NFC North: Green Bay Packers

Packers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
6:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:


  • Lest you forgot about Sean Richardson when it came time to talk about playing time at the safety position, the third-year pro reminded everyone of his potential on Monday. With the pads on for the first time, Richardson made a play that has rarely been replicated by a Packers safety since the days of Nick Collins or Charles Woodson. During a team blitz period, Aaron Rodgers fired a pass over the middle to Jordy Nelson but Richardson jumped in and snatched the ball away from Nelson for an interception.
  • For the first padded practice of camp, the temperature on Monday morning when things kicked off at 8:20 a.m. local time was just 56 degrees. An hour into the practice, it was not yet 60 degrees, but the Packers took one of their TV timeout regeneration breaks and followed it with one short period followed by another water break. Still, when asked whether it was fun to put the pads on, veteran guard Josh Sitton said, "I mean, fun is a little strong." The practice lasted 2 hours, 26 minutes – or about 10 minutes longer than the non-padded practices each of the first two days.
  • Nose tackle B.J. Raji got off to a strong start in the first one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He won all three of his reps. Of course, when someone wins, it means someone else looked bad. Twice, Raji beat JC Tretter, who is trying to lock down the starting center job. Raji beat Tretter with his quickness on one turn and then overpowered him on another. Tackle Bryan Bulaga also looked good in his first turns since blowing out his knee last camp. He won all three of his reps, including one at left tackle against Clay Matthews.
  • In other odds and ends from practice: Cornerback Davon House had a strip-sack of Matt Flynn and recovered the fumble during the team blitz period. … If you're looking for an undrafted rookie to watch, keep an eye on inside linebacker Joe Thomas of South Carolina State. He's a bit undersized (6-1, 227) but is around the ball often. … In what could be a bad sign for undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, he was relegated to the scout team that worked against the defense at the start of practice while the majority of the offensive players, including fellow undrafted rookie tight end Justin Perillo, practiced inside the Hutson Center at the start of the session.
  • Outside linebacker Mike Neal said he could be cleared to practice as soon as Wednesday. He remains on the PUP list with a core muscle injury but is scheduled to be examined on Tuesday. He said he reported to camp lighter than ever, at 263 pounds. He played last season at 275, which is about 25 pounds lighter than he was is first three seasons, when he played defensive end.
  • In addition to Neal, others who remained out were: Nick Perry (foot, knee), Jamari Lattimore (illness), Jeff Janis (illness), Letroy Guion (hamstring), and Jerel Worthy (back). Janis made an appearance at practice for the first time in camp.
  • The Packers do not practice on Tuesday. They return to the field on Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. local time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Julius Peppers, all 6-foot-7 and 287 pounds of him, strikes an impressive pose on the practice field.

He stands – literally in some cases – a head above his new Green Bay Packers teammates.

That was unmistakable even in shorts and helmets during the offseason practices.

Put the pads on, like the Packers Monday did for the first time in training camp, and the full-frame image of Peppers was even more impressive.

He looks the part of a pass-rusher worth the $7.5 million signing bonus the Packers forked over as part of the three-year, $26 million free-agent contract he signed in March. He split four reps in his first go-around in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill on Monday, registering two victories.

[+] EnlargeJulius Peppers
AP Photo/Morry GashJulius Peppers is excited about his role with the Packers.
But it looks like the Packers are going to ask him to do more than just rush the quarterback.

And that's fine with him.

He's an outside linebacker now in a 3-4 base scheme after playing the last four years as a defensive end in the Chicago Bears' 4-3 system and before that in Carolina for eight seasons.

There he was on Monday, dropping into coverage against tight end Jake Stoneburner on a crossing route.

Although Peppers would not concede that he needed a change to revitalize his career, which he does not believe needs revitalization, there's reason to think the 34-year-old who is entering his 13th NFL season has a renewed sense of purpose on the field.

"It's fun. It's fun," he repeated. "I'm actually having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying it. It's a little different than what I've been used to in the past. I actually think it fits my skill set better than just being down every play. I'm having fun doing it. I'm just enjoying it."

All that might be fun for Peppers and a way for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to disguise him, but the Packers signed Peppers for one overriding reason: his 119 career sacks, which rank third on the active list.

"He's here to go towards the quarterback; we all understand that," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "But when he does drop, he has great ability and range. And you look at his ball skills, we do a lot of ball skills with the whole team by design, I want everybody to handle the football. He handles the football like an offensive player."

Peppers had only 7.5 sacks last season -- his lowest output since 2007 -- and he chuckled at those who use the word "only."

"You look at my last year, was it one of my better years?" Peppers said. "Probably not, you know, statistically. But if you compare it to a lot of the guys who played last year, it was better than a lot of guys. So I don't really think I need to revitalize anything, just improve upon what I did last year. That's not going to be easy to do. I should be able to do it."

