NFL Nation: Micah Hyde

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy has not named a starting center, tight end or free safety.

But Green Bay Packers training camp is in its fourth week, and the coach has not made changes at any of those positions where there was a new starter to be found.

For that matter, there has not been a single starting job that has changed hands since practice began on July 26 -- something that has to be a first in McCarthy's nine training camps as head coach.

[+] EnlargeRichard Rodgers
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiRookie TE Richard Rodgers has been a part of the Packers' process in building continuity this preseason.
With half the preseason gone, if a starting lineup change was coming, it probably would have happened in practice this week.

But the same players who have taken the regular starter's reps since camp opened were in their usual spots as the Packers began preparation for the third preseason game, at home against the Oakland Raiders on Friday, when the starters likely will see their most extensive action of the preseason. Some of them will then sit out the preseason finale in preparation for the season opener at the Seattle Seahawks.

That likely means that barring injury between now and Sept. 4, the Packers will open the regular season with JC Tretter as their starting center, rookie Richard Rodgers as their starting tight end and Micah Hyde at free safety. All three have started each of the first two preseason games, and all three were in those same spots on Monday and Tuesday.

"Teams that play together, particularly practice together every day, get better," McCarthy said. "That's always been my experience. The opportunity to grow takes time on the practice field. Obviously, once you start getting into the games, you have the opportunity to grow there. The continuity's been good."

That does not mean there won't be some variety from play to play or series to series. McCarthy has multiple personnel groups on offense just as coordinator Dom Capers does with his defense. For example, the Packers will use more than one tight end. And on defense, first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will play some safety when Hyde moves to the slot cornerback in some sub packages.

"We're still trying to play as many different combinations of players as we move forward," McCarthy said. "You'll see some of those changes as we get ready for Oakland and the way we go about it Friday night against Oakland. We have targets that we're trying to hit based on schemes we’re trying to run [with] different combinations of players. The biggest thing is the same guys are practicing every day together. It's been good that way."

Perhaps that's why when the No. 1 offense took the field for the first time as a complete unit on Saturday at St. Louis, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Co. put together a pair of 12-play drives that resulted in a touchdown and a field goal in their only action of the preseason so far.

"It's really important," Rodgers said of the continuity. "Although there were some questions early on about the center position, I think JC definitely separated himself, and we were really able to operate as a No. 1 offense with really, other than the tight end position, not many of those spots where there's a gray area on who was going to be the guy."

There has not even been much turnover at the bottom of the roster. General manager Ted Thompson claimed receiver Gerrard Sheppard off waivers on July 30 and that's the only other roster move the Packers have made since was last week's trade of defensive end Jerel Worthy to the New England Patriots for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

"Sometimes you keep adding to the mix, it gets too salty," Thompson said. "Sometimes you have to stop and say, 'OK, let's try to figure this out.' And quite frankly it's just a reflection of where you are, if you've gotten somebody nicked up. When we claimed Sheppard, we had just had a couple of receivers with a bump or two and you don't want to get too light at those running positions, especially early in training camp."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you were thinking there's no way the Green Bay Packers will use Randall Cobb, Micah Hyde or any other starter as their return man, then you weren't listening to what coach Mike McCarthy said this week.

[+] EnlargeDuJuan Harris
Wade Payne/AP PhotoWhile the Packers will look to use veteran DuJuan Harris as a kickoff returner, there's still questions about which players will fill in behind him.
"I've got to get away from that thinking," McCarthy said. "I think it's dangerous to get into limitations and trying to be too cautious. When you get cautious and worry negative things happen. So we're going to put our best players out there. We need to be better on special teams and a good returner makes any return unit better."

That was evident in practice this week, when the top-three punt returners were Cobb, Hyde and veteran cornerback Tramon Williams. Running back DuJuan Harris, third on the depth chart behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks, appears to be the top kickoff returner.

There's little doubt Cobb is the Packers' most dangerous returner. He has three career kick returns for touchdowns (one kickoff, two punts), but McCarthy took him off those duties last season, when he became one of the focal points of the offense. It's worth noting the fractured leg that cost Cobb 10 games last season came when he was playing receiver and not on special teams.

Hyde finished last season as the primary returner. He excelled at punt returns, averaging 12.3 yards (fifth in the NFL) and had a 93-yard return for a touchdown against the Vikings in Week 8, but was only average on kickoff returns. Last season, he was a part-time player on defense. This year, he likely will be on the field full time.

If the Packers do shy away from using starters such as Cobb and Hyde as returners, then the competition for those jobs -- especially the punt returner -- is wide open.

"We'll have a precise discussion about who we use as our returners," special teams coach Shawn Slocum said. "And we'll move forward once we decide that."

The Packers almost certainly would have given a long look to rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis as their return man, especially on punts, but his season-ending knee injury the first week of camp ended that.

They tried rookie receiver Davante Adams on punt returns in last week's preseason opener at Tennessee, but it was a disaster. The second-round pick muffed both of his attempts and then injured his wrist on the second one.

