we know what we’ve got going forward, so we’re going to be smart about it.”

–Banjo making roster bid: Rookie S Chris Banjo, who went undrafted out of SMU, is making a bid for the No. 4 safety spot on the roster with his heads-up play on both defense and special teams.

In last Friday’s game in Seattle, Banjo made an impressive tackle of TE Luke Willson just shy of the first-down marker on third-and-5, forcing the Seahawks to punt. Later, he brought down former Packer Will Blackmon on a punt return.

“Chris Banjo has been making plays since he arrived,” Mike McCarthy said. “Very pleased what he has shown so far. This will be a big game for all the young guys, and definitely for Chris.”

There’s no guarantee the Packers will keep four safeties, but starter Morgan Burnett sustained a hamstring injury last Friday, which could force the Packers to go deeper at the position, increasing Banjo’s chances.

Banjo has been working against the odds from the start, arriving four days into camp after being released July 25 by Jacksonville.

“It was definitely tough, I can’t lie, especially on the defensive side of the ball, so much new terminology and all the adjustments,” Banjo said. “Trying to get all that put together and looking like I belong on the field, not looking lost, that was definitely a tough curve. But day by day I’m getting better at it, and I’m trying to put it all together.”

Injury update: Of the players injured in last Friday’s game, McCarthy said Burnett (hamstring) and CB Casey Hayward (hamstring) would not be available this week. LB Brad Jones (hamstring) could be back sooner than the other two.

RB DuJuan Harris (knee) and CB Jarrett Bush (ankle) also missed practice, while TE Matthew Mulligan (elbow) returned.

CB Tramon Williams (knee) would not rule himself out for Week 1 in San Francisco, but he wasn’t guaranteeing he’d be ready, either.

“We’re taking our time with it,” he said. “There was never a timetable set for it, but it wasn’t serious. That’s what was coming from the doctor. We’re still pushing and, like Coach said, making progress.”


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News & notes: M.D. Jennings constantly reminded of Seattle

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 20, 2013 – 5:33 pm

For a recap of Tuesday’s practice, which featured the backup QBs as Aaron Rodgers sat out with an illness, check out today’s feature story. Here are some other news & notes:

–Constant reminder: S M.D. Jennings isn’t thrilled with his current fate, which is being forever connected to last year’s “Fail Mary” on the final play in Seattle. He can’t escape reminders of it wherever he goes, though he’s always a good sport about it and has signed autographs of the famous end zone picture when asked. Of course, the reminders are back again this week with the Seahawks coming to Lambeau Field for a preseason game.

“All the time,” Jennings said of how often he’s reminded of last year’s Week 3 contest. “It’s something that’s stuck with me unfortunately. It’s something I’m trying to get over. I don’t want to be remembered by that play. I just try to go out there and play football.

“It’s not about Golden Tate or the Seahawks. It’s just about getting better as a team and getting ready for the regular season.”

More important to Jennings, he’s trying to lock down the starting safety spot opposite Morgan Burnett. He’s been competing with Jerron McMillian throughout the preseason, and based on the way the reps with the first unit are being distributed in practice, Jennings is in the lead for the starting job.

He’s taking nothing for granted, though. Any talk of what he’s working to improve on always comes back to the basic fundamentals.

“I’ve been trying to focus on playing with better pad leverage and pursuit angles to the ball, just things of that nature,” he said. “I really know which way the coaches are going to go with it. All I can do is go out there and do my job.”

No matter who wins the starting job, both Jennings and McMillian are expected to play from scrimmage in the various defensive packages. Neither has made any standout plays in the preseason yet, but two games still remain.

“It’s always a learning curve,” McMillian said. “You need to be accountable, make plays and play as fast as you can. Not have any mental errors. That’s your quickest way on the field is to make sure you know what’s going on.”

–True contender: Mike McCarthy said earlier this week that rookie CB Micah Hyde would get an opportunity to return punts, and he was the returner taking the first rep on Tuesday. Hyde had a 13-yard punt return last week in St. Louis and could make a strong bid for the job with a good showing against Seattle.

