Thumbs up: Remember all that talk about the Packers keeping six or even seven receivers? It died down a bit during the first week and a half of camp, but on Sunday night, Diondre Borel reminded everyone at Ray Nitschke Field why the team is excited about him – and why the club stepped up and gave him a raise last year to stay on the practice squad after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dangled a spot on their 53-man roster in front of him. Getting snaps with the starters with Greg Jennings (concussion) out and Donald Driver getting the night off with the other most-tenured veterans, Borel made play after play after play. His best moment came when he made a leaping, twisting catch of a B.J. Coleman downfield throw against tight coverage. Borel has pulled ahead of fellow ex-practice squad wideout Tori Gurley, and with more nights like Friday night, he could reinvigorate the six-receiver talk.
“He’s that example that you guys usually ask me about: ‘Who’s making a jump from Year 1 to Year 2?’ Diondre’s definitely one of those guys,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s fighting for a spot on our football team. He has a lot of value, whether it’s special teams and his diversity, playing a number of different positions. He’s getting better. He’s stronger. That’s really the biggest jump in my mind that he had to make from last year to this year was in the weight room. He’s done that. He’s doing a very good job, and you see it carrying over to the field. He’s playing more physical. I think he’s exceptional in creating separation. I'm very happy with his progress.”
Thumbs down: It’s hard to blame inside linebacker Desmond Bishop for being excited. Sunday night’s practice was his first in pads after opening camp on the non-football injury list with a calf strain. And when he violently ran through running back Du’ane Bennett on a blitz up the middle during an 11-on-11 blitz period, that was fine. But when rookie fullback Nic Cooper caught a pass in the right flat and Bishop unnecessarily knocked him off is feet during a “thud” period, McCarthy let Bishop have it in a rare showing of anger, admonishing Bishop for putting an unneeded shot on a teammate.
“That’s part of training camp. You go through it every year,” McCarthy said. “You’ve got to learn how to practice together; you’ve got to learn the difference between a drill and competitive period and a scrimmage. But I think our guys are very good. Sometimes, there’s a line there, and we’re going to cross it. That happens. It’s no different than fights. I’m not as concerned about when guys get into a fight; I’m more concerned about what happens once it started and how it’s cleaned up. I think that tells you a little more about your people and if they’re taking care of one another. It’s all part of the training camp.”
Play of the day: With NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers getting the night off as one of nine veterans with seven or more years of NFL experience, it was backup quarterback Graham Harrell’s time to shine. While he wasn’t perfect – the No. 1 offense failed to reach the end zone during its 2-minute drill in 11-on-11 – he also made some big-time downfield throws. The best of the bunch went to Jordy Nelson on what would have been a 45-yard touchdown. Harrell perfectly back-shouldered Nelson at the 10-yard line for an easy TD that elicited oohs and ahhs from the from the nighttime crowd.
Camp confidential: Midway through his post-practice media briefing, the lights momentarily went out on McCarthy, who jumped and then joked when the lights came back on that “I was on a plane through a thunderstorm last night, I’m still a little shook up.” It led to a cool little story: On Saturday afternoon, McCarthy left Green Bay for Canton, Ohio, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction of former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jack Butler. Butler, who was inducted Saturday night along with Curtis Martin, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy and Willie Roaf, invited McCarthy to the event, which the Packers coach had never attended before. “It was great. I grew up with the Butler family back in Pittsburgh,” McCarthy said. “I went down there after work in the afternoon, came back last night. It was awesome. I was honored to be there. … I (actually) had personal relationship with four of the six (enshrinees). I was just so impressed with the whole operation. It was a great experience.”
Injury report: LT Marshall Newhouse and WR Greg Jennings both left the Family Night Scrimmage with concussions and did not practice Sunday. However, McCarthy wouldn’t rule either one out for Thursday night’s preseason opener at San Diego. Bishop and FB John Kuhn (knee) practiced in pads for the first time, with Kuhn choosing to practice even though he qualified for the night off as a veteran. The vets who took McCarthy up on the “Veteran Select Day Off Program” were QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Donald Driver, CB Charles Woodson, DT Ryan Pickett, DE Anthony Hargrove, CB Jarrett Bush, C Jeff Saturday and LB A.J. Hawk.
RB Marc Tyler (shoulder) and WR Tori Gurley (groin) returned to practice. LG Ray Dominguez (ankle), TE D.J. Williams (back), OLB Brad Jones (knee), FB Jon Hoese (hamstring), DE Mike Daniels (knee/groin), TE Eric Lair (knee) and OT Mike McCabe (hip) remained out. The five players who still haven’t passed their physicals remained sidelined: G Jaymes Brooks (hamstring), DE Johnny Jones (knee), TE Andrew Quarless (knee), OT Derek Sherrod (leg) and OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring).
Practice schedule: The players practice again on Monday night. They’ll be in full pads at 7 p.m. at Ray Nitschke Field, weather permitting.
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