- There's so much talent and depth at receiver that a little-known player like Alex Gillett would not seem to have much chance to the make the roster. And then he makes a catch like he did on Thursday. During a team blitz period, Gillett ran a go route down the left sideline. With the ball in the air, Gillett out-jumped rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson, who was in good position, and hauled in Matt Flynn's bomb. Earlier in the drill, the 6-foot-1 Gillett had a bad drop on a throw from Aaron Rodgers, but he bounced back in a big way. Gillett, who spent all of last season on the practice squad, converted to wide receiver late in his college career at Eastern Michigan after making 30 starts at quarterback. "When Aaron is in there and you drop a ball, that's one where you're kind of like, 'I need to make up for it.' That definitely crossed my mind," Gillett said.
- Speaking of depth at receiver, the Packers appear to be bullish on second-year pro Kevin Dorsey as a special teams player. Dorsey, a seventh-round pick in 2013 who spent all of last season on injured reserve, lined up with the No. 1 kickoff return team as a front-line blocker in a spot usually occupied by special teams ace Jarrett Bush. Dorsey then worked with the second-string unit as the kickoff returner.
- Safety Sean Richardson had his second interception of training camp. After wrestling a ball away from Jordy Nelson for an interception on Monday, Richardson came up with another one on Thursday. He picked off a Flynn pass that was deflected by cornerback Davon House. "Sean Richardson is having an excellent training camp," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. "He's done a lot of good things." Richardson has seen his practice reps increase not only because of his strong start but because starter Morgan Burnett has been sidelined by an ankle injury since midway through Wednesday's practice. Rookie first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix worked alongside Micah Hyde as the starting safety combination with Richardson and Chris Banjo as the top backups.
- In other odds and ends: Outside linebacker Mike Neal went 3-1 in the one-on-one pass rushing drill, although none of his turns came against a starter. His most impressive rep was against Don Barclay, who was playing right tackle. Neal used Reggie White's old club move to toss Barclay aside. … Starting right guard T.J. Lang, whose reps have been limited by a shoulder injury, won both of his one-on-ones, blocking Josh Boyd and Luther Robinson. Lang began most team drills with the starters but then gave way to Barclay after a few snaps. … Undrafted rookie linebacker Joe Thomas continued his impressive start to camp by whipping Barclay in the one-on-one drill.
- In addition to Burnett, add rookie safety Tanner Miller (ankle) to the injury list. Others who missed practice were receiver Jeff Janis (illness), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (back).
- Friday is the final 8:20 a.m. practice of training camp. The schedule shifts to the evening for Saturday's Family Night practice at 6:25 p.m. local time. Following an off day on Sunday, Monday's practice is at 5:30 p.m.
It was posed to perhaps the most recognizable member of the football officiating fraternity like this: "Sometimes you're a little wordy, at times, with your explanations…"
To which Hochuli good-naturedly cut in and said: "This is a kind of a wordy question. Could you get to the point?"
"We ask [Hochuli] the same thing," he said.
It then took the famously long-winded, well-muscled referee one minute, 25 seconds -- and 294 words -- to explain.
Not all of that will translate to this format, but the gist is this: In 1993, Hochuli, barely a year into his career as a head referee, was working the Thanksgiving game in Dallas between the Cowboys and Dolphins, known better as the Leon Lett game. The Cowboys would have won the game after a blocked field goal had Lett not tried to recover the loose ball in the snow, which allowed the Dolphins to regain possession and attempt the field goal again.
The play and the ruling that followed was confusing and required a lengthy explanation that unbeknownst to anyone at the time was the beginning of a career's worth of Hochuli's long-lasting clarifications. YouTube is filled with them.
"Believe it or not, I don't want to be as wordy as I am," Hochuli said. "My goal is to tell the announcers what's going on. If I can get them the information, they can then go on and explain from there. But I also find that people misunderstand what we did and why we did it. So if we don’t give an explanation a lot of times, people will make the wrong assumption. So if I can give some explanation, I get people headed down the right path.