Even if Peppers was only able to replicate his sack total from last season, it would be better than any Packers player not named Clay Matthews since Aaron Kampman had 9.5 in 2008.

"It’s not about really proving anybody wrong," Peppers said. "It's about accomplishing some personal goals, one of which being is winning a world championship. That's the main thing. That's the main motivation. All that other stuff, it's there, but it's not as big as coming in here and helping this team hoist that trophy at the end."

If there's pressure on Peppers to improve the Packers' defense from its 25th overall ranking last season, it might not be even close to what the Bears placed on him last season before they cut him because they felt he wasn't worth the $18 million salary-cap charge.

"You look at our defense right now, there's a lot of high expectations for those guys," Packers guard T.J. Lang said. "The talent that they have, all across our D-line, the linebackers, the defensive backs. It's a group that you look out at, it's impressive to look at 'em. Just the physical stature that Julius has. I mean that alone is intimidating enough for an offense. We've played him eight or nine, 10 times since I've been here. Every time you look at the guy, you're just as equally impressed as the first time you've seen him. He's just a freak. And then you go to Clay out there, who's also proven to be one of the best pass-rushers in the game. It's just an impressive group to look at."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In every offseason practice -- whether organized team activities or minicamp -- and in the first two days of training camp, Micah Hyde took all the snaps with Green Bay Packers' defensive starters in a safety tandem with Morgan Burnett.

That, in itself, tells you what coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator think of the second-year defensive back.

[+] EnlargeMicah Hyde
Morry Gash/AP PhotoMicah Hyde showed increased awareness for the ball during the Packers' first training camp practice in pads on Monday.
Then, consider that general manager Ted Thompson used his first-round pick on safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to fill one of the team’s greatest needs yet the 21st overall selection in the draft had run exclusively with the second-stringers, and you can tell they are serious about Hyde.

But maybe the real competition started on Monday.

The pads went on for the first time, and Clinton-Dix finally got his chance to rep with the No. 1s -- at least for a few snaps. Although Hyde, who played exclusively as a slot cornerback last season as a rookie, continued to take the first snaps at free safety with the starters, Capers paired Clinton-Dix and Burnett for a few snaps and also unveiled a sub package that included all three of the safeties on the field at the same time.

Regardless of who wins the starting job, it appears both will play and either will be an upgrade for a group that not only lacked big plays (it was the only safety group in the NFL last season without an interception) but also big hits.

"I don't know exactly what went on before I was here," Clinton-Dix said. "But I just know they brought me in here for a reason, and that's to win."

The first day in pads was rather tame, but the most vocal member of the defense, Mike Daniels, who said this offseason it was time for the Packers to get mean, can't wait to see Clinton-Dix start hitting.

"When he got drafted, I was walking around my house screaming 'Yes' about five times; I think they showed five clips of him knocking the crap out of somebody," Daniels said. "Some things translate at any level. If guys are going to hit, you're going to hit when you're [waist high], you're going to hit when you're in high school, you're going to hit in college, you're going to hit in the NFL because it's in your nature. Some things don't translate, but toughness translates at any level. So I'm excited. We'll see."

Surely, the Packers would like Clinton-Dix to be their starter, but they might not need him to be right away given how Hyde has transitioned from a slot cornerback last season as a rookie.

Since Hyde let a potential game-changing interception slip through his hands late in the fourth-quarter of the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers -- a play he said he will "remember until I'm 50 years old," -- he has shown an increased awareness for the ball. So far in camp, his pass breakup numbers have been high. On Sunday, he broke up a deep ball for Jordy Nelson, who has been catching everything in camp.

McCarthy was succinct in evaluation of Hyde’s transition from cornerback to safety.

"Seamless," he said. "Micah Hyde is a football player. I think you can line him up anywhere. You really can. He's had the offseason to learn the position, to get the communication down where it's so important. He's a playmaker."

Yet if you ask Hyde, he will say, "I'm not there yet."

"I still go out there, I try to play fast, I try to make things easier on myself but at the same time I think it comes with time and it comes with experience," said Hyde, who as a fifth-round pick played more snaps (542) last season than any Packers' defensive rookie. "I think every day I'm getting better and better. Once I make a mistake, I think I learn from it and I just go out there and try to not make the same mistake twice."
Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay. Nothing has changed early in camp to make anyone think differently.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (5)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Jeff Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. But given the fact that Janis is on the non-football illness list, he might be quickly losing ground. And if the Packers do end up keeping a sixth receiver, at this point Myles White or Chris Harper might have a better chance.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla, who has had a couple of dropped passes so far in training camp.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (5)

There's a drastic change here from our first projection, which listed seven defensive linemen. But after Letroy Guion (hamstring) and Jerel Worthy (back) both failed their physicals and landed on the non-football injury list, they might be in trouble. Also, the Packers might be included to keep an extra couple of linebackers given that Julius Peppers and Mike Neal, who are counted among the outside linebackers, also can play defensive end.