To be fair, Adams had not taken a single rep with the punt return team in practice leading up to that game (he had caught punts on his own off the side) and then was thrown in during a heavy-rain storm in Nashville.

When asked why he put Adams out there for the first punt, Slocum said: "It's a tough game played by tough men. You've got to step up and respond."

The Packers' team-issued depth chart reads like this on kickoff returns: Hyde, Harris, Cobb, Jeff Janis, Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins. On punt returns, it reads: Hyde, Cobb, Myles White, Williams.

If the Packers don't use a veteran such as Cobb, Harris, Hyde or Williams, here's a look at the options:

Kickoff returns
Kevin Dorsey: Despite not even being listed on the depth chart, the second-year receiver has worked as the No. 2 returner behind Harris but did not return kicks in college at Maryland. He had one return for 23 yards against the Titans. He needs to prove he’s worthy of a roster spot at receiver first.
Janis: The rookie seventh-round pick has limited experience, but he has the speed and ability to catch the ball. He's also fighting for a roster spot.
Neal: Slocum likes to use running backs on kickoff returns, and the undrafted rookie from Tennessee took one turn against the Titans (and returned it 22 yards) before a knee injury ended his night. The problem is, he might be a longshot to make the team. He won't play Saturday at St. Louis because of the knee.
Perkins: With Neal out of practice this week, Perkins got increased reps. Like Neal, the undrafted rookie is a longshot to make the team. He has taken some reps during practice on kickoff returns but did not get a chance against the Titans.

Punt returns
Adams: Slocum said he's willing to give Adams another chance despite his struggles catching the ball against the Titans. The second-round pick is a lock to make the roster.
White: Talk about struggles catching the ball, the backup receiver had one practice in which he muffed three punts in one special teams period. Also, he's not a lock to make the team.
Janis: Although he's probably more natural as a kickoff returner, Slocum believes Janis has the ability to do both.
Ryan White: The undrafted rookie cornerback fielded punts with the scout team this week, but he's another longshot to make the roster.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- They're taking water breaks and serving snacks during training camp practices. They're using a GPS system to monitor players' movements.

They changed their practice plan, flip-flopping their Friday-Saturday in-season schedule, and even within those individual practices they moved drills that used to be at the beginning to the end, and vice versa.

All for one reason: To reduce the injuries that have befallen the Green Bay Packers in recent years.

And what good has it done?

They already have lost two players -- rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis and offensive lineman Don Barclay -- who almost certainly would have been on the opening day roster. Both suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments within the first two weeks of practice.

Some injuries -- no matter what the training staff does to keep players energized for practice and regardless of how coach Mike McCarthy designs his schedule -- just have to be chalked up to bad luck.

"Watch either one of those things as it happened, it wouldn't give any sort of indication that it was going to be a bad deal," Packers general manger Ted Thompson said. "It's just the way it turned out."

But so far in camp, the number of missed practices due to muscle or fatigue-related injuries has been low. A year after hamstring pulls were the order of camp, the only serious muscle pull in the first two weeks was an oblique strain suffered by starting strong safety Morgan Burnett.

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsA rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers is showing no aftereffects -- so far -- of last season's broken collarbone.
1. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers turned 30 in December and is coming off the worst injury of his career (a broken collarbone), but you would never know it by watching him now. He has been humming along in training camp as well as he ever has. His command of the offense is so great that McCarthy has been able to cut several practices short because they have not been forced to repeat plays ruined by mental errors. Rodgers reported to camp about 11 pounds lighter than he was last season, thanks to a combination of workouts (which included yoga) and diet.

2. If there's such a thing as a distraction-free training camp, this has been it. They addressed their No. 1 contract concern by signing receiver Jordy Nelson to a four-year, $39 million extension on the morning camp opened. A few days later, they locked up Thompson with a multiyear extension and said McCarthy would be next. And perhaps they have finally put any bad vibes from Brett Favre behind them when they announced last week that their former quarterback will have his number retired next summer, when he also will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. All of that has allowed the team to focus on its preparation without anything getting in the way.

3. The biggest area of concern last year, the safety position, now may be one their strengths. Micah Hyde's switch from cornerback has gone better than expected, and first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix looks game-ready. Then there's third-year safety Sean Richardson, who has made perhaps more big plays in practice than anyone on defense. If Burnett comes back soon from his oblique strain -- and finally starts to perform like the Pro Bowl-caliber player they thought he was when they gave him a four-year, $24.75 million extension last summer -- then there should not be any concerns.

THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM

1. The Packers still do not know -- and may not know for a while -- whether JC Tretter can handle the starting center job. After a rough start to training camp, the second-year pro seemed to settle into the position and was solid in the preseason opener. But given the opener is at the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in perhaps the loudest stadium in the league, there's probably nothing that can prepare Tretter for what he will have to deal with in Week 1.

2. As good as the Packers feel about Nelson, receiver Randall Cobb and running back Eddie Lacy, they don't have many other proven weapons for Rodgers. No one from the tight end group has emerged as the favorite to replace Jermichael Finley, although Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick and rookie Richard Rodgers have had their moments (both good and bad). And among the receivers, Jarrett Boykin has been no better than average in his quest to replace James Jones as the No. 3 receiver. Every time it looks like rookie Davante Adams may take that job from Boykin, he drops a ball.

3. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews participated in every practice during the first two weeks but still is not ready to proclaim his twice-broken right thumb 100 percent. Perhaps it's more of a mental hurdle for Matthews, but he needs to be able to use his hand without restrictions in order to return to his Pro Bowl level. It's hard to tell if Matthews is babying the injury, but in the first two weeks of practice, he took only two reps in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill and lost both. He played a few snaps early in the preseason opener against the Titans and did not seem to have any issues.

[+] EnlargeB.J. Raji
AP Photo/Morry GashB.J. Raji, back at nose tackle after spending last season at defensive end, has had an impressive camp.
OBSERVATION DECK

  • B.J. Raji looks re-energized after moving back to nose tackle. He signed just a one-year contract (worth $4 million) after the free-agent market proved soft, and might be motivated by another chance to test free agency next offseason.
  • Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is preparing second-year pro Datone Jones for a big role. Last year as a rookie, the first-round pick played almost exclusively in the sub packages and hardly ever played in the base 3-4 defense. Now, Jones has been penciled in as a starting defensive end while also playing as an inside rusher in the nickel and dime defenses.
  • If there's a high draft pick who might struggle to get on the field early in the season, it's perhaps third-round defensive tackle Khyri Thornton. Much like defensive end Josh Boyd last season, Thornton might not be ready for playing time from the get-go. Last season, Boyd was inactive for the first five games and seven of the first nine before he found a role.
  • The same could be said for fourth-round pick Carl Bradford. The outside linebacker from Arizona State has struggled to make many impact plays.
  • Last year, safety Chris Banjo was signed a few days into training camp and made the team. Receiver Gerrard Sheppard has a chance to do something similar. He was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens five days after camp opened and has made some impressive catches.
The Green Bay Packers decided not to play starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Saturday's preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans in part so that they could take a long look at their backup quarterbacks.

They probably liked what they saw from Scott Tolzien in the 20-16 loss in tough weather conditions at LP Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Not that there was anything wrong with Matt Flynn, who started and played most of the first half against the Titans' defensive starters, but he did not move the ball as well as Tolzien did against Tennessee's backups. After Flynn went 5-of-10 for 49 yards, Tolzien relieved him for the final series of the second quarter. He played into the fourth quarter and completed 8 of 12 passes for 124 yards. At least two of Tolzien's passes were dropped, not including Chris Harper's drop on a two-point conversion pass.

Each quarterback led one touchdown drive, both of which ended with rushing touchdowns, and neither threw an interception while playing in near-constant rain.

Some other thoughts on the Packers' first preseason game of the year:
  • It was startling to see first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix fail to tackle 5-foot-8, 170-pound running back Dexter McCluster, who turned the miss into a 10-yard gain, but the rookie safety recovered on the next play to dump Bishop Sankey after a 1-yard gain. Clinton-Dix also had a nice pass breakup on a seam route by Taylor Thompson. Thompson beat Clinton-Dix off the line, but he recovered to knock the ball out.
  • It was surprising to see rookie receiver Davante Adams get the first crack on punt returns, given that he has had limited opportunities to do so in practice, but he might not get another chance after muffing his two opportunities. He recovered the first one and returned it 8 yards, but the Titans got the second one, and it led to their lone first-half touchdown. Maybe it was the wet ball, because the normally steady Micah Hyde muffed a fair catch in the third quarter, although he recovered it. Running back DuJuan Harris returned the opening kickoff 40 yards, but bobbled his second turn.
  • With Eddie Lacy held out, James Starks looked like the same running back as last season, when he averaged a career-best 5.5 yards per carry as a backup. Starks made a nice cut on his 20-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and carried six times for 49 yards, mostly against the Titans' starters. Harris, in his first game action since the end of the 2012 season, carried seven times for 18 yards with a long run of 11 and had a pair of short receptions. Undrafted rookie running back Rajion Neal had an impressive debut with five carries for 39 yards (including a 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter).
  • The Packers had to like what they saw from starting center JC Tretter in his first NFL action. While the No. 1 offensive line played just one series, the second-year pro remained in for two more series with the second unit. He had a good block on the backside of Starks' touchdown and had no problems snapping the wet ball.
  • The only other injuries announced during the game were to Neal and linebacker Joe Thomas. Both undrafted rookies sustained knee injuries.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Thirteen months ago, the Green Bay Packers gave Morgan Burnett an $8.25 million signing bonus as part of a four-year, $24.75 million contract extension.

Now, there's a chance he might not be among their top-two performers at the safety position this summer.

In fact, if there's one starter in danger of losing his job, it might be Burnett.

[+] EnlargeMicah Hyde
AP Photo/Morry GashMicah Hyde has impressed the coaching staff with his transition from cornerback to safety.
The fifth-year veteran won't play in Saturday's preseason opener at the Tennessee Titans, opening the door for rookie Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to start alongside Micah Hyde, who has made what coach Mike McCarthy said is a "seamless" transition from cornerback to safety.