"I know that sometimes there's more words than there needs [to be]. Sometimes I'll start talking and I'll think to myself, 'How am I going to end this one?' I've explained that and I kind of need to explain this, and it goes on and on and on."
Hochuli attributed some of that to his background as a lawyer.
For more than a half hour on Thursday, Hochuli explained the rules changes and points of emphasis that NFL officials will monitor this season. He and part of his crew are in town for three days to work Green Bay Packers' practices.
Perhaps the most notable point of emphasis this season will be on the stricter enforcement of defensive holding and illegal contact against receivers.
And the flags were flying throughout the practice.
"We started practice today and I think we [flagged] 10 out of the first 10 plays on the DB-receiver drill," Hochuli said. "Players will get it. The players adjust. They understand the rule changes, and they adjust."
That does not mean they will happy about it.
Throughout practice, defensive backs and defensive position coaches questioned members of Hochuli's crew about several calls.
"I didn't get a chance to talk to them, but I might have yelled a few things at them," Packers safety Micah Hyde said with a laugh. "It's tough. It's tough on the defense. I'm hoping it's not as touchy as it was today."
When you're a former first-round pick whose career, by almost any measure, has been a disappointment, how else is there to react?
On the day Perry made his 2014 practice debut after missing the entire offseason program because of lingering foot and knee injuries, the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker was nothing if not consistent when asked about his career thus far and where it might be headed.
Injuries ruined each of Perry's first two pro seasons. As a rookie, he played in only six games before a wrist injury ended his year. Last season, he played in 11 games but clearly was hobbled even after returning from the foot injury he sustained on Oct. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens.
"We've all got to deal with something throughout our careers," Perry said. "Hopefully, we're flipping the page on that, and we're looking forward to a better year this year."
Can you sense the pattern?
Perry would rather look ahead than look back.
Perhaps that's because there is not much to see in Perry's rear-view mirror.
It could have been different if not for the injuries. Perry, a defensive end in college at USC, was finally starting to look like an outside linebacker last season when he got hurt again. On the final defensive snap of the first half against the Ravens, Perry completed perhaps his finest half in the NFL when he sacked Joe Flacco and forced a fumble that Datone Jones recovered and the Packers turned into a field goal on the final play before halftime. In one half, he was credited with six tackles (five of them solo), a sack and a forced fumble.
But it was on the strip-sack play in which another player fell on his leg and took him out for the next three weeks and five of the next six.
The Packers have not stood still to wait for Perry to produce. They moved Mike Neal to outside linebacker last season and signed veteran pass rusher Julius Peppers this offseason. Peppers has been lining up at right outside linebacker, the spot Perry prefers, with Clay Matthews on the other side.
"There's always that notion that goes back that I think, if I could have been healthy things would have been better for me," Perry said. "I haven’t had the seasons that I've wanted due to that, but the main goal for me every year is staying healthy and playing to the best of my ability and helping my teammates any way I can. I'm glad to be here, and it's an honor to be here and I'm just ready to roll this year."
The ninth-year head coach still has two seasons left on the contract he signed after he won Super Bowl XLV, and it's a deal that pays him in excess of $5 million per season.
Nevertheless, it became a topic in training camp because as soon as general manager Ted Thompson signed his multi-year contract extension on Wednesday, he said McCarthy would be next.
"I'm focused on training camp," McCarthy said. "There's a process in place that will take its course. I've never sweated it. I love it here. I'm not worried about it."
Perhaps there would have been cause for concern had Thompson, 61, not accepted the extension from Packers president Mark Murphy and decided to walk away when his old contract ended following the 2016 draft.
Then, McCarthy, 50, would have been forced to work under a general manager that did not hire him, which could have presented a difficult situation.
"That's a hypothetical," McCarthy said. "I was never concerned about it. I haven't given it any thought. You know, once again, we work together every day, so I wasn't as surprised as maybe you were yesterday that it was done. So I wasn't concerned about that."