Linebackers (10)

If the Packers have shown anything early in training camp, it's that they plan to use a lot of linebackers in a variety of roles. With Neal and Perry sidelined, Palmer has received plenty of playing time so far. Undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard is a promising prospect but has not yet shown enough to warrant a roster spot.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (5)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, has worked with Clinton-Dix as the No. 2 safety combination.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots, and Crosby opened camp by making 7-of-8 field goals in his first kicking session.

Packers Camp Report: Day 2

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
7:45
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers' training camp:
  • One day after Matt Flynn got the bulk of the work as the No. 2 quarterback, Sunday was Scott Tolzien's turn. He got the call in the no-huddle period and completed 3-of-5 passes, including a 12-yarder to tight end Brandon Bostick on third-and-7 to keep the drive going. His arm strength was apparent when he zipped a 9-yard out to rookie receiver Davante Adams on the next play. The drive ended four plays later when he missed receiver Alex Gillett in the flat on third-and-4. His only other incompletion was on a pass that appeared to be tipped near the line of scrimmage. The backup quarterback snaps have been split equally between Flynn and Tolzien the first two days. Although he played in three games last season (including two starts), this is Tolzien's first chance to go through an offseason with the Packers after being signed to the practice squad last September. "Work ethic, he knocks it out of the park, and you're seeing the benefits of that," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think they're both very comfortable not only with the people they're working with but what we're asking them to do."
  • Adams, the Packers' second-round draft pick, had a tough assignment during the first team period when he drew cornerback Casey Hayward. A day earlier, Hayward got his hands on just about every pass thrown his way. But not this time, Adams ran an out route and used his 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame to shield Hayward from the ball. Hayward tried to jump the route, but Adams' positioning allowed him to make the play along the left sideline, leaving Hayward grasping at air.
  • It was a good day for another rookie receiver. Fifth-round pick Jared Abbrederis had perhaps the play of the day, when he hauled in a deep pass from Flynn with cornerback Tramon Williams in tight coverage.
  • Micah Hyde finished last year as the primary punt returner and is getting the first crack at the job this season. In a punt return period, he took the first rep. Others who took turns were Abbrederis, Williams, Randall Cobb and Myles White. There has not been a live kickoff return period yet.
  • Hyde, who continued to work ahead of rookie first round-pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety, had two big pass breakups – one on a deep ball to Jordy Nelson and another when he went over the back of Abbrederis. … After missing more than half of the offseason program while recovering from foot surgery, Bostick is off to a strong start. He had the catch from Tolzien in the no-huddle period and appears to be moving well. … Undrafted rookie tight end Justin Perillo probably does not have NFL speed, but he catches the ball with ease. He made a difficult grab against tight coverage from rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson during a team period. He had at least two catches during team periods. … Lane Taylor took a few snaps with the No. 1 offensive line during team. He played left guard, which is Josh Sitton's spot. … Despite recent praise from McCarthy, safety Sean Richardson appears to be no better than fifth on the depth chart. He has been behind Hyde, Morgan Burnett, Clinton-Dix and Chris Banjo.
  • The only addition to the injury list was linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who had a stomach illness. Right guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) was again limited and did not take any team reps. Don Barclay worked in Lang's place.
  • The Packers' first two practices -- both non-padded workouts -- have lasted two hours, 15 minutes (Saturday) and two hours, 17 minutes (Sunday). McCarthy said Monday's first full-pads workout will go longer. It begins at 8:20 a.m. local time and is followed by a day off from practice on Tuesday.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You may have heard that Green Bay Packers players have been snacking during training camp practice, and we're not talking about orange slices sent by Aaron Rodgers' mom.

The team's training staff is offering red JELL-O-like snacks and granola-type bars during scheduled breaks that coach Mike McCarthy calls "TV timeouts." Those regeneration periods, which also include musical interludes, started in training camp last season but without the snacks, which were being offered in the team dining area instead.

"It's really something that we have here in the cafeteria that they've added to on the field," McCarthy said after Sunday's practice.

Fullback John Kuhn said he ate what he described as "some chocolate-peanut butter thing" and also a fig bar.

"I tell you what, morning practices are tough to eat before," Kuhn said. "So it's tough to really do your body justice going into a practice when you have to be down there at 8 o'clock and do everything up here [in the stadium] first. So having that on the field is a huge benefit for me because I felt myself at times where I was a tiny bit hungry, and they came out with those things and it was great."

