The first indication came on Sunday night, when a scuffle broke out after more than one play. Then another skirmish or two ensued on Monday.
Those are the signs during training camp that the Packers are ready to attack, defend and hit somebody other than the Packers.
“I think we’re right in line where you are normally this time of year,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday, after the 11th and final on-field workout prior to Thursday’s preseason opener in San Diego.
“We’re ready to go play somebody else. We’re excited to go out to the West Coast and get going. It’s a long trip, but it’s our first time in live action. We’ve reached that point.”
They’ve reached it with some health concerns, though. McCarthy cut Monday’s practice short because of the lengthy injury list, and Tuesday’s workout – without pads – was less than two hours for the second straight day.
McCarthy added three players to the “out” list for Thursday, which already included eight players announced previously. The new additions are offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse (concussion), running back Brandon Saine (hamstring) and cornerback Sam Shields (elbow).
Tight end D.J. Williams returned to practice, but fellow tight end Jermichael Finley (quad) sat out, as did running back Alex Green, though McCarthy said Green – who is coming back from reconstructive knee surgery – was rested due to his “rep count” and still could play.
Newhouse’s absence at left tackle might affect how much starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers plays. With Derek Sherrod still on PUP, third-year pro Herb Taylor will start at left tackle. In the past, McCarthy has always pulled his starting quarterback from a preseason game when his top blind-side protector came out, but the head coach sounded reluctant to keep Rodgers out of Thursday’s game entirely.
“That will be part of our discussion, how we’re going to play, now that Marshall has been ruled out by the medical staff,” McCarthy said. “We’re conscious of that. But at the end of the day, we need to play football. We need to go out there and get some work and make sure we’re moving forward. We’re not flying out there just to take people on a trip.”
Cornerback Charles Woodson, who watched most of Tuesday’s practice, anticipated he wouldn’t play, as has been his custom in the first preseason game. That’s another indication he has no qualms or concerns about his move to safety in the base defense.
Most of the excitement resides with the rookies, who will be taking the field in an NFL game for the first time. Considering the Packers drafted a handful of defensive players who are potential contributors right away, their debuts take on some added significance.
“I’m going to be hyped, excited, ready to roll,” said second-round defensive lineman Jerel Worthy, who along with first-round linebacker Nick Perry was brought in to amp up the Packers pass rush. “No red jersey on the quarterback. Everything’s live.”
Safety Morgan Burnett, whose first preseason game was just two years ago, said he can remember his “head spinning” and his “heart pumping about 5 million miles per hour” when he walked onto Lambeau Field to take on the Cleveland Browns in August of 2010, so he understands the emotions involved.
It will be up to veterans like Burnett, though, to keep the young players’ anxiety and desire to make a splash from getting them out of their games. That’s when they can do more harm than good to their chances and the team’s.
“You can’t make the team at practice. This is when you start making the team, when you go out there playing against another opponent, so there’s going to be a lot of guys who try to do too much,” 14-year veteran Donald Driver said. “So what we’ve stressed to the younger fellas is just relax, let the game come to you. If you do that, you’re going to be fine.” Related links