The way Hyde has performed throughout the offseason and during the first two weeks of training camp, it's hard to imagine him losing his grip a starting job. And if Clinton-Dix performs like a first-round draft pick should, he will warrant playing time, too.

Throw in third-year pro Sean Richardson – who garnered unprompted praise from McCarthy on Thursday -- and combine that with the fact that Burnett underachieved last season and now has an oblique strain that kept him out of practice most of the week, and there are suddenly all sorts of possibilities at the position.

"Anything's possible," Packers safeties coach Darren Perry said when asked about those scenarios.

He will know more after the Packers have a couple of preseason games in the books, but at this point Perry could not rule out that Burnett might not be among their top-two safeties.

"These guys haven't played in one game [at safety],” Perry said. "Micah's playing a new position. Ha Ha is coming straight out of college. We know what the expectations are, but again, this is the NFL and you should never underestimate this league and the challenges that are out there if you're not ready to play. We haven't done anything. We haven't tackled anybody to the ground. We haven't seen guys play hurt, there's so many factors that go in that these games will showcase, and that's what we're looking forward to seeing.

"But I feel very good about what we have and I can’t wait to see the guys play, because they've been working their butts off and they want to show what they're capable of being."

It would be a drastic change if the Packers were to take Burnett out of the starting lineup. When he healthy, he has been a starter ever since he came into the league as a third-round pick in 2010.

On Thursday, McCarthy said he considers Burnett a starter but then added, "We don't get caught on 11 players, especially [when] the emphasis for our whole defense is to play more players."

There might be room for all of them on the field, at times. The Packers have practiced with a package that included Burnett, Clinton-Dix and Hyde on the field at the same time.

It's been a tough start to camp for Burnett. He missed a practice in the opening week because of an ankle injury and then strained his oblique muscle on Monday.

"It's part of the game; nicks and bruises are going to come along with the game," Burnett said. "It's just all about getting the proper treatment and getting back out there."

Packers Camp Report: Day 11

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
6:45
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, wearing a large brace on his right knee, hobbled through the locker room Thursday on crutches and with an uncertainty about his future. Lyerla still does not know the full extent of his injury. He is scheduled for more tests on Friday, but there's a chance he might not be cleared before the preseason ends. "If I had to guess, I'd say no," he said. That would make it nearly impossible for the Packers to keep him on the roster, something that was a long shot anyway, but it also could complicate matters as far as the practice squad goes because of waivers/injury settlement rules. He hurt his knee in Saturday's Family Night practice after an ill-advised leap over a defender "I just said, 'Look, even though there's 70,000 people out here, it is still practice, so just be smart,'" tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. "And that was really all I said to him. Hopefully, we'll get him back as soon as we can."
  • Thursday marked the beginning of coach Mike McCarthy's new practice schedule leading up to games. As will be the norm two days before a game, the players did not practice. They took part in a walk-through, workouts and meetings. Then on Friday, they will hold a short practice, which is closed to the public, before departing for the airport. In McCarthy's first eight seasons, he has tweaked various parts of his schedule but never wavered from the idea that on-field practice would be wrapped up two days before the game. Until now. "How we've handled the end of the week going into a football game we have stayed consistent with throughout, and this is the change," McCarthy said. "It's really the last 48 hours of how you go into a game."
  • While most of the focus at safety has been on first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and second-year pro Micah Hyde, who appears to have made a successful transition from cornerback, another safety has had perhaps the best camp of them all. Third-year pro Sean Richardson leads the group with two interceptions through the first two weeks of camp. That's big for a position group that failed to pick off a single pass last season. McCarthy made special mention of Richardson on Thursday. "I've been impressed with him both defensively and special teams," he said. "I mean he needed to pick it up on special teams, and you know Sean's done a lot of good things." Last year, Richardson missed the first half of the season while recovering from neck fusion surgery.
  • McCarthy ruled out seven players for Saturday's game: Safety Morgan Burnett (oblique strain), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), safety Tanner Miller (ankle), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring), defensive end Jerel Worthy (back) and Lyerla. None will travel with the team.
  • Looking ahead to next week, the Packers have only two open practices, Tuesday at noon and Wednesday at 11:45 a.m. local time.