It is another sign that the Packers are searching for anything that will prevent the fatigue-type muscle injuries that have plagued them in recent years

On Sunday, the team announced the hiring of a Adam Korzun as director of performance nutrition -- a newly-created position. Korzun, a registered dietitian, previously worked as the director of sports nutrition for the University of Oregon and for the United States Olympic committee as a sports dietitian.

This offseason, the Packers also contracted with Catapult Sports to help study practice habits and injuries. McCarthy also has rearranged his practice plan for this season.

But for now, the most noticeable difference is snack time.

Tight end Brandon Bostick said he has only tried what he called "the red things," but he thought they helped.

"Or it could be a mind thing, I don't know," he said.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Maybe Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb was just speaking in hyperbole. Or perhaps he did not want to come across like the stereotypical diva NFL receiver.

Cobb
Whatever the reason, Cobb said Sunday that he doesn't believe he has done enough to warrant a contract extension.

The Packers almost certainly will see things differently.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers already does. He said Saturday that he would “love for Randall to be next” when it comes to contract extensions.

Maybe the Packers will want to wait to make sure last year's fluke injury was, well, a fluke. But there's little or no reason to think they will let a young, budding star receiver get away even after they signed their top receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a four-year, $39 million contract extension on Saturday. Cobb, who won't turn 24 until next month, is in the final year of the rookie contract he signed after the Packers drafted him in the second round in 2011.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who has an excellent track record with second-round receivers (see also Nelson and Greg Jennings) already knows what kind of dynamic player Cobb can be from the slot position. This year, after the departure of James Jones in free agency, Cobb also will be able to expand his role into a complete receiver who plays both inside and out on the perimeter.

The Packers watched Cobb catch 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 and likely would have seen equal, if not better, numbers last season if not for the broken tibia he sustained on a low hit from Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam that knocked him out for 10 games.

Had it not been for the Elam hit, it might have been Cobb's name on that contract the Packers worked up on Saturday.

"Woulda, coulda, shoulda," Cobb said. "At the end of the day, I didn't. I wasn't out there 10 weeks. Regardless of what it may be, what my injury was, there was nothing I could do about it.

"For me, I feel that was part of God's plan. I've done everything I can in the offseason. I've come back and I'm ready for training camp as we get going over the next few days, throwing the pads on, so I'm excited about this season."

Packers Camp Report: Day 1

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
7:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers' training camp:
  • Finley's future: The Packers kept tight end Jermichael Finley's name on his locker throughout the offseason but when training camp opened Saturday, instead there was a non-personalized "Packers" placard in its place. There has been no indication that the Packers have medically cleared the free-agent tight end from the neck fusion surgery he underwent last November. "For him, it's a matter of getting cleared and I don't know his medical diagnosis [or] where he's at, but I can tell you we've had a number of those injuries and it's been tough for a couple guys [to come back]," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
  • Clinton-Dix still a backup: It was just the first of 21 practices but if the Packers plan to start first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, you would think they would want him on the field with the No. 1 defense from the outset of camp. But when the starters took the field for the first time on Saturday, second-year pro Micah Hyde remained at free safety alongside strong safety Morgan Burnett. Hyde, who played exclusively as a slot cornerback last season, and Burnett were the top safety duo throughout the offseason practices, too. Clinton-Dix worked mostly with the No. 2 defense. Even if Hyde wins the starting job, it's possible he could move to the slot cornerback position in certain sub packages, which would allow Clinton-Dix to get some snaps.
  • Hayward shines: How much did the Packers miss cornerback Casey Hayward last season, when he was limited to just three games because of a recurring hamstring injury? Hayward broke up three passes on Saturday during team periods. "I thought Casey had a good day," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's back. So instinctive, his ball skills, you can see him jump off the spot a few times and make a play." In 2012, Hayward led all NFL rookies with six interceptions while playing almost exclusively as a slot cornerback in the nickel and dime packages. Last season, the Packers had only nine interceptions total from their entire cornerback group.
  • Barclay's value: With right guard T.J. Lang limited to only some individual drills because of a sore shoulder, Don Barclay worked in Lang's spot with the No. 1 offensive line. It once again showed Barclay's versatility and value. After starting most of the last two seasons at right tackle, Barclay has given that spot back to Bryan Bulaga (who has returned from reconstructive knee surgery). However, Barclay has shown he can fill in anywhere on the line. "He plays any position," McCarthy said. "He's played some center. If he had to, he could go out and play some left tackle. He's a tough guy, technical."
  • Medical report: Here are the specifics on the players who did not pass their physicals on Friday: Outside linebackers Nick Perry (foot, knee) and Mike Neal (core muscle injury) were placed on the physically unable to perform list, but McCarthy said both are close to returning. Defensive end Jerel Worthy is on the non-football injury list because of a lower back problem and is out indefinitely. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion is on the same list because of a hamstring injury. Rookie receiver Jeff Janis, who is on the non-football illness list, was not at practice because he was sick.
  • Odds and ends: Undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla got off to a rough start. He dropped a pair of passes, one of which should have been routine on a well-placed, roll-out throw from Matt Flynn. The other was on a deep ball that Flynn underthrew. Lyerla appeared to slip while trying to come back for the pass but still got his hands on it. … Mason Crosby made 7-of-8 kicks during a field goal period. His only miss was wide right from 44 yards. He converted field goals of 33, 33, 36, 36, 44, 50 and 50 yards. … Rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley is probably a longshot to unseat center JC Tretter for the starting job, but he has moved up the depth chart to No. 2 at the position. During the offseason, he was No. 3 behind Garth Gerhart. … Rookie fourth-round pick Carl Bradford has changed jersey numbers to 54. In offseason practices, the outside linebacker wore No. 91, which now belongs to undrafted rookie linebacker Jayrone Elliott.
  • What’s next: After practicing for 2 hours and 15 minutes on helmets and shorts on Saturday, the Packers will hold another non-padded practice on Sunday at 8:20 a.m. local time. The first full-pads practice will be Monday at 8:20 a.m.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – There are formations and schemes that Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy does not want anyone – especially not the Seattle Seahawks – to know about.

