Many of the 59 players inside the Don Hutson Center on Friday for the first of three rookie orientation workouts face long odds to make it in the NFL.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy, though, has made it clear to them they shouldn’t be worried about those odds this weekend.
When McCarthy spoke on Thursday night to the “rookie” group – which includes eight draft picks, 14 undrafted free agents, one pre-draft signee, 29 tryout players and seven holdovers from last year’s practice squad – he gave them a startling number. He told them that on average last season, the Packers’ 45-man game-day roster included 27 players who were either selected in the final two rounds of the draft or came to the Packers via “street” free agency.
This was a 15-1 team, mind you, but McCarthy wasn’t kidding. For the NFC divisional playoff game last January, the number was exactly 27. For the season opener last year against the Saints, it was 24.
McCarthy may not have shared this specifically, but it’s also worth noting that three undrafted rookies (linebackers Jamari Lattimore and Vic So’oto and safety M.D. Jennings) made the roster of the defending Super Bowl champions out of training camp last year, and a fourth (running back Brandon Saine) was elevated from the practice squad by midseason.
In other words, the opportunity is meaningful.
“I gave them a number of statistics to support the fact that they do have a real opportunity,” McCarthy said following Friday’s workout. “I told them the drafted players may get the first rep in the first drill, but if you get the second, third and fourth, make sure you’re taking full advantage of it.”
The energy and enthusiasm of the young group was evident. McCarthy didn’t appreciate the five times the ball was “on the ground,” but the practice structure worked as intended and he feels by the end of the weekend there will be plenty of good film to evaluate.
Of the draft picks, first-rounder Nick Perry took all of his snaps at left outside linebacker, which McCarthy said would be his “starting point.” Defensive lineman Jerel Worthy also showed the quick first step that prompted the Packers to trade up to draft him in the second round.
“It’s clearly something that we were excited about when we evaluated him in college,” McCarthy said. “He has a very explosive first step for a big guy. He’s someone who’s going to be a factor inside. That was evident just in the drill work today.”
Also evident was the edge that any time with an NFL team can give a player. Setting the tone for many of the drills were the practice-squad holdovers (receivers Diondre Borel and Tori Gurley, safety Anthony Levine, fullback Jon Hoese, center Sampson Genus, cornerback Brandian Ross and defensive lineman Johnny Jones) and former Arena League quarterback Nick Hill, who signed back in January and has been working in the team’s offseason program since it began last month. McCarthy felt that group stood out, which was to be expected.
Hill and seventh-round draft pick B.J. Coleman handled all of the quarterback snaps, which included routes on air, seven-on-seven, and team (11-on-11) work.
Two players were unable to participate due to injuries. Fourth-round draft pick Mike Daniels, a defensive lineman from Iowa, is out with a shoulder injury. He had surgery on that shoulder following his final college game. Undrafted rookie Jaymes Brooks, a guard from Virginia Tech, is also out with a hamstring injury.
“We’re off to a good start, and it’s a good group,” McCarthy said. “It’s a very exciting weekend. It’s fun to be back on the field.” Additional coverage - May 11