Training camp report No. 17: Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015
Taking a closer look at the Green Bay Packers’ 17th and final practice of training camp on Tuesday:
Thumbs up: Everyone, from coach Mike McCarthy to quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the offensive linemen themselves has said it: One of the biggest reasons for the offense’s success last season was the cohesion of the offensive line, and that chemistry was forged by the quintet playing 17 of 18 games together last season. (The lone exception: When right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed the team’s Week 2 game with a knee injury sustained in the opener.)
Thus, it was wonderful news that a starting crew that was missing four of its five guys before halftime of Saturday night’s loss to Philadelphia was nearly back to full strength Tuesday. Left tackle David Bakhtiari (sidelined since Aug. 13 with knee soreness), left guard Josh Sitton (out since Aug. 23 with an ankle injury) and Bulaga (who left Saturday night’s game with a sprained ankle) were all back to work Tuesday, with only right guard T.J. Lang (concussion) still unavailable. Odds are, all five will be good to go for the Sept. 13 opener at Chicago.
Thumbs down: McCarthy is as fan-friendly as any coach in the league when it comes to considering the team’s fans. He is loath to go inside during training camp because of weather – he managed to bat 1.000 on that this year, despite a couple of rainy practices – and understands how important the practices are to the locals and the local economy. That said, his responsibility is to his team first, and if McCarthy deemed it necessary that practice be moved from its originally scheduled Monday timeslot to Tuesday, so be it. But the move resulted in the smallest gathering of the summer, and players were light on bike kids, as Green Bay schools opened the 2015-’16 academic year on Tuesday. If it was the right call for football reasons, that’s understandable, but the team does have a marketing partnership with Madison-based American Family Insurance for the so-called “Dream Drive” area where kids and players match up, and on Tuesday, the final ride was a dud.
Play of the day: Less than an hour later, tight end Harold Spears would be unfurling a gigantic, black plastic garbage bag, into which he would dump all the personal effects he had in his locker. But before being released, the undrafted free-agent tight end whom the Packers picked up after he was cut by New Orleans made one final play during his final practice with the team. During a red-zone period in the final portion of practice, Spears appeared covered when Rodgers somehow fit a fastball into the tiniest of windows and into Spears’ mitts for a touchdown. The throw was reminiscent of Rodgers’ touchdown to Jordy Nelson in the Metrodome a few years ago, when the ball buzzed past the earhole of the defender, or Rodgers’ small-window strike to Richard Rodgers in last year’s playoff game against Dallas. On this play, it was rookie inside linebacker Jake Ryan who could not get turned around to react fast enough to deflect a pass that seemed to pass through him.
Camp confidential: After a promising start with this No. 1 offense getting unexpectedly extensive work in the opener at New England, McCarthy thought he might be looking at his most productive preseason in his decade in charge. Instead, he lost No. 1 wide receiver Jordy Nelson to a season-ending knee injury in the second game and watched a very uneven performance on Saturday night against Philadelphia.
“Every training camp takes a different path,” McCarthy said. “The first two weeks, I felt very good about the way we practiced, the ability to get through all the installations, the quality of practice, the competitiveness of the practice. Week 1 [of the] preseason, going up there, I felt we got off to a good start against New England. Pittsburgh, [the game was] very disjointed. I think the effect of the injury to Jordy affected guys during the game. So from an adversity standpoint, that’s a learning opportunity there.
“And then the game against Philadelphia, you had some good things, you had some bad things and you had some ugly things go on. So there’s always an up-and-down to every path through training camp, but that’s kind of where we are after three preseason games.”
Packers Playlist: “I Wanna Get Better” by Bleachers and “Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys were the songs played during the regeneration periods. Listen to all the tunes from training camp on the Packers Regeneration Period Playlist on Spotify.
Injury report: Second-year wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, who had been sidelined since the first practice of camp on July 30 when he suffered a concussion, made his long-awaited return. Rookie running back Alonzo Harris (hand) returned to practice wearing a cast. Bakhtiari, Sitton and Bulaga were back in action. Wide receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder), safety Micah Hyde (neck spasms), wide receiver Ty Montgomery (hamstring tightness), defensive end Datone Jones (knee) and Lang sat out.
They said it: “I don’t have any injury updates on any of our players.” – McCarthy, when asked about Cobb’s shoulder injury.
Practice schedule: In the words of Matthew Broderick’s Ferris Bueller after the final credits … “You’re still here? It’s over. Go home.” The Packers’ next open-to-the-public practice will be in Spring 2016 when they open organized team activity practices.