Green Bay Packers: Alex Van Pelt

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have a contingency plan in place if quarterback Aaron Rodgers has another issue with his calf muscle but at this point, two days before Sunday's NFC North title game against the Detroit Lions, they expect him to start the game without any limitations.

They listed him as probable on Friday's injury report.

Rodgers
"I don't have any concerns today, just based off of the conversation with Aaron and how he's feeling," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday. "You get out there … really tomorrow will be a big indicator, just to watch him move around and do the different things. And then we'll communicate during the game. But I don't have a very high concern right now."

Although the Packers did not practice on Friday – they will hold their usual light workout on Saturday – Rodgers took part in all of Friday's meetings and the walk-through session at the team's indoor field inside the stadium.

McCarthy had to adjust his game plan last Sunday after Rodgers pulled his left calf in the first quarter.

"I think that's up to coach and he as far as the game-plan meetings and what they feel like they can get done under whatever circumstances arise," Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. "But we're going in fully loaded and expecting a healthy guy on Sunday."

Even with the injury, Rodgers had a solid showing against Tampa Bay. He completed 31-of-40 passes for 318 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions in the 20-3 victory.

"He's just an accurate thrower," Van Pelt said. "I think he wakes up in the morning being accurate."

Here's the Packers' full injury report:

Out
CB Davon House (shoulder)

Probable
G T.J. Lang (ankle)
LB Clay Matthews (biceps)
OLB Mike Neal (abdomen)
QB Aaron Rodgers (calf)
G Josh Sitton (toe)
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Julius Peppers strolled through the Best Buy store in suburban Ashwaubenon, located just two miles down Oneida Street from Lambeau Field, looking for a new case for his iPhone this week.

No one stopped him for an autograph or asked to take a selfie with him.

[+] EnlargeJerry Hughes, Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bills fans
Bill Wippert/Associated PressGreen Bay and Buffalo are similar in many ways, including player-fan celebrations.
He's not even sure if anyone gawked.

Such is life for a Green Bay Packers' player in the NFL's smallest city.

"These people around here are used to having Brett Favre here, Reggie White here," Peppers said. "They’ve got A-Rod [Aaron Rodgers] in their town, so it's not like it's anything special to see a high-profile football player out. I think people around here handle it pretty good. I don't get bothered at all really."

Peppers imagines it's much the same in Buffalo, New York, the NFL's second-smallest outpost. That makes this week's game between the Packers and Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium different from a normal NFL Sunday.

No, these aren't the one-stoplight, cow towns they're often made out to be -- Green Bay is home to 104,779 in the city proper and Buffalo has 258,959, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau figures -- but they're not Chicago or even Charlotte, North Carolina, where Peppers split his first 12 NFL seasons. In Northeast Wisconsin and Western New York, the NFL is either the only game in town or the biggest one.

"It's kind of similar to Green Bay's fanbase," Peppers said. "Small town. Those guys love their Bills. It's going to be one of those atmospheres that's going to be a challenge as well to go into an environment like that and perform."

Given their NFC-AFC affiliations, the Packers and Bills play just once every four years and go eight years between visits to each other's city. Only three players -- quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker A.J. Hawk and special teamer Jarrett Bush -- were with the Packers the last time they played at Buffalo in 2006, and Rodgers was still two years away from becoming the starter.

That's why on Wednesday, during his first address to the team this week, Packers coach Mike McCarthy talked his players through what to expect on Sunday in Buffalo.

"Talked about the small town, similar characteristics to Green Bay, the passion of their fanbase and really the type of environment that we're getting ready to go into," McCarthy said of his speech to the team. "It's an older stadium, small locker room. It's old-school NFL football. It's something I've always appreciated playing there in the past, and once again you have to make sure your team is ready for that."

[+] EnlargeJames Starks
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPackers running back James Starks was raised in Western New York and went to the University at Buffalo, making Sunday a homecoming for him.
Few know how similar the NFL life can be in Green Bay and Buffalo better than Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. Van Pelt, who joined McCarthy's coaching staff in 2012, played all nine of his NFL seasons in Buffalo, where he was mostly a backup from 1995 to 2003 but started 11 games.

