ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
GREEN BAY – Taking a closer look at the Green Bay Packers’ third practice of training camp on Saturday:
Thumbs up: At Stanford, one of the knocks on WR Ty Montgomery was that he dropped too many passes. But so far in training camp, he’s caught just about everything thrown his direction. On Saturday, in the first padded practice of camp, Montgomery took the first rep fielding kickoffs, showed good burst on an end-around and then had the catch of the day when he went high to reel in a deep ball from rookie QB Brett Hundley against fellow rookie CB LaDarius Gunter down the left sideline. It was the kind of splash play that gets everyone’s attention, including the head coach.
“I think he’s fit in nicely on offense, made some plays,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “So he’s off to a good start.”
Thumbs down: Maybe it’s because DE Datone Jones will be suspended for the first game of the regular season, so the Packers coaches are limiting his reps with the starting defense. But the 2013 first-round pick isn’t getting many first-team reps so far in camp, and on Saturday morning, when the defense’s top players were outside for their early practice work, Jones was one of the defensive players inside the Don Hutson Center playing on the scout team as the starting offense got its work done. Then, in one-on-one pass-rush drills, Jones lost twice to guard Josh Walker, although he did win against tackle Fabbians Ebbele. For a player with a lot to prove this summer, Jones is off to a slow start.
Play of the day: While Montgomery’s catch was a nifty one, it wasn’t the only one by a rookie wide receiver. On the final play of practice, QB Matt Blanchard sent a deep ball down the sideline to rookie WR Jimmie Hunt. One day earlier, Hunt had gone up for a similar ball from Blanchard and had it broken up by rookie CB Damarious Randall. Not on this day. Hunt contorted his body after plucking the ball out of the air and came down with it, and the end-of-practice horn followed. Although listed only a 6-feet, Hunt has shown a knack for high-pointing the ball so far in camp. Hunt caught 40 passes for 698 yards and seven touchdowns last season at Missouri.
Camp confidential: TE Andrew Quarless, who missed the first two days of practice because of a personal family matter, took part in practice for the first time, although he didn’t do much. He took part in the ball-security and team-takeaway drills but took next to no snaps during 11-on-11 work. After practice, McCarthy emphasized that Quarless’ absence has been unrelated to his arrest in South Florida over the Fourth of July weekend on misdemeanor gun charges.
“Andrew obviously has been gone because of what him and his family have been dealing with,” McCarthy said. “From a professional standpoint, you’ve got to make sure that he’s OK, and that’s the priority. But as far as his workload, just treat him as if it was his first day. The first two practices were obviously laid out different; we had the walk through at the end of the first two practices. Obviously this was a much more demanding practice as far as the length and the team periods. So [we were] just being real smart with his reps and just had a couple of people watching him.”
Packers Playlist: "On Top Of The World" by Imagine Dragons, "Days Of Gold" by Jake Owen, "Fuel" by Metallica, "Everlong" by Foo Fighters and "Beautiful Day" by U2 were the songs played during the regeneration periods Saturday.
Injury report: WR Adrian Coxson left practice after feeling lightheaded and ended up departing Ray Nitschke Field in an ambulance. As of Saturday afternoon, he was still being evaluated. WR Jared Abbrederis (concussion) and G Matt Rotheram (ankle) remained sidelined while CB Quinten Rollins (hamstring) remains on the Non-Football Injury list and OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), WR Ricky Collins (heel) and RB John Crockett (ankle) are on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Short yardage: McCarthy said during the offseason that he intended to use more veteran players on special teams, and when the Packers went to their No. 1 kickoff return unit, it was largely populated by non-rookies. The two exceptions: Montgomery, and undrafted rookie free-agent tight end Mitchell Henry. … With LG Josh Sitton continuing to be limited in team periods, G Lane Taylor continues to be the beneficiary of the additional reps. … Montgomery was the first man up as the kickoff returner, but S Micah Hyde was next. Hyde was the up man on Montgomery’s turn deep, and RB Raijon Neal lined up in front of Hyde on his turn deep. … Gunter, who has made roughly one play per day, had another on Saturday when he jammed WR Jordy Nelson at the line of scrimmage and then broke up QB Aaron Rodgers’ pass to Nelson. … Retired Packers GM Ron Wolf, who’ll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next Saturday, was at practice. … DE Mike Daniels got the better of RG T.J. Lang on one 1-on-1 pass-rush turn, but Lang then stonewalled him on the next round. … OLB Jayrone Elliott and OLB Andy Mulumba both flashed in the 1-on-1 pass-rush period and in the half-line run-blocking period.
