The Green Bay Packers completed their first mini-camp of the offseason this past week, and they have one more next week before taking a six week break before training camp. Why exactly the NFL doesn’t simply start its offseason program a month and half later and run it right into the preseason instead of having camp, a break, and then camp again is lost on me, but I’m sure someone out there could enlighten me.
Perhaps the NFL is trying to avoid the hottest part of summer, but that is an epic fail these days in these parts, where all our weather is being pushed back later and later in the year. The hottest part of the summer is now likely to fall in the final week of July or the first weeks of August or, in other words, just in time for training camp.
Speaking of the weather, since Green Bay has now hijacked the climate of Seattle, rain forced the entire mini-camp indoors. However, as we are quickly finding out in this country, nothing is really private anymore, and I have combed the blogosphere so that you don’t have to — unless you already have, in which case I can hopefully at least sum it all up.
This mini-camp was nearly identical to the Green Bay Packers final OTAs, both in the drill work and in the intensity level, which has been diminishing ever since that first OTA of team drills. In fact, the only difference between mini-camp and the OTAs appears to be that the mini-camp is mandatory.
Apparently that word has meaning because the Packers had all hands on deck this week. That means OTA no shows Sam Shields and Johnny Jolly were both present and participating. Jolly was reportedly overweight and stiff — prison beds will do that to you. Meanwhile, Shields wasted little time expressing his disappointment over not “getting paid.” However, everyone still said it was great to have them back, which is what you have to say, right?
Casey Hayward and Jarrett Bush had been trading off at Shields’ spot at corner. So, Shields’ return for Bush is kind of like when Gene Hackman shows up to coach in “Hoosiers.” Let’s keep everything friendly here, but Bush’s days of acting like a corner are pretty much over.
Sitting out of mini-camp were the same lonely hearts club band that missed out on OTAs.
Desmond Bishop said he’d return for the second OTA. Wrong. He now says training camp. He has been seen running full speed on the side, but in the words of the Oracle, he appears to be “waiting for something.”
Davon House and Derek Sherrod have done individual work but no team drills. Neither are even guaranteed for the first day of training camp.
Rookie receivers Kevin Dorsey and Charles Johnson were spectators once again. Both, allegedly, have undisclosed injuries. Dorsey has seen no team drills this offseason while Johnson actually participated in the second day of OTAs last week, thought better of it and went back to the sideline for mini-camp. Since it is the offseason and there is no betting line involved, the Packers have no obligation to say what is ailing either receiver and therefore… they won’t. My guess is that they drank the Green Bay water and now their hamstrings are bothering them.
At least they don’t have to worry about losing any more ground to Jarrett Boykin because he also did not participate in mini-camp. He pulled up lame in the last OTA and has been sitting out since. Short of injuring himself in training camp, Jeremy Ross now looks to be a virtual lock for making the roster, and he might even be the answer to my question of who replaces Randall Cobb in the slot if Cobb were to get hurt. Ross practiced in that role and earned praise from Aaron Rodgers — though lately, who hasn’t?
Like Boykin, Dezman Moses hurt himself in the last OTA and took the mini-camp off as well.
Rookie defensive tackle Josh Boyd has also been sitting out the last couple weeks and has become the leading candidate to be the Ricky Elmore of this year’s draft.
Sean Richardson continues to be out and basically around for free lunch.
Jerel Worthy, of course, is still recovering from knee surgery and unlikely to avoid IR. He insists he WILL play this season, but this is the Green Bay Packers medical and coaching staff we are talking about here. Their motto is “we have no billionaire owner to cover a future disability lawsuit and therefore must proceed with overdue medical caution.”
And lastly, we have DuJuan Harris, which every devoted Packers fan by now should know had surgery to remove a fist-sized cyst from his chest. This explains Harris’ absence from all offseason work so far. Harris says he is all good and ready to roll now, meaning ready for his six week vacation before training camp. With Harris out, James Starks got the majority of the work with the first team in mini-camp.
For the guys who have actually participated, it seems the stars sans pads have been Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless. Cobb is Cobb, and everyone expects that. Finley has added muscle to his frame and has been the most popular target for Rodgers so far. Finley quietly caught the most passes by a tight end in Packers history last season — 61 — and should be headed for a bigger season this year. He has surprised most everyone with his focus on the field and his reticence off of it. Have you heard anything from Finley lately? Exactly.
I have already discussed Quarless, and besides Nick Perry, he appears to be the one guy off IR who the Packers should definitely be able to count on this season. With Quarless’ improved speed, Finley’s added bulk, and blocking stud Matthew Mulligan, the Packers may have their best tight end unit since Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura walked the halls and prowled the hot tub.
On defense, free agent defensive backs Loyce Means and James Dixon have both turned some heads and are the top candidates to make the roster as free agents. With Charles Woodson gone, there is likely a corner spot open, and one of these two guys are the frontrunners to get it.
Jerron McMillian flashed in mini-camp, but the contest between he and M.D. Jennings remains a wash.
In the quest-to-replace-Crosby news, free agent kicker Giorgio Tavecchio showed he isn’t just a great name and isn’t just here for his green card. He matched Crosby kick for kick during drills and has impressed with his leg strength. Besides the fact that I think Crosby should be gone, if Tavecchio can just keep up the good work, the Packers at least can keep his number on speed dial for when Crosby embarks on another mid-season swoon.
The Packers finished their week with a game of dodgeball as their team-building exercise. Apparently, Mike McCarthy didn’t check with the Green Bay school system, who would have informed him of the dangers of dodgeball. Otherwise, I doubt there is a better way to build team chemistry than whipping volleyballs at each other. Let me guess that Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews were the first two guys targeted in every match. After all, what could be more fun than throwing a volleyball as hard as you can at the head of a multi-millionaire? Not much.