"Not just the similarities of the organizations, but the city," Van Pelt said. "It's a safe place. It's a good place to raise a family. The values and everything are good there. It reminds me of a Midwest town with the blue-collar workmanship. A lot of those are very similar here. When people ask me how's Green Bay? I'm like, 'Well, it's a little bit smaller than Buffalo but very similar.'"

Except perhaps for the fans.

Van Pelt called Bills' supporters "some of the best fans I've been around” in part because "they understand they can get loud when they need to. Quarterback starts to audible, you'll hear the crowd get higher and higher."

"But maybe a little rougher than say, the Green Bay crowd," Van Pelt added. "I remember coming here as a player and the fans telling you on the way out, 'Good job. Good luck the rest of the year.' You may not get that in Buffalo."

Independent of Van Pelt, Packers running back James Starks made a similar point. Starks grew up in Niagara Falls, New York, went to college at Buffalo and as a kid attended Thurman Thomas' football camps in Orchard Park, New York, where the Bills' stadium is located.

"They're very similar," said Starks, who has tickets for 20 relatives attending Sunday's game. "Real small. The football organizations bring in a lot to the community. Loyal fans. I think Green Bay's are a little more respectful and stuff. Their fans are a little more, I don't know ..."

Starks, wearing a Brooklyn Nets hat and a New York hoodie, didn't finish his thought on Friday afternoon. It was time to go home, first to his Green Bay locale and then to his real home this weekend.

"There’s no place like home," McCarthy said. "Obviously, everybody enjoys going back to their hometown, and I know this is special for James and his family. James is always smiling; his smile is bigger this week."
A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Last year, the Packers did not have a single player elected to the Pro Bowl. Only Eddie Lacy, an alternate in the voting at running back, played in the game.

That's not likely to be the case this season.

With less than a week remaining in the fan portion of the voting, the Packers have four players among the leading selections at their respective positions.

They are:
  • Aaron Rodgers, who is second in the overall voting (also second among quarterbacks) behind Peyton Manning.
  • John Kuhn, the leading vote-getter at fullback.
  • Jordy Nelson, second at receiver behind Antonio Brown and eighth overall regardless of position.
  • Josh Sitton, the top vote-getter at guard.

Fan voting, which can be done here, concludes on Monday, and the Pro Bowl selections will be announced on Dec. 23. The selections will be determined by a consensus vote of the fans, players and coaches with each counting for one-third. Players and coaches will vote next week.

In all, 88 players will be selected. It's the second straight year they will be picked regardless of conference affiliation, and players will be divided via a draft shortly before the Jan. 25 game in Glendale, Arizona, which is also the site of the Super Bowl.

In case you missed it from ESPN.com: Best of the rest:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- So now we know what happens when a team tries to defend the Green Bay Packers with both safeties deep and barely any blitzes.

That was the Atlanta Falcons' method on Monday night at Lambeau Field, and Aaron Rodgers, like he has done against virtually all defensive approaches this season, picked that apart, too.

[+] EnlargeEddie Lacy
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsEddie Lacy had 73 of the Packers' 179 rushing yards in a win against Atlanta on Monday night.
For much of the Packers' 43-37 victory, Rodgers used an array of checkdowns to his running backs and underneath throws to his tight ends and receivers.

It was no coincidence that running backs Eddie Lacy (five catches for 33 yards), James Starks (two catches for 26 yards) and John Kuhn (one catch for 6 yards) were heavily involved in the passing game. And so was tight end Andrew Quarless, who caught three passes for 52 yards.

"We talked about before the game, and [QBs coach] Alex [Van Pelt] reminded me just to go through the progressions, but look to get it to the checkdowns," said Rodgers, who completed 24-of-36 passes for 327 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. "I don't know how many catches Eddie finished with and James and John but if you add all those up, I would expect it to be near 10, which is probably more than we've had in a game all season.

"That was just the way they were playing."

Rodgers almost never faced the blitz. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he was 23-of-31 for 317 yards and three touchdowns when the Falcons rushed four or fewer defenders. On the rare times when they blitzed, Rodgers was just 1-for-5 for 10 yards.

