NFL Team Report - Green Bay Packers - INSIDE SLANT
For one reason or another, the Packers didn't have close to a full squad on the field for their second session of this year's organized team activities Tuesday.
Emerging cornerback Sam Shields is staying away from the voluntary spring workouts because he hasn't signed his one-year, $2.02 million tender offer from the team as a restricted free agent.
"I wish Sam was here," said head coach Mike McCarthy, clearly disappointed about his returning starter's holdout of sorts. "He's not here for his specific reasons that I'm sure if he wants to answer he can answer 'em someday. But, it's about the opportunity to compete, and our secondary is very competitive. I wish he was here."
Veteran defensive tackle Johnny Jolly also is a conspicuous no-show because he still needs to iron out some particulars - presumably of the legal kind - to pave the way for him to try to attempt an on-field comeback after he was reinstated by the league in March following a drug-related suspension that kept him out the last three seasons.
"When Johnny's situation and his process is completed, when he gets up here, then I'll have more information for you," McCarthy said. "But, he's still going through the process."
Jolly tweeted Tuesday that he would be back in Green Bay on May 28, when the Packers will hold their next public OTA session.
Several other players were on hand for Tuesday's workout of two hours that was open to fans on an outdoor practice field across from Lambeau Field, but they stood idly by as teammates went through the paces. Those sideline observers are in recovery mode from significant injuries that cut short their 2012 season.
The most notable are inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, offensive tackle Derek Sherrod, defensive end Jerel Worthy and cornerback Davon House.
While Bishop is confident he will be cleared for the start of training camp in late July, if not get back on the field for some remaining spring work, less than a year after the starter suffered a torn hamstring in last year's preseason opener, the team continues to wait on Sherrod.
Its 2011 first-round draft pick and heir apparent at left tackle evidently isn't close to returning from a broken right leg he sustained toward the end of his rookie season.
"If I was going to rank those three as far as who's coming back earlier," said McCarthy, when asked about specifically about three players, "I would say Bishop, House, and then Sherrod is clearly the furthest away."
House, thought to be a leading candidate for a starter's job at the outset of training camp last year, was riddled by shoulder and hip injuries at different points of the season.
Worthy, a second-round draft pick who showed some flashes of promise, had his rookie campaign abruptly end with a torn ACL in his left knee in the regular-season finale Dec. 30. He's highly questionable to be back in time for the start of the 2013 season in September.
Meanwhile, the Packers suffered an OTA casualty on the first day of drills Monday. Rookie offensive tackle J.C. Tretter, an intriguing fourth-round pick out of Cornell, went down with what reportedly was a broken ankle in the non-contact work.
McCarthy on Tuesday wouldn't divulge what the injury was, but said Tretter wouldn't be available for the rest of the OTAs.
That would also keep Tretter out of the mandatory minicamp, which is June 4-6 and falls in the midst of the team's 10 OTA sessions that wrap up June 14.
McCarthy said this year's OTAs are structured as a review of all installations that were put in on offense, defense and special teams for the season during the individual positions phase of the offseason program.
Tuesday marked the first day of implementing team drills for Green Bay's old guard and its long list of newcomers.
"I felt it was important to give the rookies a chance to adjust to the tempo of the veterans because it's different," McCarthy said after Tuesday's workout. "This is a whole different level of practice. And, I thought today was kind of typical first-time-routine-takes-the-field. It was a little disjointed. The energy was great. The intent was great. But, your team has to learn to practice together like it does every time they get together, and I think you saw some of that today. So, we'll continue to work on that, clean it up."
NFL Team Report - Green Bay Packers - NOTES, QUOTES
--Head coach Mike McCarthy didn't make up his mind until the offseason was about three months old, but he has a strong conviction he made the right decision.
The biggest news to come out of the Packers' Lambeau Field headquarters this spring finally is getting some run with the organized team activities underway. Fans and media alike had their first glimpse of the new left side of the offensive line during an open workout outside Tuesday.
McCarthy thought long and hard after last season ended with a thud of a 45-31 loss at San Francisco in the divisional round of the playoffs Jan. 12 before moving right tackle Bryan Bulaga and right guard Josh Sitton to their corresponding positions on the other side.
"I'm excited for them personally because I know they look at it as a great opportunity and they accepted the challenge and they were excited about the challenge when we sat down and talked about it," McCarthy said. "Frankly, it's my responsibility to give them the reps working against (pass-rushing outside linebacker) Clay (Matthews) and our defensive line. Just the speed of it right now (in the OTAs) is excellent work for them. We feel good about the move."
