GREEN BAY – This week’s minicamp was an extension of OTAs for the Packers, but at the start of training camp in six weeks, the practice world will change.
“Once we get back, the tempo is going to pick up a little more,” veteran safety Morgan Burnett said on Thursday, after the Packers wrapped up their final minicamp practice to conclude the offseason program.
“The pads are on, so guys are really going to be flying around. Coach made it loud and clear today. He was saying, ‘Enjoy your time off, enjoy your break, but once we get back, the train is rolling, and we’re starting fast.’”
That train starts rolling on July 30. Even though the pads won’t go on until a few days after that, the full uniform is what distinguishes training camp from OTAs more than anything.
“You get to separate in a physical context,” said Eddie Lacy, spoken like the powerful running back he is. “Once you put pads on, things are different. It’s a lot harder, because it’s not just tagging off and you can’t just get your way, so we’ll see who’s physical and who’s not.”
The mental side of the equation gets cranked up, too. Earlier this month, quarterback Aaron Rodgers – one of 10 veterans with seven or more years of experience to take the final practice off on Thursday – noted there’s “not a lot of room for the mental errors” and “not a lot of grace period” when training camp begins.
In other words, OTAs are for teaching and learning, but training camp is for executing and performing, with the latter requiring strong conditioning to succeed play after play after play.
Veterans were delivering those messages to the younger players as the offseason wrapped up this week, and they seemed to be getting through.
“They were telling me to make sure you know the playbook and make sure you’re in shape,” said cornerback and first-round draft pick Damarious Randall, who earlier this week was the last of the draft picks to officially sign his contract.
The mental and physical parts aren’t mutually exclusive, either.
“My main goal is to come back here in shape,” fellow corner and second-round pick Quinten Rollins said. “Because if you’re not in shape, that’s going to take away from your mental edge. You’re going to be focused on how tired you are, rather than what’s coming the next play.”
The Packers installed their playbooks on offense, defense and special teams over the past month, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy put the onus on the veterans to keep the younger players up to speed during the teaching phases.
With competition for roster spots and playing time beginning for real late next month, the tutors won’t exactly abandon their students, but the dynamic gets altered a bit.
“You really have to be dialed in to your playbook,” Burnett said. “Veteran guys, it’s our job to bring young guys along, but at the same time, everyone is a professional, so you’re asked to do a certain job and you have to be accountable.”
The rookies have six weeks to get ready.
“Just have to keep in that playbook and learn all the positions, not just one,” linebacker and fourth-round pick Jake Ryan said. “Training camp is where everything happens. This is just to prepare you.”
Click here to view photos from Thursday's practice. Click here to watch Larry McCarren's daily recap.