Packers Camp Report: Day 10

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
7:30
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • There were several dropped passes in Wednesday's practice, but there also were two spectacular one-handed catches. And they occurred on back-to-back plays courtesy of a pair of rookie receivers, second-round pick Davante Adams and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis. First, Janis pulled down his one-handed, 16-yard touchdown from Scott Tolzien on a fade route over Sam Shields in the left corner of the end zone. It was only Janis' third day of practice after missing the first week of camp because of shingles. It showed the kind of athleticism the Packers liked when they drafted the 6-foot-3, 219-pounder out of Saginaw Valley State. On the next play, Adams snagged an 11-yard touchdown from Matt Flynn over Casey Hayward in the right corner of the end zone. For Adams, perhaps it made up for two drops during the two-hour, 12-minute practice. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers and receiver Randall Cobb also had drops.
  • Speaking of one-handed catches, safety Micah Hyde went up high to pull in an interception in the end zone against fourth-string quarterback Chase Rettig. Hyde and first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix continued to work as the top safety combination with Morgan Burnett (oblique strain) still out. Cornerback Jarrett Bush had an interception for the second consecutive day. After getting Aaron Rodgers on Tuesday, Bush picked off a Tolzien pass for Alex Gillett that popped into the air after Gillett collided with linebacker Jake Doughty.
  • Outside linebacker Clay Matthews let an interception slip through his hands, but he said it had nothing to do with his twice-broken thumb from last season. "Flynn put a little extra zip on that, and it just kind of caught me off-guard," Matthews said. "It won't happen on game day." Matthews expects his first game action to come in Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee. He has taken part in every training camp practice after missing the entire offseason while recovering from the thumb injury. "It's still not 100 percent, but it's getting close," he said. "It's getting stronger every single day, and I feel good about the progress I'm making."
  • A day after losing versatile backup offensive lineman Don Barclay to a torn ACL, Derek Sherrod took some snaps as the backup right tackle after spending all of camp as the No. 2 left tackle. Sherrod was perfect on three reps in the one-on-one drill, including a turn at right tackle. Lane Taylor's snaps also increased at guard, where Barclay backed up both spots.
  • Coach Mike McCarthy classified Burnett's oblique strain as "day to day" and did not rule out the possibility that Burnett could play on Saturday. Others who missed practice were: running back Michael Hill (concussion), safety Tanner Miller (ankle), tight end Colt Lyerla (knee), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (back).
  • The Packers will be at Lambeau Field for meetings, individual workouts and a walk-through on Thursday but there is no formal practice. The team will then hold a short, closed practice on Friday before leaving for Tennessee. This will simulate an in-season Friday-Saturday schedule before a normal Sunday game. After an off day following the Titans game, the Packers will hold another closed practice on Monday. The next practice open to the public is Tuesday at noon local time.

Packers Camp Report: Day 9

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
10:00
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • For the second time in camp, first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix got extended work with the starters on Tuesday in place of strong safety Morgan Burnett. And unlike last time, when Burnett returned from an ankle injury the next day, this stint could last longer. Burnett has a strained oblique muscle that could keep him out for multiple days. Playing in Burnett's spot had Clinton-Dix near the line of scrimmage more than if he were playing alongside at free safety. At Alabama, Clinton-Dix said he played both spots so it's not a major adjustment. When the Packers picked Clinton-Dix at No. 21 overall, the thinking was he would be an immediate starter at free safety, but the Packers have instead stuck with Micah Hyde throughout camp. "Nothing is given to you," Clinton-Dix said. "You have to earn it."
  • Burnett's absence also meant more work for second-year safety Chris Banjo, who had a pass breakup on a crossing route by tight end Ryan Taylor from Matt Flynn. Banjo also should have had an interception on a Scott Tolzien pass thrown over tight end Jake Stoneburner, but the Banjo did not get his hands up in time and allowed the ball to hit him in the helmet.
  • In the first eight camp practices, the Packers installed a different part of their offense and defense in each session. With that process complete, coach Mike McCarthy switched to an in-season practice format which featured almost no competitive team periods. The starting offense worked against a scout-team defense and vice versa to prepare for Saturday’s preseason opener at Tennessee. "We started that process today of starting to have periods look and conducted the way they will be during game plan week," McCarthy said. It resulted in the shortest regular practice of camp, just one hour and 41 minutes. The only shorter session was the 90-minute practice portion of the Family Night event on Saturday.
  • Aaron Rodgers does not throw many interceptions in practice, but veteran cornerback Jarrett Bush got him during a team period. He stepped in front of a pass intended for Jarrett Boykin, which brought a huge cheer for the defensive sideline.
  • A day after an impressive 4-0 performance in the one-on-one pass rushing drill, rookie outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott did not fare as well. He lost both of his reps, getting blocked by tackles Bryan Bulaga and Jeremy Vujnovich. ... Datone Jones handed T.J. Lang his first loss in six one-on-one reps this camp. ... Fourth-round pick Carl Bradford has not gotten much done in the one-on-ones. He lost a pair of turns Tuesday to fall to 0-4. ... For the first time in camp, Lang did not appear to be limited at all by his sore shoulder. He took his regular share of reps in every period.
  • In addition to the knee injury that took out backup offensive lineman Don Barclay, others who missed practice were: Burnett (oblique), running back Michael Hill (concussion), safety Tanner Miller (ankle), tight end Colt Lyerla (knee), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (back).
  • Wednesday's 11:45 a.m. practice is the last open session of the week prior to the preseason opener against the Titans.