Some of the tactics defensive coordinator Dom Capers has concocted won't be worked on until the Packers get behind the closed doors for the handful of training-camp practices that are not open to the public.

And the ones that they do practice in front of the public eye, they have asked their credentialed media to discuss vaguely.

[+] EnlargeClay Matthews
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers and linebacker Clay Matthews will look to exploit teams' weaknesses.
One thing is clear after seeing the first practice of training camp on Saturday: The Packers are not short on linebackers and appear prepared to use plenty of them in a variety of ways.

That, of course, includes four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who practiced Saturday for the first time since he broke his thumb for a second time last season on Dec. 22 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was Matthews, with a small brace on his right hand, on the field for the first time with new teammate Julius Peppers. And put it this way: Matthews was not just lined up on one side of the defense with Peppers on the other for every snap.

It's not the first time Matthews has lined up in a variety of spots – on the left, on the right and even in the middle. But it could be even more prevalent this season, beginning with the marquee season opener in Seattle against the defending Super Bowl champs on Sept. 4.

"As you guys saw today, they definitely had me moving around from lining up in the middle of the field as a stack backer to the left, to the right, lining up in the slot, and just putting more of our playmakers on the field," said Matthews, who sat out all of the offseason practices to allow his thumb to heal.

"I think the problem that it presents for the offense is so many moving pieces. It allows me to use a multitude of my weapons and not just lining up in one spot rushing the passer. I think I bring a multitude of weapons to the game, and I think I could do that through lining up all over the field. I think it's about mismatches and putting us in advantageous positions. We'll see how that does moving forward, but I felt good about it today and hopefully it will only get better moving forward."

The addition of Peppers in free agency is perhaps the key to giving Matthews more freedom. In the 34-year-old Peppers, the Packers finally have an established pass rusher to complement Matthews. Sure, there were times on Saturday when Capers simply put Matthews at left outside linebacker, Peppers at right outside linebacker and played a base 3-4 defense, but there were other times when there were more linebackers at a wider variety of positions than normal.

"It definitely helps," Matthews said of adding Peppers to the defense. "I think we're all about taking advantage of mismatches, but any time you could add someone of Peppers' caliber to the line, who gets after the quarterback and has a proven sack record, it definitely helps. At the same time, the same is expected of me no matter where I'm at in the line, whether it's left, right, in the middle. So I'll be expected to handle my plays accordingly as well as him."

And Capers might do even more when Mike Neal and Nick Perry join practice. The pair of outside linebackers, who combined to play more than 1,100 snaps last season, began camp on the physically unable to perform list. According to McCarthy, Neal has a core muscle injury and Perry is still bothered by the foot and knee problems that limited him last season. Both, he said, are close to returning.

Just don't expect to find out too many specifics of what McCarthy and Capers have planned.

At least not until Sept. 4 at Seattle.

"Obviously, we're not going to shut down and practice behind closed doors all the time," McCarthy said. "There's things you live with, and we have the traditionally two practices we lock in on certain things we've always worked on in closed practices. We closed two other practices this year really because we're going to a new format of a shortened practice, and I want to get the team acclimated."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Packers already had quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed through the 2019 season and now have receiver Jordy Nelson locked up through 2018.