–Injury update: The only changes to the injury list were that CB James Nixon (ankle, knee) returned to practice, while CB Loyce Means (ankle) was sidelined.

–Finley fans: TE Jermichael Finley makes a big play or two in practice every day, and Tuesday was no exception. Finley continues to beat defenders down the middle of the field and on crossing routes, providing a steady target for whichever Packers QB is throwing the ball.

“This is the Jermichael Finley I work with every day,” McCarthy said. “This man approaches football the same way every day. He’s a joy to coach. Physically he’s in a place he wants to be and he’s clearly having his finest training camp. It’s clear-cut.”

QB Vince Young, a teammate of Finley’s for one season at the University of Texas, said more than once that he’s proud of the former Longhorn, who came into the NFL two years after Young did.

“He’s got a lot of swag,” Young said. “You can tell he’s feeling it right now.”


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News & notes: Dome will be new to LT David Bakhtiari

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 15, 2013 – 4:35 pm

For the rundown on Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s press conference after the final practice of the week prior to the preseason game in St. Louis, check out today’s feature story. Here are some other news & notes from Thursday:

LT David Bakhtiari

LT David Bakhtiari

–Bakhtiari new to domes: It’s just the preseason, but rookie LT David Bakhtiari will get his first taste of playing football in a dome on Saturday night in St. Louis, and that could be important.

“I’ve been in a lot of loud stadiums, but I don’t think I’ve played in a dome before,” Bakhtiari said. “It will be my first time for that.”

As usual, the Packers piped in crowd noise during the week of practice for many of the team (11-on-11) periods to work on their silent count. The experience, even if it’s only loud for the first series or so and won’t be as loud as it would be in a regular-season game, could be valuable for Bakhtiari because the Packers have three regular-season dome games this season — at Minnesota, Detroit and Dallas.

–Youth in secondary still shining: Rookie CB Micah Hyde made yet another big play in practice on Thursday, leaping at the goal line to intercept a pass that was intended for a receiver running a crossing route in the back of the end zone.

It wasn’t as spectacular as the interception Hyde made on Wednesday (click here and scroll down to the “Plays of the Day”), but it was a pretty nifty play nonetheless. With CBs Tramon Williams (knee) and Casey Hayward (hamstring) still sidelined, Hyde likely will start on Saturday night.

Mike McCarthy noted how strong an impression Hyde made when he first arrived in Green Bay for rookie orientation. The coaches were firing punts and kickoffs out of a Jugs machine to numerous players and various places on the field, testing the rookies’ abilities to track down the ball and catch it in difficult spots. Hyde, a fifth-round draft pick, stood out during the drill.

“To see his ability to catch the ball on the run and do different things, I was tempted to put him on offense,” McCarthy said. “I think he has that type of ball-skill ability. He’s doing some really good things as a young player.”

Another young defensive back who made a big play on Thursday was rookie S Chris Banjo, who intercepted a pass in the end zone intended for TE Brandon Bostick. Banjo wasn’t signed until three days into training camp but is making a bid to stick around in some capacity.

“I love the way he’s played,” McCarthy said of the SMU product. “He’s one of the guys we recognized in our team meeting. The safeties are a lot like our whole defense. We have very good depth over there.”

–WR response: In response to retired WR Donald Driver’s comments about QB Aaron Rodgers’ leadership, which lined up in some ways with the criticisms put forth earlier by former Packers WR Greg Jennings, current WR James Jones had this to say about players taking responsibility for their mistakes:

“It’s everybody’s responsibility,” Jones said. “Everybody in here is a man. You’re not in college no mre, you’re not in high school no more. When you make a mistake, you have to own up to your own mistake.

“Just because we have a good quarterback, it ain’t his responsibility to take everybody else’s wrongdoing. If we make a mistake, we own up to our mistakes. When he makes a mistake, he owns up to his. He lets us know when (we’re) wrong, and we let him know when he’s wrong.”