Packers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 3, 2014
Aug 3
12:40
AM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • When Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he was going to treat the annual Family Night event like a regular practice instead of a scrimmage, he meant it. What the Family Night-record crowd of 67,336 at Lambeau Field on Saturday night saw was a near-perfect replication of what takes place across the street every day during camp at Ray Nitschke Field. About the only difference was near-constant music playing over the public address system and a fireworks show that followed. Tickets to the event were $10 and sold out in one week.
  • By the end of the receiver-defensive back one-on-one drill early in the practice, all the defensive players could do was laugh at the amount of penalty flags that flew. Even though they know the officials are placing an emphasis on contact in the passing game, they did not expect what they saw. There were about 20 reps in the drill and by unofficial count, the officials threw flags on 10 of them. Only one was on a receiver. "That was amazing," safety Micah Hyde said. "I've never seen that before in my life. I think they were trying to call every little thing. ... We were literally laughing after a while."
  • Just because the Packers gave cornerback Sam Shields a four-year, $39 million contract this offseason does not mean they're going to be afraid to use him on special teams. The speedy Shields was back at his usual spot as the outside cover man on the kickoff team.
  • Rookie second-round receiver Davante Adams has shown up big in practice more often of late. He made perhaps the best catch of Family Night, when he had to extend himself to haul in a ball on the left sideline from Matt Flynn against tight coverage from cornerback Antonio Dennard.
  • In other odds and ends: A year after he missed five of his eight field goals in Family Night, kicker Mason Crosby was perfect on Saturday. He ended the practice by making kicks of 28, 33, 38, 43, 48 and 50 yards. He is 20-of-22 so far in training camp. ... The two undrafted rookie running backs -- Tennessee’s Rajion Neal and Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins -- continue to make some impressive plays. On a fourth-and-1 play, Neal busted a stretch play to the left for a long gain. Even though there was no live tackling, the play appeared to be legitimate because Neal was untouched as he turned it up the field. ... Outside linebacker Mike Neal might struggle to play inside after dropping down to 264 pounds. He got swallowed up by rookie guard Jordan McCray on one play when he lined up at defensive tackle.
  • Rookie center Corey Linsley (shoulder) returned after missing only one day of practice. Those who did not dress on Saturday were: safety Tanner Miller (ankle), receiver Jeff Janis (illness), receiver Jared Abbrederis (ankle), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring), defensive end Jerel Worthy (back). Nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) and tight end Colt Lyerla (leg) dropped out of practice
  • Players are off on Sunday and don't return to the practice field until 5:30 p.m. CT on Monday.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The question came about 26 minutes into NFL referee Ed Hochuli’s presentation in the Lambeau Field media auditorium on the rule changes and points of emphasis for 2014.

It was posed to perhaps the most recognizable member of the football officiating fraternity like this: "Sometimes you're a little wordy, at times, with your explanations…"

To which Hochuli good-naturedly cut in and said: "This is a kind of a wordy question. Could you get to the point?"

[+] EnlargeRef
AP Photo/Brian BlancoVeteran NFL official Ed Hochuli was in Green Bay on Thursday to go over the points of emphasis the league will be monitoring this season.
Among the laughter, one of the members of his officiating crew chimed in.

"We ask [Hochuli] the same thing," he said.

It then took the famously long-winded, well-muscled referee one minute, 25 seconds -- and 294 words -- to explain.

Not all of that will translate to this format, but the gist is this: In 1993, Hochuli, barely a year into his career as a head referee, was working the Thanksgiving game in Dallas between the Cowboys and Dolphins, known better as the Leon Lett game. The Cowboys would have won the game after a blocked field goal had Lett not tried to recover the loose ball in the snow, which allowed the Dolphins to regain possession and attempt the field goal again.

The play and the ruling that followed was confusing and required a lengthy explanation that unbeknownst to anyone at the time was the beginning of a career's worth of Hochuli's long-lasting clarifications. YouTube is filled with them.

"Believe it or not, I don't want to be as wordy as I am," Hochuli said. "My goal is to tell the announcers what's going on. If I can get them the information, they can then go on and explain from there. But I also find that people misunderstand what we did and why we did it. So if we don’t give an explanation a lot of times, people will make the wrong assumption. So if I can give some explanation, I get people headed down the right path.

"I know that sometimes there's more words than there needs [to be]. Sometimes I'll start talking and I'll think to myself, 'How am I going to end this one?' I've explained that and I kind of need to explain this, and it goes on and on and on."

Hochuli attributed some of that to his background as a lawyer.

For more than a half hour on Thursday, Hochuli explained the rules changes and points of emphasis that NFL officials will monitor this season. He and part of his crew are in town for three days to work Green Bay Packers' practices.

Perhaps the most notable point of emphasis this season will be on the stricter enforcement of defensive holding and illegal contact against receivers.

And the flags were flying throughout the practice.

"We started practice today and I think we [flagged] 10 out of the first 10 plays on the DB-receiver drill," Hochuli said. "Players will get it. The players adjust. They understand the rule changes, and they adjust."

That does not mean they will happy about it.

Throughout practice, defensive backs and defensive position coaches questioned members of Hochuli's crew about several calls.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to them, but I might have yelled a few things at them," Packers safety Micah Hyde said with a laugh. "It's tough. It's tough on the defense. I'm hoping it's not as touchy as it was today."