They said it: “I think we got off to a solid start. A lot of video. We did more team work today than we did the last two days. That’s the best work that you can have, competing against each other. I thought we got a lot of teaching done in the special teams segments.” – McCarthy, on doing additional 11-on-11 periods during the first padded practice of camp.
Practice schedule: The Packers are off. The players will return to practice at 8:20 a.m. Monday, in pads.
GREEN BAY – Josh Sitton was in a great mood Saturday, cracking jokes and even lifting up his shirt and laughing off one reporter pointing out that he’s seemingly lost some weight after having been, uh, fat for most of his career. It was meant as a compliment.
“Really? Do I look thinner?” Sitton said with a chuckle as he lifted his t-shirt. “I don’t appreciate the word fat. I’m probably a little bit [lighter]. I probably slimmed down a little. Not a whole lot.”
It’s certainly not from his workload the first few days of training camp, which has been limited for undisclosed reasons. Sitton, who has battled back problems in the past and played through a painful toe injury last season, parroted coach Mike McCarthy’s remark from the day before and said simply that the Packers are “just being smart” with him early in camp.
Sitton said the toe “feels great” right now, but he wouldn’t disclose what soreness he’s experiencing.
“I’ve just got some soreness right now, so we’re just trying to limit what I’m doing right this minute,” Sitton said. “We’ve got a plan going forward. We know what I need to get and I’m on the same page with the coaches right now and we know what we need to do.”
Pressed on if it’s his back that’s bothering him, Sitton replied, “I’m sore everywhere. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, everything. Just beaten down.”
Sitton, who earned his second Pro Bowl berth last season, then was asked if the fact that he was joking around about his limited practice reps was a sign that he’s not worried about whatever it is that’s bothering him.
“We’re not concerned with anything in the long run. I’ll be just fine,” Sitton replied. “There’s nothing to really worry about. We’re just being smart. I’m getting older. I’ve played a long time, I don’t need as many as reps as maybe I did in the past. We’re just being smart.”
As for his weight, to the naked eye Sitton – listed at 6-foot-3 and 318 pounds – does seem slimmer than past years, although when he lifted up his shirt he didn’t exactly reveal six-pack abs.
“My weight’s about the same. I think I’ve just cut a little bit of fat,” Sitton said. “People have been saying that [I look thinner], but I think I’m the same weight. Maybe I just put it in the right places.”
Sitton said he’s not especially enjoying his reduced workload, which has Lane Taylor, JC Tretter, Don Barclay and others getting snaps in his place. Sitton was held out of 11-on-11 drills as well as the half-line run-blocking drill Saturday, during the team’s first practice in pads.
“Traditionally I’ve been a guy, I need my practice and I’ve always wanted to practice. This is new, and it’s not easy to sit and watch – especially when the offense is out there kicking ass like they were today,” Sitton said. “You want to be out there and be a part of that and be with your guys and make your team better.
“I just need to be in football shape. Usually that takes a week or two for linemen.”
GREEN BAY – Undrafted rookie wide receiver Adrian Coxson was taken from Ray Nitschke Field in an ambulance after experiencing lightheadedness during the Green Bay Packers’ first in-pads practice of training camp Saturday morning.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Coxson, a 6-foot-1, 209-pound receiver from Stony Brook, left practice after feeling ill.