And then there was the damage that Lacy and Starks did in their usual domain, the running game. Together, they rushed for 148 yards. Individually, Lacy had 13 carries for 73 yards before a hip injury prevented him from finishing the game, and Starks carried 10 times for 75 yards. Both scored on touchdown runs, and Lacy added a touchdown catch.

As a team, the Packers rushed for a season-high 179 yards.

"We're definitely doing good as far as running and passing the ball, depending on how the defense plays us," Lacy said. "It's something we're going to have to continue to do and continue to get better on throughout the rest of the season."

As he almost always does, Rodgers still managed to take a shot -- and connect on it -- down the field to Nelson. On a play-action shot play in the fourth quarter, Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for a 60-yard touchdown. It was Nelson's seventh touchdown catch of 40-plus yards this season, which tied a team record.

"It was executed perfectly, I think," said Nelson, who caught eight passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. "Aaron put up a great ball on it I think. We got the perfect coverage that we wanted. We were able to connect and make a big play. It's fun to make those. It's something we've connected on quite a bit, and it's always good to get them."
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers will be at a distinct size disadvantage against the Bears receivers, but cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt isn't worried about that.

As long as the officials don't let Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall get away with anything illegal, that it is.

Whitt believes any of his corners, including 5-foot-11 starters Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, can handle the 6-3 Jeffery and the 6-4 Marshall.

"If they don't grab and pull, Sam and Tramon can be as effective [as a taller corner]," Whitt said. "I'm excited about the emphasis of the OPI [offensive pass interference], especially with this game. We'll see how that's taken into account because they're a grab-and-pull type operation. If they don't [allow them to] do that, I'm very confident in what we do."

To this day, Whitt still brings up the 2010 game against Marshall, when he was with the Miami Dolphins. Marshall caught 10 passes for 127 yards and, in Whitt's opinion, got away with excessive and illegal contact against his cornerbacks.

"He threw Tramon down," Whitt said.

In case you missed it from ESPN.com: Best of the rest:

Rodgers' QB coach loved R-E-L-A-X line

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
7:30
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Regardless of how Aaron Rodgers' R-E-L-A-X message has played in public, it went over well in the Green Bay Packers' quarterbacks room.

That's what quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said Thursday.

Rodgers
"I like it," Van Pelt said. "That's kind of the feeling of the room. We're three games in. We haven't set the world on fire yet. Offensively, we're used to doing that. We know it's in there. It's in our blood. It's just a matter of having that breakout game."

While the Packers' 1-2 start is not unusual -- it's the third straight season it has happened -- the fact that Rodgers has not performed at his usual MVP-like level is uncharacteristic.

Coming off Sunday's 19-7 loss to the Lions, Rodgers ranks 17th in total QBR (65.8), tied for 25th in completion percentage (62.7) and 23rd in yards per attempt (6.8). His career passer rating of 104.6 is the best all-time, yet so far this season it's just 95.1. He has not finished under 101.2 since his first season as a starter (2008).

"I think we'll feel better if we put a good performance out on Sunday [against the Bears]," Van Pelt said. "I think things will turn for us a little. But nobody's down, nobody's disappointed. We're frustrated that we didn't have the success that we thought we would have up in Detroit, but that's football. It's a long season. We've been in this spot now all three years that I've been here. I've seen what can happen when this thing gets going, and that's fully what we expect."
Each week, I will ask for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #PackersMail and then will deliver the answers over the weekend.

This week, one of the big topics around the Packers was the use of four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews, who has been playing off the line of scrimmage and dropping into coverage more this season. Questions about that subject lead off this week's edition of the mailbag:

Demovsky: If you ask former Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga, he would say to play to the strengths of a player like Clay Matthews or Julius Peppers. I included his comments in a post about Matthews' role earlier this week. You can see it here. For his part, Matthews isn't complaining, at least not publicly, but you have to wonder if the Packers will stop overthinking things and go back to putting Matthews on the edge as a rusher more than they have done so far early this season.

Demovsky: The idea from a pass-rush standpoint, according to the Packers, is to create mismatches for Matthews and prevent blockers from zeroing in on him play after play. It makes some sense because it makes it tougher to make predetermined double-team assignments. Where perhaps you can question their thinking is how often he's dropping into coverage. That does not seem like the best use of his incredible pass-rushing talent. As for Richard Rodgers and the red-zone plays, that's a part of the field where the Packers would like to use Brandon Bostick 's size and athleticism, so perhaps if Bostick is healthy enough to play a bigger role this week, that might happen.