McCarthy is as excited about what Bulaga can contribute at this natural position after starting at right tackle his first three years in the league as the seamless transition that should unfold by plugging in Sitton, a first-time Pro Bowl participant in January, at left guard.
Bulaga is healthy again this spring after he sustained a season-ending hip fracture in a game in early November last season.
"He looks great," McCarthy said. "He's been here the whole offseason. I've seen Bryan for what seems like almost every day since the season ended."
--The big changes on the left side of the line in the wake of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers' being sacked a league-high 55 times (including the playoffs) last season left presumably one door open for a starting job on the offensive line.
Left guard T.J. Lang was kicked over to right guard, and Evan Dietrich-Smith replaced a since-retired Jeff Saturday at center late in the season.
Who takes over at right tackle for the start of next season is one of the big unknowns with this team.
Marshall Newhouse was the starting incumbent at left tackle, but his chances of staying in the lineup will hinge on how he fares the rest of the spring and then the preseason this summer in what could be a loaded competition. Other challengers may include second-year Don Barclay, who started the final six games of last season at right tackle, rookie David Bakhtiari (a fourth-round draft pick) and possibly Derek Sherrod, who still is on the mend from a broken leg he sustained in December 2011.
McCarthy didn't tip his hand Tuesday on how he sees the position shaking out.
"Everybody has been guaranteed an opportunity to compete, and that's really where we are," McCarthy said.
--Some personnel changes also could be afoot on defense.
Fourth-year defensive end Mike Neal lined up at outside linebacker in the team segments Tuesday.
Neal claimed afterward that he had little inkling the coaches were going to put him there, and he didn't want to read into it.
"There is (nothing) long term," Neal said. "This is OTAs, and it's just them getting a feel for something."
The move may have been prompted by the Packers' selection of UCLA defensive end Datone Jones in the first round of last month's draft.
Neal hasn't lived up to his second-round selection in 2010 in part because of injuries his first two seasons. He missed the first four games of last season for a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy but held up for the season and produced a career-high 4.5 sacks - second highest on the team.
"Schematically, we're going to do some different things," McCarthy said. "I want to expand Mike Neal's role. The specifics of that, I'm sure we can wait till Week 1 of the regular season to get into that."
--The Packers' remaining OTA sessions that are scheduled to be open to the public outside, weather permitting, are May 28 and June 11.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel Josh Sitton has really come into his own the last couple years. I feel Bryan (Bulaga) is our best tackle. It's going back to basic, fundamental, putting your offensive line together (with a) right-handed quarterback and protect his back side." - Head coach Mike McCarthy, on the big offseason switch of Bulaga from right tackle to left tackle and Pro Bowl right guard Sitton to left guard.
NFL Team Report - Green Bay Packers - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Packers' picks:
Round 1/26 -- Datone Jones, DE, 6-4, 285, UCLA
Jones should give Green Bay's short-handed and underwhelming defensive line an immediate upgrade as an ideal fit for its diversified 3-4 scheme. He's athletic, plays physical and tracks the football in a hurry, tying everything together to blow up the backfield with 19 tackles for loss (6.5 sacks) last season. Jones' experience of playing at multiple spots in the Packers' style of defense will allow coordinator Dom Capers to create pass-rushing mismatches in a tandem with outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
Round 2/61 -- Eddie Lacy, RB, 5-11, 230, Alabama
Latest big-play back from 'Bama to arrive on the pro scene with much fanfare. Lacy stepped out of the shadows of predecessors Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson and rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns to help the Crimson Tide roll to the national title last season. Injury issues (including a recent hamstring ailment) may have allowed Lacy to slide to the Packers late in Round 2, but they'll take their chances on the punishing downhill runner (SEC career record of 6.8 yards per carry) in trying to fill a void at featured back.
Round 4/109 -- David Bakhtiari, OT, 6-4, 300, Colorado
Aaron Rodgers' incumbent blind-side protector at left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, has been put on alert with the arrival of Bakhtiari. As the replacement for standout Nate Solder (New England Patriots' first-round pick in 2011), the long-armed Bakhtiari rose above Colorado's mediocrity to become an efficient pass protector at the position the last two seasons.
Round 4/122 -- J.C. Tretter, G, 6-4, 307, Cornell
The converted tight end flourished in the Ivy League as a two-year starter at left tackle but, more so than the similarly versatile Bakhtiari, projects to be an interior lineman at the next level. A hard-nosed, driven Tretter could push left guard T.J. Lang or inexperienced center Evan Dietrich-Smith for a starting job.