Cobb
So where does that leave Randall Cobb?

Cobb is entering the final season of his rookie contract and despite missing 10 games last season because of a fractured leg, he has shown enough in his first three seasons to warrant a big-money extension.

If the Packers don't give it to him, surely another team will.

This offseason, ESPN.com's Mike Sando ranked Cobb fifth on his list of the top free-agent wide receivers for 2015Insider. Nelson, who is now off the market, was fourth.

"I'd love for Randall to be next," Rodgers said Saturday. "He's a guy, again, who's done it the right way. He's been a great leader for us. He's had some injury issues last year that hurt him that was out of his control. But he's a consistent performer for us and a great guy in the locker room as well."

The Packers began the week with nearly $13.7 million in salary-cap space. But that was before Nelson's four-year, $39 million contract extension was signed on Saturday. Until the exact breakdown of that deal is available, it won't be known how much room the Packers will have for a potential Cobb extension.

"Every coach wants his core guys, no doubt about it," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You want to sign them all. Like I said before, if I was in charge of the player checkbook, we would have been way over the budget a long time ago. Yes, Randall's an excellent football player and you always want to see your guys get paid and you continue to grow with them."

But Cobb isn't the only starter who is scheduled to hit free agency next offseason. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, nose tackle B.J. Raji and cornerback Tramon Williams all are entering the final season of their current contracts.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In 2011, Jordy Nelson signed a contract extension that turned out to be a bargain for the Green Bay Packers at three years for $12.6 million.

The way Nelson performed in the team's first training camp practice Saturday, the four-year, $39 million extension he agreed to on the same day looked like another win for the team.

Nelson did not get the $10 million per year deal he was seeking, but he came close enough.

And then he went out on the practice field and did what he has done for the last three seasons -- performed like one of the NFL's top receivers.

In the span of four plays during a team period, Nelson made two catches that perhaps only a handful of other receivers in the league would make. He hauled in a deep corner route along the left sideline on a ball that quarterback Aaron Rodgers placed perfectly between cornerback Sam Shields and safety Micah Hyde. Both Shields and Hyde shrugged in amazement as Nelson finished the play. Three plays later, Nelson snagged a crossing route against tight coverage from first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

"I think he's got the best instincts of a receiver I've ever played with," Rodgers said after practice. "He has incredible reactions -– second, third reactions. He knows where he needs to get to, what spot on the field to make the proper play. He has a very wide margin of error as a receiver.

"He can go up and get the ball at the high point. He can catch the ball on his toes like he did against San Diego back in '11 up there and roll in the end zone. He's made one-handed catches around here. He's made big-time plays in the Super Bowl. He's made plays in big games to get us victories. He's a very consistent, reliable guy who has really extended himself as a leader in this locker room and in the receiver room, and it's really exciting to see him get a new deal."

Nelson's deal does not pay him on par with the highest-paid receivers such as Detroit’s Calvin Johnson ($16.207 million average per year), Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald ($16.142 million) or even Seattle’s Percy Harvin ($12.9 million). But he's safely in the next tier, which includes Chicago's Brandon Marshall ($10 million) and Minnesota's Greg Jennings ($9 million).

Although the complete breakdown of Nelson's contract extension was not yet available, it included an $11.5 million signing bonus. Nelson was scheduled to earn $3.5 million this season in base salary ($3.05 million) and bonuses. His average per year of $4.2 million on his previous contract extension placed him 34th among all NFL receivers going into this season.

Clearly, he was worth more than that.

"I don't like the word 'worth' because to be honest with you, I don’t think any of us are worth this money," Nelson said. "But it's your value and the business we're a part of."

Nelson and Rodgers clearly have a strong connection as evident by the fact that in their first on-field session since the June minicamp, they looked like they were in postseason form -– albeit without pads.

But Nelson also has shown he is not just a product of playing with an MVP quarterback. Last season, he posted career numbers in receptions (85) and yards (1,314) despite playing without Rodgers for nearly eight full games.