Demovsky: The safe bet would be Jayrone Elliott, given that the Packers lost an outside linebacker in Andy Mulumba and that Elliott is probably more ready to play on defense. However, if special teams is the bigger factor - and it could be, given that Mulumba's only snaps this season had come in that area - then perhaps Carl Bradford, who was moved to inside linebacker late in training camp, could get the call. Bradford got a lot of special-teams work in the final two preseason games, but Bradford is not close to being ready to play on defense yet.

Demovsky: It's been a topic of conversation ever since Aaron Rodgers became a starter in 2008, and it's the tradeoff that comes with a quarterback who is so smart with the football. Rodgers almost never forces a throw. And when he does, he's smart enough to know there were 12 defenders on the field, as he did on his interception that wasn't against the Jets on Sunday. This week, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt was asked about Rodgers holding the ball and said, in part, "Tell him, 'Don't extend the play?' We would never do that."  
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Seattle Seahawks think they have the Green Bay Packers' no-huddle offense figured out from watching Aaron Rodgers run it last Saturday at the St. Louis Rams, they should think again.

According to several Packers' players and coaches, the hand signals they are using in the preseason are nothing like what they will use to combat the noise when the regular season opens in the Pacific Northwest on Sept. 4.

"It's really geared towards our first game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "So you don't want to show a whole lot. I think our players, particularly, on offense have done a great job with communication. No-huddle is a big part of what we do. To have a set of signals for preseason and a whole different set for the regular season, this is really the first year we've done that. So, we just have a lot more going on."

The reason for the different hand signals is two-fold:

1. The Packers want to keep the Seahawks guessing.

2. They believe several of the players they cut in their roster reduction at the end of camp may be picked up by other teams on their schedule.

"It's tough, especially when you play in a no-huddle situation," quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. "You have 90 guys in camp but 53 are going to be around so, obviously, some people aren't going to be here. You try to have the second group of signals ready to go. Use the ones we use in camp then say, 'All right, guys, let's wipe the slate and here's the new set.' That's part of dealing with crowd noise is having the ability to change signals. Maybe one week the signal is 'this,' and the next week the same signal becomes the double move off of that. Just try to keep the defense guessing."

While much of the talk this offseason has been about what new wrinkles defensive coordinator Dom Capers may throw at the Seahawks that they have never seen from the Packers before, there's also plenty McCarthy wants to be a surprise from Rodgers & Co. That's why at the start of practice, when the defense is outside going through its pre-practice walk-through, the offense works behind the closed doors of the Don Hutson Center.

"It's the same offense; it's just different plays," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "It's nothing difficult. It's just plays that, as I said, us older guys have seen every play in the book. There's just plays that we'll probably run more throughout the season than what we'll run in the preseason. Preseason games are very vanilla and watered down. We're just getting more into those plays that might be deeper in the playbook. It's nothing difficult."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers plan to take their backup quarterback competition through the final preseason game before naming a No. 2 to starter Aaron Rodgers.

Flynn
Flynn
Tolzien
"I would think that would be the fair way to do it," quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said this week.

That means there's still much to be decided between Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien, who appear to be locked in a tight battle that may have gotten even closer after Tolzien's impressive performance in the rain during last Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee.

Any edge the more experienced Flynn held up to that point may be gone after Tolzien completed 8 of 12 passes for 124 yards and led one touchdown drive against the Titans.

"He did a nice job," Van Pelt said. "Matt had some horrible conditions. Scotty's were a little more favorable, still bad, but in those conditions I thought he handled himself well, threw the ball well."

Van Pelt, in his first season as the Packers quarterbacks coach, worked extensively with Tolzien on his footwork and delivery during their offseason workouts. Off the field, they broke down the offense from the beginning, a luxury Tolzien did not have last season after he arrived in Green Bay in September, first as a member of the practice squad and eventually on the roster after Rodgers broken his collarbone.

"The footwork was good, the reads were good," Van Pelt said of Tolzien's performance against the Titans. "I thought he was solid."