By all accounts, McCarthy and Thompson have a strong working relationship. The coach has never given any indication that he wants more control over the personnel side of the football operation.
"Very happy for Ted, personally," McCarthy said. "I'll just say, I think everybody that has the opportunity to work at the Green Bay Packers clearly understands this is such a unique organization, and the opportunity they give you with the positions that we have. So, very happy for him, and obviously you know it's something that's well-deserved."
It's a reasonable question considering the injury history of Nick Perry and to a lesser extent Mike Neal.
A day after Mike Neal was activated from the physically unable to perform list, Perry joined him on Thursday.
For a former first-round pick who has missed almost as many games (15) as he has appeared in (17) in his first two years, it was not the kind of offseason he needed.
"Availability is a primary focus for job responsibility, definitely," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said upon Perry's return Thursday. "We obviously have had some tough times in the past, but we feel like we're doing things to stay in front of that. Nick, sometimes players go through injury situations, one then two. Sometimes it just takes a little while to get off that cycle. Hopefully he's off that."
In their first practice together, Neal (who had a core muscle injury) and Perry were paired together as the No. 2 outside linebacker combination behind Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Last season, Neal and Perry combined to play more than 1,100 snaps. Their snap counts almost certainly will not be as high, considering Matthews and Peppers will be the primary rushers.
Last season, Neal played in all 16 games for the first time in his four NFL seasons. Perry played in 11 games last season and just six as a rookie.
McCarthy said Neal and Perry have no practice limitations.
"It was good to get Nick back out there," McCarthy said. "Mike obviously practiced yesterday and had a good day, did some really good things today. You can't have enough really good football players, and just getting them out there and getting them in sync with what we're doing and how we're using them to get the combination work, to get the feel for the next guy you're going to be rushing with in the game, that's a priority of training camp. These reps are so important. Missed practices in training camp in today's world is a little more magnified obviously than in past years."
However, the defense was still not at full strength because safety Morgan Burnett was held out after suffering an ankle injury during Wednesday's practice. Also, undrafted rookie safety Tanner Miller missed practice because of an ankle injury.
McCarthy did not have specifics about the long-term prognosis for either player.
No. 39: Bears 20, Packers 17 (OT) | Dec. 22, 2008
Sixty minutes wasn't enough to determine a winner in the 176th regular-season meeting between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.
The temperature at Soldier Field was announced at 2 degrees, which at the time was the coldest home game in Bears' history since they started keeping temperature records in 1963.
The Packers came in almost as cold, having lost four straight games while being eliminated from playoff contention in Aaron Rodgers' first season as starting quarterback. The Bears, on the other hand, were fighting for their playoff lives.
After the Packers jumped out to a 14-3 halftime lead, Chicago would rally to tie it at 17 with just over three minutes left in regulation. A 32-yard Will Blackmon kick return, paired with a 15-yard personal foul, put the Packers in field goal range.
With a chance to eliminate its longtime rival from playoff contention, Green Bay sent Mason Crosby out for a 38-yard field goal attempt. But it was not meant to be for the visitors, as Chicago's Alex Brown blocked the potential game winner and the Packers never touched the ball again.
In overtime, Chicago's Robbie Gould connected on an identical 38-yarder to keep the Bears' season alive despite being outgained by more than a 100 yards and never leading in regulation.
- Those wondering whether defensive coordinator Dom Capers would go with rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and second-year pro Micah Hyde as the No. 1 safety combination probably had their curiosity piqued on Wednesday, when that pairing debuted in the team red zone period. But it quickly became apparent that it was because Morgan Burnett had dropped out of practice. Coach Mike McCarthy said it was because Burnett "tweaked" his ankle.
- Cornerback Davon House continued his strong start to camp -- remember he had the strip-sack and fumble recover on Day 3 -- with a pass breakup in the end zone during the two-minute drill. On second-and-goal from the 1, Aaron Rodgers tried to throw a back-shoulder fade to Jordy Nelson, but House was there to knock it away. After practice, House revealed that he spent nearly a month prior to training camp working out in Phoenix with All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis and several other NFL defensive backs under the tutelage of noted trainer Will Sullivan. House said the biggest thing he learned from Revis was to play with confidence. "Every time I go out there, I just tell myself, 'This guy's not going to catch the ball,'" House said. "That's my mindset."