Packers Camp Report: Day 2

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
7:45
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers' training camp:
  • One day after Matt Flynn got the bulk of the work as the No. 2 quarterback, Sunday was Scott Tolzien's turn. He got the call in the no-huddle period and completed 3-of-5 passes, including a 12-yarder to tight end Brandon Bostick on third-and-7 to keep the drive going. His arm strength was apparent when he zipped a 9-yard out to rookie receiver Davante Adams on the next play. The drive ended four plays later when he missed receiver Alex Gillett in the flat on third-and-4. His only other incompletion was on a pass that appeared to be tipped near the line of scrimmage. The backup quarterback snaps have been split equally between Flynn and Tolzien the first two days. Although he played in three games last season (including two starts), this is Tolzien's first chance to go through an offseason with the Packers after being signed to the practice squad last September. "Work ethic, he knocks it out of the park, and you're seeing the benefits of that," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think they're both very comfortable not only with the people they're working with but what we're asking them to do."
  • Adams, the Packers' second-round draft pick, had a tough assignment during the first team period when he drew cornerback Casey Hayward. A day earlier, Hayward got his hands on just about every pass thrown his way. But not this time, Adams ran an out route and used his 6-foot-1, 215-pound frame to shield Hayward from the ball. Hayward tried to jump the route, but Adams' positioning allowed him to make the play along the left sideline, leaving Hayward grasping at air.
  • It was a good day for another rookie receiver. Fifth-round pick Jared Abbrederis had perhaps the play of the day, when he hauled in a deep pass from Flynn with cornerback Tramon Williams in tight coverage.
  • Micah Hyde finished last year as the primary punt returner and is getting the first crack at the job this season. In a punt return period, he took the first rep. Others who took turns were Abbrederis, Williams, Randall Cobb and Myles White. There has not been a live kickoff return period yet.
  • Hyde, who continued to work ahead of rookie first round-pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety, had two big pass breakups – one on a deep ball to Jordy Nelson and another when he went over the back of Abbrederis. … After missing more than half of the offseason program while recovering from foot surgery, Bostick is off to a strong start. He had the catch from Tolzien in the no-huddle period and appears to be moving well. … Undrafted rookie tight end Justin Perillo probably does not have NFL speed, but he catches the ball with ease. He made a difficult grab against tight coverage from rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson during a team period. He had at least two catches during team periods. … Lane Taylor took a few snaps with the No. 1 offensive line during team. He played left guard, which is Josh Sitton's spot. … Despite recent praise from McCarthy, safety Sean Richardson appears to be no better than fifth on the depth chart. He has been behind Hyde, Morgan Burnett, Clinton-Dix and Chris Banjo.
  • The only addition to the injury list was linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who had a stomach illness. Right guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) was again limited and did not take any team reps. Don Barclay worked in Lang's place.
  • The Packers' first two practices -- both non-padded workouts -- have lasted two hours, 15 minutes (Saturday) and two hours, 17 minutes (Sunday). McCarthy said Monday's first full-pads workout will go longer. It begins at 8:20 a.m. local time and is followed by a day off from practice on Tuesday.
Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (6)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. Abbrederis and Janis will not only have to show they're better prospects than second-year pros Myles White and Chris Harper, but they also could help themselves if they can return kicks.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (7)

Worthy and Guion have work to do to make the roster, but there's room for them if you count Julius Peppers and Mike Neal among the outside linebackers, which is where they lined up more often in the offseason.

Linebackers (8)

There will be some tough cuts here. Second-year pros Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba both played last year as rookie outside linebackers. It also may be tough for highly touted undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard to make it.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (4)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Chris Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, might be the odd man out.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots.

Camp preview: Green Bay Packers

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
AM ET
» NFC Preview: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

NFL Nation's Rob Demovsky examines the three biggest issues facing the Green Bay Packers heading into training camp:

Replacing Finley: The longer tight end Jermichael Finley remains unsigned, the more likely it appears his time in Green Bay -- and perhaps in the NFL -- is over, despite his desire to continue to play. The team's reluctance to clear Finley after last season's neck injury falls in line with its philosophy on similar injuries. Just last month, it cut ties with another player who suffered a neck injury last season, running back Johnathan Franklin. The Packers re-signed Andrew Quarless to a two-year, $3 million contract in March, but that's hardly starter's money. The door is open for rookie third-round draft pick Richard Rodgers, who performed well enough during the organized team activities and minicamp practices (which Quarless missed because of injury) to move into the starting spot. Rodgers has the kind of dynamic athletic ability that Finley brought to the position. The wild card there is Colt Lyerla, the undrafted but talented rookie from Oregon. Had Lyerla not left the Ducks' program and run into trouble subsequently last year, he might have been a high draft pick. The Packers also will have to assess whether Brandon Bostick can make a bigger impact than he did last season.