Coach Mike McCarthy would not say whether Flynn or Tolzien will follow Rodgers in Saturday's second preseason game at St. Louis. Flynn got the start against the Titans because Rodgers was held out and played 30 snaps to Tolzien's 23.

In practice this week, Tolzien's reps increased.

"We try to keep it even between the two, splitting them between the No. 2 and No. 3 group," Van Pelt said. "We're trying to make it as equal a competition as we can."

At least the conditions this week will be the same for both of them inside the climate-controlled dome in St. Louis.

The deluge made it difficult for both Flynn and Tolzien. Even though Flynn got the worst of it, Tolzien's arm strength perhaps made him more successful in those conditions.

"I would have liked to handle the ball a little better throwing-wise," said Flynn, who completed 5 of 10 passes for 49 yards. "I had difficulty controlling it. It was tough, but that's how it goes."

Van Pelt said Flynn -- who replaced Tolzien after two starts last season and went 2-2-1 in games he finished -- responded this week and, according to Van Pelt, "threw the ball as well as he had thrown it in camp, so to say it was anything other than the weather would probably be wrong.”

The issue might not only be who will back up Rodgers but how many quarterbacks the Packers will keep. They have not opened a season with three quarterbacks on their roster since 2008, Rodgers’ first as a starter.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The last time Tom Clements was on the sideline for an NFL game, the temperature at kickoff was 5 degrees with a wind-chill of minus-10.

No wonder the Green Bay Packers' offensive coordinator has decided to move from the sideline to the coaches' box for games this season.

"I didn't want to get cold in the winter," the 61-year-old Clements said Thursday, referring to the Packers' playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers last January at Lambeau Field.

The change, which will make its debut in Saturday's preseason opener at the Tennessee Titans, comes on the heels of some shuffling of duties on coach Mike McCarthy's staff. New quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt will coach from the sideline on game days even though his predecessor, Ben McAdoo, the New York Giants' new offensive coordinator, coached last year from upstairs.

Clements last worked from the box in 2006, the first of his six seasons as Packers' quarterbacks coach. He moved down to the field the next season and remained there even when was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2012 after Joe Philbin left to become the Miami Dolphins coach. Philbin, incidentally, worked from the press box when he was the offensive coordinator.

"I just thought I'd have a better viewpoint up there and be more helpful," Clements said.

Rodgers
It will be the first time since quarterback Aaron Rodgers became a starter in 2008 that he won't have Clements at his side on game day.

"Tom has been a great supporter, a great ally, a great teacher for so many years," Rodgers said. "It will be a different role. But I'm sure that Alex and I and the quarterbacks would kind of look at the pictures together, talk about them and kind of make the adjustments."

It means Clements will not be able to go over the still-frame pictures that quarterbacks view between series.

"It's a change for Aaron, so we'll take the preseason to evaluate it, but Tom has great eyes," said Van Pelt, who also worked from the field last year when he was running backs coach. "Obviously, [Clements has] great knowledge of the system. He'll be a great source up in the box, you know seeing it from up top. You know I've always been on the sideline with the players, quarterbacks, running backs, so obviously it's nothing that will be different for me."

The Packers will have seven coaches in the box on game days: Clements, defensive coordinator Dom Capers, offensive assistant Luke Getsy, assistant offensive line coach Steve Marshall, defensive assistant John Rushing, defensive/special teams assistant Jason Simmons and cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt.

There will be something new for the coaches on the sideline this season. They will be able to use electronic tablets during games to view still-shots of plays in addition to traditional paper photos. Although they will not be able to play video through the tablets, they can use them to zoom in on certain players.

"The Hall of Fame game, I saw them using those," Van Pelt said. "Just reading some blurbs, I thought [Bills] Coach [Doug] Marrone [said] his didn't work at first or something, but then he really liked it once it started working. So I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays. Rain games, how is that going to affect it, sunny days, is that going to affect the screen? So there’s some bugs in the preseason."

W2W4: Packers' Family Night

August, 2, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – From a pure football standpoint (forget about the fireworks and the jersey giveaways) the best thing about the Green Bay Packers' Family Night was always the fact that it featured the first live tackling (except of the quarterbacks, of course) of the summer.