- It was the first time the Packers have practiced the two-minute drill this camp, and Rodgers ended the 12-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown to tight end Brandon Bostick on fourth-and-goal with 7 seconds left. The play before, when Rodgers threw the ball away in the face of pressure from Datone Jones, Bostick ran the wrong route, so it spoke well of him that Rodgers had the confidence to go back to him in that situation. Bostick received increased playing time with the starters and had his most productive practice to date.
- In other odds and ends: The Packers were back at the 90-man roster limit with the addition of receiver Gerrard Sheppard, who was claimed off waivers after being released by the Baltimore Ravens. The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Sheppard was the on Ravens practice squad last year after being signed as an undrafted rookie from Towson. … Datone Jones talked this offseason about using more power in his pass-rushers, and his bull rush worked in a one-on-one rep against practice squad tackle Aaron Adams. … Linebacker Jamari Lattimore handed tackle Bryan Bulaga his first loss in a training camp one-on-one drill since at least 2012. Lattimore beat Bulaga with a speed move to the outside. Bulaga was 6-0 last summer before his season-ending knee injury and had won his first four reps this year. … Guard T.J. Lang still did not take all the team reps with the No. 1 offensive line but increased his workload. He's battling a sore shoulder.
- The list of players who did not practice was down to four after outside linebacker Mike Neal passed his physical and was activated off the physically unable to perform list. He missed the first three days because of a core muscle injury. Neal worked in full pads. Those who still have not been cleared to practice were: linebacker Nick Perry (foot, knee), receiver Jeff Janis (illness), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (back). Worthy revealed that he underwent back surgery in April but said, "I will be ready for the season, I can tell you that much. This is not going to set me back."
- The Packers return to the practice field at 9:20 a.m. ET (8:20 a.m. locally) on Thursday. An NFL officiating crew led by referee Ed Hochuli is expected to arrive and work practice for the next several days.
But so far in the first two days of full-pads training camp practices, Raji has proven too much for Tretter to handle.
"If you ever want to get a center ready, B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd are your guys because they definitely present a challenge to covering up a center," McCarthy said after Wednesday's practice.
As pleased as the Packers are with Raji's start – assuming it's not simply a product of Tretter's struggles – it means Tretter still has work to do in order to convince them he can handle the giant task of starting at center on opening night against the Seattle Seahawks.
By now, Tretter's backstory has been told time and again. A fourth-round pick in 2013, he broke his ankle during his first OTA practice as a rookie and never played in a game – preseason, regular season or playoffs – last year. He came off PUP and began practicing last November at center after playing his college career at Cornell as a tackle.
He became the favorite to win the starting job – the fourth different starting center the Packers will field in as many seasons – after Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.
It has been anything but a seamless transition. Tretter has a 3-2 record in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill so far. That's a small sample but in a drill that favors the offense, that's a mediocre winning percentage. He's 2-2 against Raji and 1-0 against Boyd. Raji also manhandled Tretter in the one-on-one run-blocking drill on Wednesday and also during a team period for a tackle for loss on running back Eddie Lacy.
"He's getting a lot better," Boyd said. "He's got a very strong punch, very strong hands. He's getting a lot stronger with his feet, and he's a real quick guy. He's going to be good; he's just got to keep working at it."
The Packers seem inclined to give Tretter the time.
“He needs every rep,” McCarthy said. “I can’t tell you if there is someone in the locker room that’s prepared himself as much as he has, and he’ll continue to do so. It’s not going to look clean; our team isn’t clean. Let’s be honest with you, we’ve missed blocks, we’ve did some wrong things. That's why you practice. Our fundamentals are critical, and that goes from the player to the group all the way through. But JC needs this work."