“We had a situation where he just was feeling fatigued, lightheaded,” McCarthy said. “So he’s under observation right now.”
An Ashwaubenon rescue squad that is normally stationed at practice backed up into a parking lot by the Don Hutson Center and Coxson was loaded onto it by team medical personnel. Packers director of security Doug Collins was seen coordinating the effort.
Coxson was taken to a nearby hospital for tests, and his agent, Jonathan Herbst, told ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky that his client was still undergoing tests as of Saturday afternoon.
Coxson is one of a handful of promising undrafted free-agent wide receivers that the Packers have seen potential in.
The players are off Sunday before returning to practice Monday for another in-pads session.
GREEN BAY – Casey Hayward had a screw inserted into his foot during the offseason, and he isn’t sure if it’ll stay in there for the rest of his life or be surgically removed at some point.
All the Green Bay Packers cornerback knows is this: Right now, his foot feels OK, and he’s working with the starting defense.
“The bone is healed. My foot is healed. I just have to deal with a little nagging pain here and there,” Hayward said Friday after deflecting an Aaron Rodgers pass intended for Jordy Nelson that turned into a Morgan Burnett interception in 11-on-11 work. “I’m not going to do any complaining about it. I’m going to stay on my rehab, make sure my cleats are right, fitted right, things like that.”
Hayward said his foot didn’t affect his play last season, but he did feel it toward the end of the year and noticed it more after the season ended. That led to an exam and the surgery when a stress fracture was found.
He missed virtually all of the offseason program but said he was cleared to be full-go about two weeks ago. Through two days of training camp, he’s worked with the starters opposite No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields and ahead of his would-be challengers.
“I’m up to speed. I’m a vet so I know this defense. I know how to play it, I know how to play this game,” Hayward said. “I know the ins and outs of offenses so I can read some of the plays before they happen or while they’re developing. It’s just me getting in shape. I think that’s the ultimate goal is getting in top shape, getting in better shape every week and keep trusting my speed and my legs.”
Hayward, who missed nearly all of the 2013 season with a hamstring injury suffered just before camp, said he doesn’t think the foot will be an issue that lingers.
“I feel good. I’m making plays already in this camp,” he said. “I’m feeling healthy. As long as I stay on top of my rehab and keep doing those things throughout the year – not just throughout camp but throughout the year – my body will hold up.”
GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb isn’t interested in playing it safe. If the Green Bay Packers need their $40 million man to return punts during the season, he’s in.
So even though the fifth-year wide receiver caught a big payday this offseason, and even though safety/nickel back Micah Hyde has been very effective in the role, Cobb says he wants to return punts when called upon this year.
“Special teams is important.” Cobb said Thursday after another practice in which he fielded punts along with Hyde and other candidates for the job. “We understand offense puts the points on the board a lot of the times. Defense, they’re going to make the stops. But special teams, one play can change the outcome of the game.
“I feel like I can make a big return. We have guys that can make big returns as well, but we bring different kinds of return ability to the table. So just being able to use us in different ways, and it’s all about field position. We’re trying to create better field position for our offense.”
As a rookie in 2011, Cobb returned 26 punts averaged 11.3 yards per punt return and had an 80-yard touchdown. In 2012, he returned 31 punts and averaged 9.4 yards with another TD. Last season, he returned 14 and averaged 8.0 yards.
Cobb also returned kickoffs in 2011 and 2012 and has done that job in the playoffs as well. He has three career returns (two punt, one kickoff) for TDs.
There’s a school of thought that Cobb has become too valuable to risk on returns, but coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t subscribe to that theory.
“When you’re designing plays and you’re looking at distribution of opportunities, you want to give Randall the ball,” McCarthy said. “So, he’s definitely an option as a punt returner.”
The most likely scenario would have Cobb occasionally on returns, perhaps when McCarthy feels the team needs a spark or based on field position.