But even that is no more.

Coach Mike McCarthy decided to ditch the scrimmage this year in favor of a regular training camp practice. Fans still ate up the $10 tickets, and Lambeau Field is sold out for tonight's event, which gets underway with pre-practice activities at 5:30 p.m., but it surely won't be the same.

"Just the way the whole schedule laid out for Mike and his staff, we just needed that day as a normal practice day to be able to get everything accomplished that we wanted to get accomplished," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said this week. "And quite frankly, I don't know that it'll look a whole lot different. We still have some really good fireworks, which is a big hit in the locker room and with all the kids and that sort of thing."

With that in mind, here are a few things to watch:

QB competition: The last time anyone saw Scott Tolzien at Lambeau Field, he was getting benched in favor of Matt Flynn during the Nov. 24 tie against the Minnesota Vikings. So far in camp, Flynn holds the edge over Tolzien for the backup job behind Aaron Rodgers, but how Tolzien performs from here on out will determine whether the Packers have a difficult decision to make when it comes to deciding how many quarterbacks to keep.

"Matt knows what he does well and plays to his strengths," quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said Friday. "He's won games for the Packers. Scott, he's still trying to catch up and learn. Having a year in the system in the offseason has helped him tremendously, so he's coming along as well. Matt's done a great job, and I think Scott should be commended as well."

One-on-one reps: The most competitive drill in training camp is almost always the one-on-one pass-rushing/pass-blocking drill and given that they did not do the drill on Friday, there's a good chance they will do so tonight.

Here's a look at the best records in the drill so far:

Offensive linemen: T.J. Lang (4-0), Bryan Bulaga (6-1), Corey Linsley (6-1), David Bakhtiari (5-1), Derek Sherrod (5-1), JC Tretter (5-2), Garth Gerhart (5-2) and Don Barclay (5-3).

Pass-rushers: Mike Daniels (6-2), Datone Jones (6-4), Mike Neal (3-3), Julius Peppers (2-2), B.J. Raji (4-6).

Crosby's kicks: If there was a low point for Mason Crosby, it might have been on Family Night last year. Coming off his worst NFL season and locked in a kicking competition with Giorgio Tavecchio, Crosby missed five of his eight kicks in the scrimmage. He eventually steadied himself to reclaim the job and went on to his best season. He has carried that over into training camp, where in two kicking sessions so far he has made 14-of-16. Special-teams coach Shawn Slocum said Crosby will kick tonight, but it won't be as extensive as last year's session.

"Last year he was under a pretty intense competition," Slocum said. "He did well toward the end of it and had a good season and has come back this year, I really like where he's at. I think he's in a good place right now."

Wild-card performers: In Family Nights of the past, there have been players who have come out of relative obscurity to make themselves noticed. One of the unknowns who has already worked his way up the depth chart is rookie free-agent linebacker Joe Thomas of South Carolina State, and he likely will get more opportunities to show whether he can make enough plays to earn a roster spot.

"I think I've just done enough to get the attention of the coaches and better my chances of making the team," Thomas said. "I've got to continue to progress each day to keep catching the eye of the coaches."

Until preseason games begin next week, there's no better chance to do so than on Family Night.

Abbrederis injury update: You won't see rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis on the field (although he may be in attendance), but we should learn more about his knee injury.

Indications are that the fifth-round pick from Wisconsin sustained a torn ACL, although he was awaiting another round of tests to be sure. If those tests confirm such, he will need season-ending surgery.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on July 26, we will break down each position group.

Next up is running back.

Returning players: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, John Kuhn.

Gone from last season: Johnathan Franklin, Kahlil Bell.

New this season: Ina Liaina (street free agent), Rajion Neal (undrafted rookie from Tennessee), LaDarius Perkins (undrafted rookie from Mississippi State).

Position coach: Sam Gash (first season), replaced Alex Van Pelt (who became quarterbacks coach).