So what's the best way to gauge B.J. Raji's impressive start to training camp?
While defensive coordinator Dom Capers should be giddy that his recently re-signed nose tackle has dominated both one-on-one drills and team run periods, coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the overseers on offense could have some concern that most of Raji's damage has come at the expense of the Green Bay Packers' projected new starting center, JC Tretter.
Or maybe they are two separate, unrelated issues.
Let's first examine Raji's start, which has been perhaps the most impressive stretch of practices in his six NFL training camps, and we'll get to Tretter and the issues at center later.
Since the pads went on for Monday's practice, here are Raji's turns in the one-on-one pass rushing drill:
- Beat Tretter with a speed move to the inside.
- Beat Tretter with a bull rush.
- Beat second-year guard Andrew Tiller.
- Lost to Tretter but still got some push.
- Beat undrafted rookie guard Jordan McCray.
- Lost to Tretter.
- Lost to former practice-squad center Garth Gerhart.
The final four reps came on Wednesday, and it appeared Raji may have worn down. But his 4-3 record is more than acceptable in a drill that typically favors the offense and might be a sign that Raji's sackless streak, which is at 35 straight regular-season games, could come to an end early this season.
But the Packers did not re-sign Raji to a one-year, $4 million contract for his pass rush, but rather to become the kind of run-stuffing nose tackle he was during his first two NFL season. To that end, Raji owned Tretter in the one-on-one run blocking drill on Wednesday and then carried it to the team run period, when he stuffed Eddie Lacy at the line of scrimmage on one play.
"He looks great," second-year defensive tackle Josh Boyd said after Wednesday's practice. "I guess he's got a point to prove."
Raji's production cannot be attributed solely to the fact that Capers moved him back from defensive end to nose tackle in the offseason. Perhaps the fact that whatever free-agent interest he drew -- he said four or five teams called -- was not anything better than the one-year deal the Packers offered served as an eye-opener.
"I think every year is a prove-it year for everybody," Raji said. "But particularly in my case, I know that's what I look for. It wasn't like I went into it with closed eyes. I came back with something on my mind; that was to help the defense become the best that we can be. And, obviously, I have some individual goals."
At the top of that list are these two: general manager-coach and coach-quarterback.
The Green Bay Packers have quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed through 2019. On Wednesday they locked up general manager Ted Thompson with a multi-year contract extension.
"It's been the plan the whole time," Thompson said Wednesday shortly after his extension was announced. "The way the organization is set up – obviously, I'm not giving any trade secrets away – it's the way it's always been done here: The general manager kind of gets put away and then you do the head coach."
All indications are the working environment on the football side of the offices at Lambeau Field is as harmonious as ever. Whatever competitive clashes they might have had in the past, the relationship between McCarthy and Rodgers appears strong. As for the GM and the coach, Thompson says it like this: "We anticipate each other's thoughts often, which might drive both of us crazy sometimes, but I think it's working well and has worked well. Obviously, we see things pretty close."
Anyone who doesn't believe the coach and GM must be of like mind was not around Lambeau Field in 2005, when Thompson and then-coach Mike Sherman barely spoke. Thompson, who was brought in after then-Packers president Bob Harlan stripped Sherman of the GM job, tried in vain to work closely the head coach he inherited. In fact, Sherman could have survived the 4-12 season had he been more receptive to Thompson's arrival rather than shutting him out, according to several members of the organization at the time.
Thompson made it clear when he completed an exhaustive coaching search to hire McCarthy in 2006 that he never intends to go through that again.
At the Packers' annual shareholders meeting in 2013, Thompson told the assembled crowd: "I thank God every day that he's the Green Bay Packers’ head coach."
Together, McCarthy and Thompson have an 88-50-1 overall record, including playoffs.
"I think when two people work together for as long as Mike and I have, I think you develop certain understandings of each other," Thompson said Wednesday. "There are certain things you can communicate that are unsaid as opposed to originally when you probably need to spell everything out."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Without saying exactly how much longer he plans to stay on, Packers general manager Ted Thompson could say without wavering that his desire to continue has not waned.