Round 4/125 -- Johnathan Franklin, RB, 5-10, 205, UCLA
General manager Ted Thompson jumped back into the fourth round by making a trade with the Denver Broncos to nab the team's second high-quality back in this year's draft. A Lacy-Franklin pairing to supplement the Rodgers-led aerial attack has juicy possibilities. The knock on Franklin is his size, but he has explosive speed (4.4 in the 40) and credentials (1,734 rushing yards and 6.1 yards per carry last season) as UCLA's all-time leading rusher.
Round 5/159 -- Micah Hyde, CB, 6-0, 197, Iowa
Named the top defensive back in the Big Ten last season, Hyde has big-time experience as a starter for three years with playmaking skills and a willingness to hit. He's expected to stay at cornerback, a crowded position for Green Bay, but could distinguish himself on special teams, including as a punt returner.
Round 5/167 -- Josh Boyd, DT, 6-3, 310, Mississippi State
Boyd, a three-technique lineman better equipped to stop the run than collapse the pocket, will have to adjust to the nuances of a 3-4 scheme. Production by the sturdy three-year starter regressed last season, when he had only 1.5 sacks.
Round 6/193 -- Nate Palmer, OLB, 6-2, 248, Illinois State
Hybrid end-linebacker in college faces stern challenge in vying for a roster spot at a position group teeming with talent. Being around the Packers' defensive leader can only benefit Palmer, who put up Matthews-esque sack numbers with 17 along with five forced fumbles the last two seasons after transferring from Illinois.
Round 7/216 -- Charles Johnson, WR, 6-2, 215, Grand Valley State
The third college stop for the speedy Johnson (4.35 in 40) proved to be the charm. Extensive stint at Division II Grand Valley yielded 31 touchdown receptions the past two seasons and big production of 72 catches for nearly 1,200 yards in 2012.
Round 7/224 -- Kevin Dorsey, WR, 6-1, 207, Maryland
Dorsey had perhaps the most obscure numbers of all receivers taken in this year's draft with just 18 catches and four touchdowns last season, but Thompson chalked that up to quarterback issues at Maryland. Dorsey's average of 17.3 yards with those limited receptions is promising.
Round 7/232 -- Sam Barrington, ILB, 6-1, 235, South Florida
Athletic, versatile linebacker delivered in 4-3 system with at least 65 tackles each of the last three seasons with a total of 6 1/2 sacks, prompting Thompson to say the team's final pick had "really good value." Projects to play inside in 3-4 scheme.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (2)
--RB Cedric Benson held up for only the first five games last season before suffering a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. The eight-year veteran had some moments of being a rugged, productive ball carrier until he was lost in early October, so bringing him back would make sense.
--RB Ryan Grant rejoined the team for the stretch run in early December and didn't provide much at age 30. Giving Grant a third shot in Green Bay has been all but ruled out.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (1)
--CB Sam Shields (tendered at $2.023M with second-round pick as compensation) may go into next season as the team's No. 1 cornerback, provided he's still a Packer after his stock went up with a productive close to last season - four interceptions in six games, highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown return in the divisional playoff loss at San Francisco. The second-round tender given to Shields should keep teams from trying to pick him off.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--T David Bakhtiari (4/109): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--T JC Tretter (4/122): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Johnathan Franklin (4/125): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Micah Hyde (5/159): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Josh Boyd (5/167): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Nate Palmer (6/193): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Charles Johnson (7/216): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Kevin Dorsey (7/224): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Sam Barrington (7/232): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--C Evan Dietrich-Smith: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--LB Robert Francois: Not tendered as RFA; $725,000/1 yr, $50,000 SB.
--LB Brad Jones: UFA; $11.75M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--TE Matthew Mulligan: FA Rams; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--TE Tom Crabtree: Not tendered as RFA/Buccaneers; $1.6M/2 yrs, $50,000 RB 2013-14.
--WR Donald Driver (UFA; retired).
--WR Greg Jennings: UFA Vikings; $45M/5 yrs, $10M SB/$17.8M guaranteed.
--RB Brandon Saine (released).
--LB D.J. Smith (released).
--C Jeff Saturday (retired).
--LB Erik Walden: FA Colts; $16M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--DB Charles Woodson (released).
--LB Frank Zombo: Not tendered as RFA/Chiefs; terms unknown.