Lacy
Biggest issue: Lacy set the Packers' record for rushing yards by a rookie (1,178) on the way to winning offensive rookie of the year honors and in the process became one of the most promising running backs in the NFL. But with a year's worth of film on Lacy, teams will be better prepared for the Packers' running game this time around. How does Lacy counter that? For starters, the Packers would like to keep him on the field longer. That does not necessarily mean more plays or more carries in total. However, coach Mike McCarthy wants Lacy to be able to stay on the field for all three downs in order to prevent substitutions from slowing down the offense. That means Lacy will have to perfect his pass blocking skills. It also could mean more opportunities to catch the ball coming out of the backfield.

Player to watch: The small and speedy Harris was supposed to team with Lacy to give the Packers a different look out of the backfield, but a knee injury ended Harris' season in August. Harris was a full participant in the offseason program and will get the chance to compete with Starks for the top backup job.

Medical report: The Packers had high hopes for Franklin, who flashed some ability with a 103-yard performance last season against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the neck injury he sustained late last season turned out to be career-ending. He was released last month after doctors determined it would be unsafe for him to keep playing.

Help wanted: If five running backs make the roster, it means there's at least one spot that is wide open behind Lacy, Starks, Harris and Kuhn. Hill had two different stints on the practice squad last season sandwiched around two weeks on the active roster before finishing the season with the Buccaneers and re-signing with the Packers in the offseason. Neal and Perkins are both slashing backs similar Harris. Liaina would give the Packers a younger option at fullback but there/s no indication Kuhn's job is in jeopardy.

Quotable: "We haven't sat down and figured out 'X' number of carries for Eddie," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "We want to get him touches, trying to get him more involved in all aspects of the game, but Eddie was a workhorse for us last year. And then when James got in there last year, he ran very hard. That was a great one-two punch. Now you factor in DuJuan and the other guys, it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out."

Previous installments

Monday: Quarterbacks
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on July 26, we will break down each position group.

First up is quarterback.

Returning players: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien

Gone from last season: Seneca Wallace, coach Ben McAdoo

New this season: Chase Rettig (undrafted rookie, Boston College)

Position coach: Alex Van Pelt (first season), moved from running backs coach to replace McAdoo (who became the New York Giants offensive coordinator)

Flynn
Flynn
Tolzien
Biggest issue: Last year, the Packers went in to training camp unsure whether they had a capable backup behind Rodgers. As it turned out, they did not. Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman and Vince Young all failed to show enough to warrant the job, so the Packers turned to the journeyman Wallace. This year, coach Mike McCarthy thinks he has two viable options in Flynn and Tolzien. So what happens if both play well enough in the preseason to warrant the job? The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, preferring instead to stash their third quarterback on the practice squad. Can the Packers afford to keep three quarterbacks at the expense of another position?

Player to watch: The Packers know what Flynn can do. Although his days of competing for a starting job with another team have probably passed him by, he once again proved his value as a backup -- especially in Green Bay -- by going 2-2-1 last season while Rodgers was sidelined with his collarbone injury. So all eyes will be on Tolzien, who went 0-2 as a starter last season after Wallace was injured before giving way to Flynn. Tolzien's upside might be higher than Flynn's based on his arm strength and age (26 compared to Flynn, who is 29). But Tolzien must show he can avoid the costly turnovers that befell him last season, when he was picked off five times in two games.

Medical report: Rodgers reported for the offseason program in perhaps the best shape of his career. He said his weight was around 220 pounds (5 to 10 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season) thanks in part to yoga exercises and diet. He showed no side effects from the collarbone injury and participated fully in the offseason program.

Help wanted: Barring an injury, the Packers won't need any additional help.

Quotable: "I think there's a comfort level obviously with the group that's here now," Van Pelt said. "Scott having a chance to start last year, probably a little premature. I don't know if he was quite ready for that, but he did a nice job and managed the game when he was in there. And then having Matt come back last year was a good shot in the arm for the group. Obviously with his knowledge of the system we feel very comfortable with him in there, won two games for us last year, did a nice job when he was in there. I think we're very happy with who we have and what we are and the direction we're moving. Should be interesting competition in the fall between Matt and Scott."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Over the last two weeks, you've heard quite a bit from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who sat down recently with ESPN.com for a wide-ranging interview.

It's a good time to compile the best of Rodgers' comments in one place.