Cobb suffered a broken leg in 2013 that cost him 10 games, and as he has pointed out multiple times, the injury didn’t come on a return. It came on an offensive play.
“Football is a contact sport. I’m going to take shots. I took shots at receiver last year. I took shots in the return game. That’s all part of football,” Cobb said. “It happens. It’s part of our game.
“I just know when my number is called, I’ll be on the field.”
GREEN BAY – Josh Sitton doesn’t exactly love this time of year.
“Training camp isn’t always the funnest thing in the world,” the Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl left guard said.
No, it’s not, and while Sitton certainly needs work to get ready for the season, with a history of back issues – and the first in-pads practice of training camp looming in the morning – Sitton had a light workload during the Packers’ second practice of training camp Friday.
And it probably won’t be the last time he takes it easy during a practice this summer, as he prepares for his eighth NFL season.
“Josh Sitton has played a lot of football here,” McCarthy replied when asked why Sitton’s snaps were limited. “I think it’s smart to give younger players an opportunity.”
Those younger players getting work at left guard Friday were JC Tretter, Lane Taylor and Josh Walker, and Don Barclay has taken snaps there during the first two days of camp, too.
Sitton, who has missed practices during previous training camps and during the regular season to save his back, also played through a painful toe injury during the second half of last season and refused to have surgery on it after the year was over. He understands the importance of keeping the Packers’ starting five together, since they missed one combined start last season (by Bryan Bulaga in Week 2) due to injury.
“We’re excited about our opportunity. We have a lot of talent here,” Sitton said. “We know what we can do if we stay healthy and just keep moving forward.”
GREEN BAY – Taking a closer look at the Green Bay Packers’ second practice of training camp on Friday:
Thumbs up: While the first two practices of training camp are, by rule, not in pads, it’s difficult for there to be any genuine excitement about anything other than the fact that football is back and the road to Super Bowl 50 is underway. But while the first two practices may feel ho-hum to observers, that should change on Saturday morning, when the pads come on and the hitting starts.
Now, this isn’t the Vince Lombardi Era, or the Forrest Gregg Era, or even the Mike Holmgren Era, when practices had live tackling and violent collisions. But everyone will feel the intensity ratchet up several notches when the half-line inside run drill and the 1-on-1 pass rush/pass blocking sessions.
That said, Packers coach Mike McCarthy felt that, given the limitations, the first two days went as he’d hoped.
“The first two practices, the things you really pay close attention to are the structure, the drill work. Make sure things are done right,” McCarthy explained. “Just getting all the little things the way you want it. Players are competing. The first two practices, it’s gone well. I feel good about the effort, it’s excellent. The energy is excellent. The workload is where it needs to be, so we’re off to a good start.”
Thumbs down: With every player-specific question McCarthy received the past two days – How has so-and-so looked to you? – you could sense the coach was inching toward a Herm Edwards moment. (Hello!) Writers need the coach’s thoughts on players they want to write about, but McCarthy wants more of a body of training-camp work before saying much about anyone. So let’s be clear that no lasting judgments are being made before the pads have even come on.
That said, it’s clear that rookie QB Brett Hundley has a ways to go. He’s working behind Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien and Matt Blanchard at the moment, although he did get a ton of reps in the long jog-through period at the end of practice Friday. But in an 11-on-11 period, he eluded the pass rush and made a bad decision, throwing a ball up for grabs that S Morgan Burnett picked off. Now, Rodgers threw an INT later in practice, so it happens. But it’ll be interesting to see how Hundley develops in the coming weeks.
Play of the day: Rookie first-round pick Damarious Randall made the kind of play during 11-on-11 on Friday that grabs your attention. When Blanchard threw a deep ball down the left sideline to undrafted rookie receiver Jimmie Hunt, Hunt went up over Randall and appeared to be making a terrific catch for a big gain. But as Hunt came back to earth, Randall swatted the ball from his grasp, turning what could have been a big play into an incompletion and a win for the defense.