–Injury update: In addition to the injury updates provided in today’s main story, OL Andrew Datko returned to practice from a concussion. He had been out since late last week.


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News & notes: Mike Neal has ‘best practice’ of camp

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 14, 2013 – 5:11 pm

For the rundown on QB Aaron Rodgers’ chat with reporters at his locker, in which he talked about his lighter workload and the “vibe” of the team, check out today’s feature story. Here are some more news & notes from Wednesday:

–Neal flashes in new role: He missed time early in camp due to an abdominal injury and sat out the first preseason game, but DE Mike Neal is starting to look more comfortable in his new hybrid lineman-outside linebacker role.

DE Mike Neal

DE Mike Neal

On Wednesday, Neal was showing up in a number of drills, including the OLB-RB blitz pick-up and the one-on-one pass rush, where he worked from both inside and outside. He also stuffed one running play in team (11-on-11) work and was a factor at the line of scrimmage on a number of other snaps.

“Today was probably the first time we felt what we hope he’s about — his ability to be a difference-maker, the ability to put him in one-on-one situations and for him to win and to win consistently,” Mike McCarthy said. “I think Mike had his best practice today of training camp.”

Neal is taking a liking to the hybrid role now that he’s had more time to absorb the responsibilities of the OLB position, a process that began in OTAs. The next step will be to carry the kind of impact he had on the practice field on Wednesday into the preseason game in St. Louis on Saturday, which he said he’s definitely looking forward to.

“I think it best suits me. Just using my athleticism is probably the biggest thing,” Neal said. “The learning part of it is what they wanted me to (accomplish) so I can put myself in those positions.”

–Young to get more plays: McCarthy said he’s seen a lot of progress in QB Vince Young now that he’s been in camp for a week, and he plans to get Young more snaps with a larger play selection in Saturday’s game.

Young took a number of snaps in the team drills on Wednesday and appeared to be getting the ball out of his hand faster on pass plays, an indication he’s understanding the scheme more and more.

“It’s important for Vince to be able to call it, see it in his mind and be able to execute,” Rodgers said. “Seven days after he’s been here he’s definitely improved with the verbiage and he’s making some plays.”

–Injury update: WR Randall Cobb (bicep) and RB James Starks (illness) sat out practice, while G T.J. Lang (back) returned and TE Ryan Taylor (knee) was back on the field for the first time since the Family Night scrimmage. DE Ryan Pickett also returned after missing a day for personal reasons.

RBs Eddie Lacy and DuJuan Harris were cleared for more contact, with Lacy doing more in the team drills than Harris did. Lacy didn’t appear to have any issues with his hamstring, but he stopped short of saying he would for sure have clearance to play on Saturday in St. Louis. Both Lacy and Harris missed the first preseason game last week.

“Most likely they’re going to make the decision, but you have to look at the bigger picture,” Lacy said. “Preseason is a time for you to go out there and showcase what you can do and get a taste of how it is, how it’s going to be when the season gets here. But if you’re not 100 percent or don’t feel you can go, then don’t risk it.”

–Plays of the day: Two of the rookie stars thus far in camp have been undrafted WR Tyrone Walker and fifth-round CB Micah Hyde, and the pair made two of the highlight plays in practice again on Wednesday.

Walker made a nifty tip-toe catch right at the front pylon of the end zone on a throw from QB Graham Harrell after Harrell scrambled to his left to buy extra time.

Then, moments later, Hyde was in coverage on a fade to the corner of the end zone to WR Myles White. With his back to the ball, Hyde turned his head at just the right time to see it and deflect it. As he fell to the turf, the ball then hung on Hyde’s hip and he was able to tip it back to himself, make the interception and get up to run.

The grab looked similar to Antonio Freeman’s “Monday Night Miracle” against the Vikings in 2000, only it was a great defensive play rather than an offensive one.

“I knew it didn’t hit the ground,” Hyde said. “Luckily I was able to tip it back into my hands.”


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