Nelson said earlier this offseason that he could never spend the money he made from his last deal but joked on Saturday, "I'm going to spend all this."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A look at the hot topics from Friday's reporting day at the Green Bay Packers' training camp:
  • Matthews cleared: Although coach Mike McCarthy said he did not have any injury information during his Friday morning news conference, the daily NFL transaction wire revealed some details about the Packers' injury situation. While several players were listed in various injury categories, there was no mention of outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who missed the offseason program while recovering from a second surgery to repair his twice-broken thumb. That would indicate Matthews was cleared for the start of training camp. How much he will practice right away remains unclear. However, two others at his position, Nick Perry and Mike Neal, were placed on the physically unable to perform list, meaning they failed their physicals. Perry missed the entire offseason program with an undisclosed injury, but Neal had been a full participant. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion and defensive end Jerel Worthy were placed on the non-football injury list, and rookie receiver Jeff Janis was placed on the non-football illness list. All count toward the 90-man roster limit.
  • Top line: Given that the Packers will have a starting center who has never played in an NFL game, it was a bit surprising to hear McCarthy say this has a chance to be the best offensive line the Packers have had during his nine-year tenure as head coach. JC Tretter is the favorite to win the starting center job even though he has never played the position before (he was a tackle in college at Cornell) and did not play in any games (preseason or regular season) last season as a rookie. McCarthy also said he was impressed with rookie center Corey Linsley, a fifth-round pick from Ohio State. The Packers return starting guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton. At tackle, they will have Bryan Bulaga back at right tackle after he missed all of last season because of a knee injury, and second-year starter David Bakhtiari at left tackle. "I don't do comparables, but I think you have to feel good about the depth that we have in the O-line compared to prior years," McCarthy said.
  • Counting quarterbacks: One of the biggest issues facing McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson is whether they will keep three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster. The past five years, they have opened the season with just two quarterbacks, but this year they appear to have two capable backups for Aaron Rodgers -- Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien. "I know I said in the spring I'm not opposed [and] Ted’s not opposed to keeping three quarterbacks," McCarthy said. "It really depends on the competition at the other positions."
  • Talking to the team: The unofficial opening of training camp is Friday at 5:30 p.m., when McCarthy addresses the team for the first time. McCarthy said he spends plenty of time -- "probably too much time on it, frankly," he said. -- working on his speech. "You know when you have this much time to give a talk, my history has been to, I have to cut, I probably cut 60 percent of the stuff I have," McCarthy said. "You have to tighten it down and get it where you want it. Video is always a little better because [video director] Chris [Kirby] has more time to work on it. So the video will be awesome, and I hope the guy delivering the talk can deliver."
  • New hire: Despite a rash of injuries in recent years, McCarthy holds the team's medical, training, strength and conditioning staffs in high regard. Many of them predate McCarthy's time with the organization. But he also said on Friday that there will be a new addition in that area, although he did not get into specifics. When discussing injury prevention techniques, McCarthy said: "We have a young man coming aboard that we'll announce here in another day or so that will impact our team."
  • What's next: The first practice of camp begins at 8:20 a.m. local time on Saturday.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Mike McCarthy is entering his ninth season as the Green Bay Packers coach. He will soon have a street named after him that intersects with Holmgren Way, which intersects with Lombardi Avenue. He has a Super Bowl ring and a contract that pays him $5 million per season.

So McCarthy has it all figured out, right?

Although he stopped short of saying he is junking everything he has done in the past, he did acknowledge that the 2014 season will bring with it a far different method of preparing for games than anything he has used in his first eight seasons.

[+] EnlargeMike McCarthy
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsMike McCarthy is making changes in the Packers' game preparation schedule.
That was evident in the Packers' training camp schedule, which features a far different run-up to preseason games than in years past. Before the first preseason game at Tennessee on Aug. 9, the Packers will hold a practice (one that is closed to fans) on Aug. 8 and will not practice at all on Aug. 7. The team will follow the same type of schedule for the remaining three preseason games and, as McCarthy disclosed on Friday, that will continue into the regular season.

"It's a philosophical change," McCarthy said during his annual pre-training camp news conference.

McCarthy used to hold the belief that it was best to get players off the field -- and off their feet -- 48 hours before kickoff. Now, it appears that for a Sunday regular-season game, the Packers will hold a practice on Saturday but not on Friday. Typically, their on-field preparation had been completed by Friday afternoon.

"This is the first time the schedule is changing in nine years," McCarthy said. "Our in-season schedule, when I came here, I thought was unique and has been very effective for us and is something we've really been looking at for; this is the third year we've talked about it. I decided in spring to take the leap. We really just want to get that right and get our guys ready."

It's also worth noting that for the first time, McCarthy's training schedule does not differentiate between days with padded practices and no pads.

"Your goal is to be in pads every day, so that's the thought," McCarthy said. "But really how the team moves through camp, looking back on our last two camps -- the things that have gone on, the stress points in camp, where injuries occur -- we really haven't started the way we've wanted to the last two years. I think we have to be extremely conscious of that. This is the game of football. The ability to train your team, you need to change, adjust or emphasize each and every year, and that's really just part of that evaluation."

It's no secret that McCarthy is not a fan of the restrictions that went into place when the most recent collective bargaining agreement was approved in 2011, and he has made subtle changes each year since then. But this is the first time he has made such a drastic overhaul to his scheduling plan.