“That just shows what type of athlete he is, what type of player he can be,” said fellow CB Casey Hayward, who is working with the starters ahead of Randall. “He’s been doing a great job since he’s been here and hopefully that trend stays going up and he can help this defense out.
“He’s a confident young guy. He’s got a bright future. Hopefully that trend keeps going up.”
Camp confidential: If you got your hopes up for the Packers making a trip to London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016, you can forget it. It ain’t happening.
Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said last week that he’d talked to Jags owner Shad Kahn and after that conversation, he didn’t think the Jaguars would want to give up a home game – and certain sellout – because of the way Packers fans travel. Turns out, Murphy was right.
Jaguars president Mark Lamping told the Florida Times-Union Thursday that the team will be hosting the Packers in Jacksonville next season. The Jaguars played San Francisco and Dallas at London’s Wembley Stadium the past two seasons and will play Buffalo there on Oct. 25.
The Packers haven’t traveled to Jacksonville since 2008, and based on the NFL’s scheduling formula, their next trip there wouldn’t be until 2024.
“We get the Packers here in Jacksonville so infrequently,” Lamping said. “They have such a national following. We have a lot of people here in Jacksonville that are Jaguars fans, but also fans of the traditional NFL teams. So we look forward to that game being played here in Jacksonville.”
Packers Playlist: “Homegrown” by Zac Brown Band, “Evenflow” by Pearl Jam, “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon, “Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend, and “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley vs. JXL were the songs played during the regeneration periods Friday.
Injury report: WR Jared Abbrederis, who is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in training camp last year, departed practice on Thursday and was diagnosed with a concussion, McCarthy said. Rookie G Matt Rotheram suffered an ankle injury Thursday and was being evaluated Friday. CB Quinten Rollins (hamstring) remains on the Non-Football Injury list, while OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), WR Ricky Collins (heel) and RB John Crockett (ankle) are on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Short yardage: The Packers defensive backs had a strong second day of camp. Not only did Randall break up multiple passes, but Hayward deflected a thread-the-needle throw by Rodgers and Burnett picked it off. “I thought the DBs did very well. They got their hands on the balls a bunch,” McCarthy said. “We saw Randall had a nice play over there on the left boundary. That’s what you’re looking for.” … McCarthy is limiting veteran G Josh Sitton’s snaps in 11-on-11 work, rotating JC Tretter, Lane Taylor and Josh Walker in his place with the starters throughout practice. “Just being smart with him,” McCarthy said. … When the Packers went to their base defense Friday, Clay Matthews worked inside. But when they were in nickel, Matthews was outside and rookie ILB Jake Ryan got the call next to Sam Barrington.
They said it: “Having all our coaches out there in the stands during practice, it’s always a lot of fun.” – Randall Cobb, on fans filling the Ray Nitschke Field bleachers.
Practice schedule: The Packers will practice again at 8:20 a.m. Saturday, but in pads for the first time. There is no practice on Sunday.
GREEN BAY – If Jared Abbrederis could just get through the first week of training camp healthy, maybe the Green Bay Packers wide receiver’s NFL career would take flight.
The ex-University of Wisconsin star suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the first week of his first training camp last summer, and now he’s been sidelined with a concussion he suffered during Thursday’s camp-opening practice.
"I didn’t realize how hard he had hit his head until we saw it on film," fellow wide receiver Randall Cobb said. "That’s tough. You’ve got a guy like him that, he could be a great player. He’s got the opportunity but he’s had a couple things come up here in the past couple training camps. I’m just hoping he gets healthy and can get back out there."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Abbrederis was absent from Friday’s practice that the second-year receiver was “going through the protocol” following the concussion. Abbrederis fell hard after an interception during Thursday’s practice but stayed on the field for another half-hour or so before talking to the athletic training staff and leaving Ray Nitschke Field.
