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Hayward right in the mix

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 1, 2012 – 2:05 pm

Rookie CB Casey Hayward’s strong practice on Wednesday came mostly while defending the biggest receiver on the roster, 6-4 Tori Gurley.

Matching up against big targets is nothing new to Hayward, who played at Vanderbilt in the SEC, but doing so at the NFL level does present its challenges.

“No doubt, because he’s a big guy,” Hayward said of Gurley. “He kind of reminds me of a tight end, but he moves very well to be that big. You can’t let him get his hands on you.”

Hayward admitted he’s still making some rookie mistakes out there, but he’s trying to use any mistake as a chance to learn. He’s certainly right in the mix for playing time at cornerback with a competitive group that also includes Jarrett Bush, Davon House, Sam Shields and Brandian Ross.

“Certain calls I’m playing full speed,” Hayward said. “Sometimes I question myself, but I shouldn’t, because I know the plays.”

Other notes from Wednesday’s practice:

–K Mason Crosby went 2-for-2 again in a FG period, hitting a pair from 45-plus. Crosby has yet to miss a FG in camp through six practices.

–TE D.J. Williams has been getting plenty of attention thus far in camp, and rightly so, but fellow second-year TE Ryan Taylor is starting to show up, too. Taylor made a couple of big catches during team drills, including one where he dove toward the sideline as he finished a crossing route and hauled in the pass with a linebacker trailing in coverage.

–The “old” guys continue to make plays on a daily basis. CB Charles Woodson had a diving interception over the middle on a fourth-down throw by QB Aaron Rodgers, and WR Donald Driver got open deep behind S M.D. Jennings and caught a perfectly thrown deep ball from Rodgers.

–WR Greg Jennings turned in what was probably the play of the day in his first day back after missing a few practices with an elbow bruise. Jennings caught a ball right in stride that deflected off TE Jermichael Finley and may have been deflected by CB Tramon Williams as well.

–LB Desmond Bishop and FB John Kuhn both must practice two times in shells before they can put full pads on, and they got their first day in on Wednesday. If they practice in shells again Thursday night, that would make them eligible to put pads on for Friday’s Family Night scrimmage, but it seems unlikely they’ll do so.

“You know I would if they let me, but I’m not sure how that would work,” Bishop said. “I don’t foresee them letting me the first day in pads go in the scrimmage. So I’m guessing Sunday.”

–In addition to Commissioner Roger Goodell, other big names in attendance at Wednesday’s practice included former Packers GM Ron Wolf and Hall of Fame head coach and former broadcaster John Madden.


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Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp

Harrell leads successful 2-minute drill

Posted by Mike Spofford on July 31, 2012 – 4:20 pm

Tuesday’s practice marked the second straight day QB Aaron Rodgers led the first-team offense down the field for a score during the two-minute drill.

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.


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Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp

Saturday came to Green Bay to win

Posted by Mike Spofford on July 30, 2012 – 2:45 pm

New Packers center Jeff Saturday used the phrase, “Make no bones about it.” He chose Green Bay in free agency because he wants to win another title.

“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.”


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Posted in Packers.com Blog, Training Camp