So here's the 30-year-old quarterback as he approaches his 10th NFL season:

Rodgers
On becoming more comfortable in the spotlight, such as when he was photographed recently with new girlfriend Olivia Munn: "I'm just going to live my life and enjoy my relationship and realize that comes with it. I still enjoy what little privacy I have left, and I'm going to hold on to that. But I'm not going to let that stuff bother me in ways that it used to."

On what he would do if he were in tight end Jermichael Finley's situation: "I would want to play until they told me I couldn't play anymore. He's younger than I am, and we're competitors. We have to be in our arena doing what we love to do, so it would be near impossible to keep me off the field. I'm sure he feels the same."

On his perfect attendance record in the offseason program: "This is such an important time, I think. This is when you can really get to know your teammates because it's a more relaxed atmosphere. There's no pressure on what we're doing. You have a lot more time and a lot more energy so that when you're done here today, you can go spend time with your teammates, you can go hang out. So this time of the year can start to build that chemistry with your teammates, and I've always found that's really important to success for a team."

On fellow Packers' legendary quarterbacks Bart Starr and Brett Favre: "I've always thought it would be fun to do something, the three of us, some sort of sit down where we could all talk about our experiences. I'm sure that's three interesting perspectives on this place and the appreciation for it. But Bart's been a great mentor and a great guy. It was a blast to win his award, and I think Brett's ready to be welcomed back the way he deserves to be welcomed back, and that will be exciting."

On what he likes about this year's team: "I think we’re a bigger, more physically intimidating team. We haven’t had the kind of physical talent as far as size here in a while. I think there's been times – I think back to playing Jacksonville in '08 in Jacksonville [a 20-16 Packers' loss], some of the battles we've had with our division teams at times – where you walk on the field and feel like you're kind of a JV team. We've still won a lot of games looking like that, but it's fun when you walk around the locker room and you've got guys like [Julius] Peppers, [Adrian] Hubbard, Datone Jones and then with Derek [Sherrod] back with his size, adding size at receiver, tight end with Richard Rodgers. We just haven't had guys in some of these positions with those body types, and that's exciting."

On whether the Packers' offense can be as explosive as it was in the record-setting 2011 season: "I think there's a chance."

On new quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt: "Alex and I are real good buddies, and it's been fun working with him. He sees the game through the eyes of somebody who played the position, so it's a different perspective. But I think he's been harping on a lot of things and wants to hold me accountable like Ben [McAdoo] and Tom [Clements] did, but he's attacking it a different way and I've been responding really well."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers has played for one head coach, Mike McCarthy, for all but his first NFL season.

The way things are going for the Green Bay Packers, there's a good chance this quarterback-coach combination will remain intact for years to come.

Rodgers
And that's something Rodgers says he's comfortable with.

Although the two have butted heads at times -- both chalking it up to their competitive natures -- Rodgers had nothing but good things to say about McCarthy and his coaching staff during last week's lengthy interview.

One thing that keeps things fresh for Rodgers is that he's on his third different quarterbacks coach in four seasons. His newest position coach, Alex Van Pelt, was promoted from running backs coach and follows Ben McAdoo (who left after two seasons to become the New York Giants offensive coordinator) and current Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements.

When asked whether having the same head coach for almost his entire career makes it more important to work with different positions coaches, Rodgers said: "I think it's important to mix it up a little bit. Change is tough, but it can really be good for things that are getting stagnant."

Van Pelt is the only one of Rodgers' three quarterbacks coaches who has played the position in the NFL. Van Pelt spent his entire nine-year career with the Buffalo Bills, where was primarily Jim Kelly's backup and appeared in 31 career games.

Van Pelt has said one of his tasks has been to come up with new ways to challenge Rodgers in order to keep him fresh.

"I think time will tell as far as what's going to be different with my playing style on the field," Rodgers said. "But he's got his own way of doing things, just like Ben did and just like Tom did. I think you can really gain something from every perspective and learn. Alex and I are real good buddies, and it's been fun working with him. He sees the game through the eyes of somebody who played the position, so it's a different perspective. But I think he's been harping on a lot of things and wants to hold me accountable like Ben and Tom did, but he’s attacking it a different way and I've been responding really well."

Coming tomorrow: The best of Aaron Rodgers' comments.

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