There also will be differences in practice itself, with some drills being moved to earlier in the session and some moved to the end. Some of those changes were enacted during the OTA and minicamp practices.

"If I was going to grade myself as far as hitting targets in the offseason program, since the new CBA, I think this is the first year that I feel like I got it right," McCarthy said.

Always energized at this time of the year, McCarthy, who this offseason said he believes he’s only at halftime of his coaching career, spoke about this season in perhaps even more optimistic tones than usual.

No doubt, the 50-year-old coach will be back to his usual fiery self the minute he sees something he does not like on the practice field. But during a week in which he became emotional at the dedication for the street that will be named for him, McCarthy has shown more than once that he's anything but set in his ways.

"To see Coach McCarthy, actually he is pretty emotional, but he was really moved by it," Packers president Mark Murphy said when asked about McCarthy's reaction to having a street named after him. "I think sometimes you go on in your life and take things for granted."

McCarthy seems intent on making sure that does not happen.

"I feel like I can improve," McCarthy said, "and I think when you stop feeling that way then I think you're lying to yourself."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With or without Jermichael Finley, the Green Bay Packers think they have plenty to work with at the tight end position.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
Mike Roemer/AP PhotoCoach Mike McCarthy says rookie Richard Rodgers is among the tight end group that showed major improvement from offseason work.
Although coach Mike McCarthy once again refused to close the door on a possible return by Finley, who remains unsigned and in medical limbo, he expressed overwhelming confidence in a group that, at least on the surface, appears to lack a standout player.

"I like our tight ends," McCarthy said Friday during his annual pre-training camp news conference. "I think that's a group that we've really got to get a lot of pad work. I mean, if there was ever, if you wanted to say, 'OK, what group progressed?' You went, 'OK, wow' [about the tight ends] in spring."

Given that Andrew Quarless, who finished last season as the starter following Finley's season-ending neck injury, did not practice at all during the offseason, McCarthy must be impressed with newcomers Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla.

The Packers picked Rodgers in the third round and signed Lyerla after a rookie tryout. Rodgers was one of the most impressive performers during the organized team activities and minicamp, and while Lyerla did not flash as often, he has the physical tools that would have warranted being drafted had there not been those much-publicized, off-the-field issues.

Another intriguing prospect is Brandon Bostick, who showed some receiving ability late last season before a foot injury ended his year.

Nevertheless, that group would look far more formidable with a healthy Finley, who visited with Packers physician Dr. Pat McKenzie last week to go over the latest tests on his surgically fused neck. However, there has been no indication McKenzie gave Finley medical clearance.

"I actually haven't seen Pat, Dr. McKenzie in quite some time," McCarthy said. "I'm not even sure the last time him and Jermichael talked or visited. We're still open to [Finley returning] and watching that. Jermichael Finley is a Green Bay Packer in my opinion, and obviously he's going through a medical situation. First and foremost, you just want him to get healthy."

The Packers reported to training camp on Friday morning with 89 players on their roster, meaning they still have room for one more player. The first practice is Saturday at 8:20 a.m. local time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Speaking like he knows something is in the works, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy believes his team will be heading across the pond at some point soon to play in one of the NFL's International Series games.

But Packers' ticket holders need not worry. Murphy said the team would not give up a home game to play overseas.

That sets up a possible 2016 game in London. The Packers are scheduled to play at the Jacksonville Jaguars that season as part of the divisional rotation. That also is the final year of a four-year agreement that calls for the Jaguars to play one home game per season in London.

When discussing NFL games in London, Murphy told the 14,759 who attended Thursday's shareholders meeting that "I anticipate that the Packers will probably play there in the coming years."

Murphy reiterated that the Packers would never agree to give up a home game, which brings an estimated $13.5 million in revenue into the NFL's smallest city.

"It's too important for the community," he said. "But I would be excited about having the chance to play in London.

"I think our fans here would love to travel to London, and I think it'd be a great experience. We'll see. There's only certain teams that play home games in London, so those kind of have to match up. The other issue, quite honestly, and I think we've talked about this before, is that we travel so well that teams are reluctant to give up a home game against the Packers to play in London because it’s typically a guaranteed sellout."

Murphy said the league entertained the possibility of sending the Packers to London in 2012 to play the St. Louis Rams, but the Rams' opponent ended up being the New England Patriots.

"They didn't want to move the Packer game to London because they knew our fans would travel so well to St. Louis," Murphy said.

This year, there are three games scheduled in London: the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins in Week 4, the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions in Week 8 and the Dallas Cowboys and Jaguars in Week 10. All three will be at Wembley Stadium, but Murphy said the league is exploring other venues in England.

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