That was moments after Thompson signed what the team termed "a multiyear contract extension" to remain in charge of the football operations on Wednesday. Thompson's most recent contract, which he signed following the team's Super Bowl XLV victory, would have expired following the 2016 NFL draft.
"The more you think about it, the more you think how nuts are you that you'd walk away from something like this," Thompson said. "It's important to me. It's not my family, but I've got a lot of really good friends here and co-workers that I enjoy coming to work with every day."
Just this spring, there were questions about whether Thompson would even finish out his current contract. At his annual pre-draft news conference in May, Thompson appeared worn out. That followed his absence from the NFL annual meetings in March because of an unspecified health issue that prevented him from traveling.
But shortly after the draft, Thompson, 61, denied that he had plans to quit anytime soon.
"I was asked that question a lot -- how long I was going to go? -- but I've felt good," Thompson said. "You always self-evaluate as you go along in life. How much longer do you want to do this? I have family back home in Texas, and I've not done a good job of this but I'm going to make a more concerted effort to go back home and see them from time to time. It won't be months at a time, but I want to go back and be more connected to my family."
Under Thompson, the Packers have a regular-season record of 86-57-1 plus a 6-5 mark in the postseason.
"I'm pleased that we were able to enter into this contract extension with Ted," Packers president Mark Murphy said in a statement announcing the extension. "His outstanding work has been the key factor in the success that we've enjoyed in recent years. I have tremendous respect for Ted, and am confident that we will continue to contend for championships under his leadership."
Thompson is entering his 10th season as the Packers' general manager, and every player on the Packers' roster was acquired under his watch. Even back in Super Bowl XLV, 49 of the 53 players on the roster were Thompson acquisitions. He also hired coach Mike McCarthy, who he said was next in line for a contract extension.
Thompson's first draft pick, quarterback Aaron Rodgers
As always, you can follow all the happenings at practice in real time on ESPN’s NFL Nation Blitz and click on the GNB tab for the Packers or via my Twitter account @RobDemovsky.
Before the Packers hit the field again, it's a good time review some of the major story lines from the first three days of training camp:
- Receiver Jordy Nelson signed a four-year, $39 million contract extension just minutes before camp opened on Saturday.
- Here's a complete, season-by-season breakdown of Nelson's contract.
- Fellow receiver Randall Cobb, who likely is next in line for an extension, said he does not believe has done enough to warrant an extension yet. What he might mean is he hasn't done enough to get the kind of money he wants.
- Players are snacking on the practice field during their water breaks, which is something new.
- Clay Matthews has returned from the broken thumb that ruined his 2013 season, and it appears he -- and the rest of the linebackers -- will have more variety to their roles this season.
- Speaking of linebackers, that's where Julius Peppers is playing after spending most of his career as a defensive end. The 34-year-old believes his new team and his new role suits him well.
- Mike McCarthy called Micah Hyde's transition from cornerback to safety "seamless" as Hyde continued to work with the starters ahead of first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
And finally, here are the camp reports from the first three days:
Status quo: It's status quo among the three specialists -- kicker Mason Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and long-snapper Brett Goode. There's no in-house competition at those positions. Crosby, who was under the microscope at this time last season after coming off a sub-standard 2012 season, appears to be in a similar groove to last season, when he made a career-best 89.2 percent of his field goals. In the only field goal period of camp so far, he made 7-of-8 kicks, including a pair of 50-yarders.
Returners wanted: Special teams coach Shawn Slocum is shuffling returners through the drills like it's a wide-open competition. The days of receiver Randall Cobb handling the duties appear to be over even though he's their most accomplished returner. Safety Micah Hyde, who had a punt return for a touchdown last season as a rookie against the Vikings, has gotten the first crack at the job again. But rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis and second-year receiver Myles White also have gotten looks. Running back DuJuan Harris looks like the early leader to handle kickoff returns.