The safeties: We know the Packers used their first-round pick on safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Now what? It's time to see whether the former Alabama standout can make an immediate impact. One thing was clear based on the offseason practices: Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is not going to hand the rookie a starting job. Unlike Morgan Burnett, who lined up as a starting safety from his first practice as a rookie in 2010, Clinton-Dix played mostly with the second-string defense in OTAs and minicamp. At some point, perhaps even when training camp opens, Capers will insert Clinton-Dix with the starters, and he may never relinquish that role. But the Packers believe they have options in case Clinton-Dix is not ready to start from the outset. Converted cornerback Micah Hyde took almost all of the reps alongside Burnett with the No. 1 defense this offseason, and coach Mike McCarthy would like to get Hyde on the field more often than just sub packages. Using him at safety, at the very least in the base defense, would be one way to accomplish that. The Packers also like third-year pro Sean Richardson, who has shown some playmaking ability.

Capers on the hot seat: With so much of the offseason focus on improving the defense -- from tweaks to the scheme, to changes on the coaching staff, to the addition of high-priced free-agent pass-rusher Julius Peppers, to another first-round pick on that side of the ball -- it's worth wondering what might happen if none of that equates to significant improvement on Capers' side of the ball. McCarthy spent more time than usual this offseason working with Capers on changes to the scheme. At the very least, that was an indication McCarthy was not happy with the direction the defense was headed, although it was not problematic enough for McCarthy to make a change at the position. He trusts Capers and his scheme, but clearly there were issues that troubled him. The Packers slipped from 11th overall in yards allowed in 2012 to 25th last season. Injuries hit Capers' unit hard last season, but McCarthy is not willing to use that as an excuse. Rather, he charged Capers with adjusting his scheme so that it will be more adaptable to plugging in players if injuries strike again.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Whatever the reasons Morgan Burnett was shut out in the interception department last season, don't blame it on the $24.75 million contract extension he signed last July with the Green Bay Packers.

The fifth-year safety insists he did not put any pressure on himself to justify that contract, which contained an $8.25 million signing bonus.

"No, not at all," Burnett said this week during OTAs. "You're obligated to come in and do a job, and that's my job as a safety, to try to come in and be the best safety that I can possibly be."

Burnett
Then why did Burnett – and the rest of the Packers' safeties – fail to come up with a single interception last season?

The Packers were the only team in the NFL that did not get an interception from a safety in 2013.

"When you turn on the film, everyone did what they were supposed to do," Burnett said. "You do your job. With interceptions, you've got to understand that's going to come. And when they come, they come in bunches. So you just stick to doing your job, staying in position, don't go chasing plays because that's when you start looking bad. So there's no pressure with that. The only thing we do is line up, play the defense, and the interceptions will come."

For their part, the Packers' coaches have backed Burnett. Safeties coach Darren Perry called Burnett “still a young player, ascending.” And earlier this offseason coach Mike McCarthy said believes Burnett will make more impact plays this season.

Perhaps the problem was that the Packers failed to find a capable safety to pair with Burnett. When they drafted him in the third round in 2010, they envisioned a long-lasting pairing with Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, whose career ended because of a 2011 neck injury.

M.D. Jennings started the last 26 regular-season games next to Burnett and the Packers thought so little of his play that when he became a restricted free agent this offseason, they did not bother to offer him even the minimum contract tender. Jennings then signed a one-year, minimum deal with the Chicago Bears.

This offseason, the Packers have tried cornerback Micah Hyde at safety and used their first-round pick on Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. One of those two will be expected to start next to Burnett.

However, Burnett refuses to blame anyone or anything on his inability to make more big plays.

"There's no excuses," Burnett said. "Everybody has to come in and collectively get the job done."
videoGREEN BAY, Wis. – The Pick: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama.

My take: How long have we been saying the Packers needed to find their next big-play safety? At least since the end of last season, if not earlier. The only NFL team that did not get a single interception from a safety in 2013, the Packers have finally made a move to replace Nick Collins, who hasn't played since his Packers career ended with his neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season. Clinton-Dix led Alabama with seven interceptions since the start of the 2012 season, five of which came two seasons ago. Of the four defensive prospects the Packers seemingly had their eye on, Clinton-Dix was the only one available, having watched Louisville safety Calvin Pryor of Louisville go three picks earlier to the New York Jets. Both inside linebackers the Packers might have been interested in -- Ohio State's Ryan Shazier and Alabama's C.J. Mosley -- also were gone. Shazier, who the Packers might have preferred, went No. 15 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Mosley went two picks later to the Baltimore Ravens. But at least they weren't left without any of their top defensive choices.

What of Micah Hyde's move to safety?: Throughout the offseason, coach Mike McCarthy has talked about getting Hyde on the field more this season. That has included the possibility that the second-year defensive back would play some safety. Last season, he played almost exclusively in a slot cornerback position in the nickel and dime packages. Casey Hayward is expected to come back from the hamstring injury that limited him to only three games last season and likely will return to his role as the nickel cornerback.

What’s next: The Packers have three picks on Friday -- Nos. 53 (second round), 85 (third round) and 98 (third round) -- and likely will be looking at inside linebacker, receiver and tight end.

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