Abbrederis, who is listed on the Packers’ roster at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, does have some history with head injuries from his days playing for the Badgers. Although it’s unclear how many officially diagnosed concussions he had, he was diagnosed with one in a September 2012 against Oregon State that caused him to miss the following week’s game against Utah State, and said he had a “mild concussion” in a game against Penn State in November 2012 but was cleared to play in the Big Ten Conference championship game after that.
Asked at the time by the Wisconsin State Journal’s Tom Mulhern if having two concussions in one season concerned him, Abbrederis replied, “No, I don’t take too much into that.”
Abbrederis also suffered a head injury during an October 2013 game against Northwestern but then-Badgers coach Gary Andersen never officially called it a concussion.
GREEN BAY – After his good friend and favorite target missed virtually all of the Green Bay Packers’ offseason practices following hip surgery, Aaron Rodgers was happy to see Jordy Nelson back on the practice field Thursday.
“Was he out there?” Rodgers quipped following practice.
Yes, yes he was, and that’s good news considering he caught 98 passes for a franchise-record 1,519 yards last season.
“Today, the little that I watched him 1-on-1, it looks like he hasn’t missed a beat,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “Really, how he feels as he progresses through camp will be the first hurdle that he needs to get over. I thought the staff and Jordy took the right amount of time.”
Nelson said doctors told him that he has a genetic issue he termed a “hip impingement,” a condition where the bones of the hip are abnormally shaped and, because they don’t fit together perfectly, they rub against each other and cause damage to the joint.”
“So over years and years of playing sports, [because] it's just rubbing together, [I] had some issues,” Nelson said. “So it just needed to be cleaned out. It never necessarily bothered me, it was just postgames and stuff, I could feel more [discomfort]. But by the time of Wednesday's practice, I was good. By the time Sunday was here, I was fine. It was more of a recovery thing, and needed to get cleaned out, so we're good.”
GREEN BAY – While Aaron Rodgers said Thursday that he was “happy” to see former teammate Brett Favre at the ESPYs earlier this month and that he’s looking forward to seeing Favre again at the Thanksgiving game on Nov. 26, it’s another of Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers quarterbacking predecessors that he really wants to see.
A USA Today Sports story published Thursday details Starr’s remarkable recovery – through stem-cell therapy – from the two strokes and heart attack he suffered last fall. Starr’s wife, Cherry, tells the paper that Starr, who was unable to walk or feed himself before the June stem-cell treatments, can now do both. He also spoke briefly on a video played at Favre’s induction into the Packers Hall of Fame on July 18.
“It’s great to hear that Bart’s doing better,” Rodgers said after the first practice of training camp Thursday. “He’s a great guy, he’s been a great friend over the years and a great supporter. He’s been great for our charity and it’s been fun to spend the few times we’ve gotten to hang out with him and his wife. I’m just excited to hear he’s doing better and hope he’s able to get up here. Thanksgiving would be amazing to have him and Brett and myself be able to get together.”
Starr, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977, Favre, who is expected to be selected next year, and Rodgers, whose career arc has him trending toward Canton as well, have never been photographed together. Together, they make up arguably the best three-quarterback combination any NFL team has ever had.
Starr's son, Bart Jr., said during Favre's induction that his father has made it his goal to be back at Lambeau Field and walk out with Favre on Thanksgiving night.
Rodgers, meanwhile, said he and Favre joked at the ESPYs but that he did not catch Favre’s induction ceremony on TV. Rodgers was playing in the annual American Century celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe and did not attend the Lambeau Field event.
“I heard everything went great here, and I’m sure he got an incredible reception,” Rodgers said. “I missed his speech but … he was excited about it. It’ll be fun to have him back for the Thanksgiving game. That’s put another layer to that. Thanksgiving, Chicago Bears, Brett’s number going up. That would be a great time. It’s fun to see him. He’s a character. He’s always cracking jokes. I heard his voice over my shoulder, the first time we got to see each other, I knew it was him.
“It was good to see him.”