NFC North: Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers are finally at full strength in their linebacking corps, but how long will that last?

It's a reasonable question considering the injury history of Nick Perry and to a lesser extent Mike Neal.

A day after Mike Neal was activated from the physically unable to perform list, Perry joined him on Thursday.

For Perry, it was his first on-field activity since the end of last season, which he finished on a bum foot and ankle. He then missed all of the offseason practices while recovering from not only the foot, but also a knee injury.

For a former first-round pick who has missed almost as many games (15) as he has appeared in (17) in his first two years, it was not the kind of offseason he needed.

"Availability is a primary focus for job responsibility, definitely," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said upon Perry's return Thursday. "We obviously have had some tough times in the past, but we feel like we're doing things to stay in front of that. Nick, sometimes players go through injury situations, one then two. Sometimes it just takes a little while to get off that cycle. Hopefully he's off that."

In their first practice together, Neal (who had a core muscle injury) and Perry were paired together as the No. 2 outside linebacker combination behind Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers. Last season, Neal and Perry combined to play more than 1,100 snaps. Their snap counts almost certainly will not be as high, considering Matthews and Peppers will be the primary rushers.

Last season, Neal played in all 16 games for the first time in his four NFL seasons. Perry played in 11 games last season and just six as a rookie.

McCarthy said Neal and Perry have no practice limitations.

"It was good to get Nick back out there," McCarthy said. "Mike obviously practiced yesterday and had a good day, did some really good things today. You can't have enough really good football players, and just getting them out there and getting them in sync with what we're doing and how we're using them to get the combination work, to get the feel for the next guy you're going to be rushing with in the game, that's a priority of training camp. These reps are so important. Missed practices in training camp in today's world is a little more magnified obviously than in past years."

However, the defense was still not at full strength because safety Morgan Burnett was held out after suffering an ankle injury during Wednesday's practice. Also, undrafted rookie safety Tanner Miller missed practice because of an ankle injury.

McCarthy did not have specifics about the long-term prognosis for either player.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – If JC Tretter can handle the likes of defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd in practice, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy thinks his new starting center will be able to handle anything.

But so far in the first two days of full-pads training camp practices, Raji has proven too much for Tretter to handle.

"If you ever want to get a center ready, B.J. Raji and Josh Boyd are your guys because they definitely present a challenge to covering up a center," McCarthy said after Wednesday's practice.

As pleased as the Packers are with Raji's start – assuming it's not simply a product of Tretter's struggles – it means Tretter still has work to do in order to convince them he can handle the giant task of starting at center on opening night against the Seattle Seahawks.

By now, Tretter's backstory has been told time and again. A fourth-round pick in 2013, he broke his ankle during his first OTA practice as a rookie and never played in a game – preseason, regular season or playoffs – last year. He came off PUP and began practicing last November at center after playing his college career at Cornell as a tackle.

He became the favorite to win the starting job – the fourth different starting center the Packers will field in as many seasons – after Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent.

It has been anything but a seamless transition. Tretter has a 3-2 record in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill so far. That's a small sample but in a drill that favors the offense, that's a mediocre winning percentage. He's 2-2 against Raji and 1-0 against Boyd. Raji also manhandled Tretter in the one-on-one run-blocking drill on Wednesday and also during a team period for a tackle for loss on running back Eddie Lacy.

"He's getting a lot better," Boyd said. "He's got a very strong punch, very strong hands. He's getting a lot stronger with his feet, and he's a real quick guy. He's going to be good; he's just got to keep working at it."

The Packers seem inclined to give Tretter the time.

“He needs every rep,” McCarthy said. “I can’t tell you if there is someone in the locker room that’s prepared himself as much as he has, and he’ll continue to do so. It’s not going to look clean; our team isn’t clean. Let’s be honest with you, we’ve missed blocks, we’ve did some wrong things. That's why you practice. Our fundamentals are critical, and that goes from the player to the group all the way through. But JC needs this work."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – There are certain relationships within an NFL team that cannot be compromised.

At the top of that list are these two: general manager-coach and coach-quarterback.

The Green Bay Packers have quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed through 2019. On Wednesday they locked up general manager Ted Thompson with a multi-year contract extension.

[+] EnlargeTed Thompson, Mike McCarthy
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPackers GM Ted Thompson (left) and head coach Mike McCarthy have an 88-50-1 overall record, including playoffs, since McCarthy's hiring in 2006.
Next up should be the man connected to both of them: coach Mike McCarthy, whose current contract runs through the 2015 season. That was not lost on Thompson, who called it "a big priority" to get McCarthy's deal extended.

"It's been the plan the whole time," Thompson said Wednesday shortly after his extension was announced. "The way the organization is set up – obviously, I'm not giving any trade secrets away – it's the way it's always been done here: The general manager kind of gets put away and then you do the head coach."

All indications are the working environment on the football side of the offices at Lambeau Field is as harmonious as ever. Whatever competitive clashes they might have had in the past, the relationship between McCarthy and Rodgers appears strong. As for the GM and the coach, Thompson says it like this: "We anticipate each other's thoughts often, which might drive both of us crazy sometimes, but I think it's working well and has worked well. Obviously, we see things pretty close."

Anyone who doesn't believe the coach and GM must be of like mind was not around Lambeau Field in 2005, when Thompson and then-coach Mike Sherman barely spoke. Thompson, who was brought in after then-Packers president Bob Harlan stripped Sherman of the GM job, tried in vain to work closely the head coach he inherited. In fact, Sherman could have survived the 4-12 season had he been more receptive to Thompson's arrival rather than shutting him out, according to several members of the organization at the time.

Thompson made it clear when he completed an exhaustive coaching search to hire McCarthy in 2006 that he never intends to go through that again.

At the Packers' annual shareholders meeting in 2013, Thompson told the assembled crowd: "I thank God every day that he's the Green Bay Packers’ head coach."

Together, McCarthy and Thompson have an 88-50-1 overall record, including playoffs.

"I think when two people work together for as long as Mike and I have, I think you develop certain understandings of each other," Thompson said Wednesday. "There are certain things you can communicate that are unsaid as opposed to originally when you probably need to spell everything out."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After three days of training camp practices, the Green Bay Packers took Tuesday off.

It's a small sample size, but before they get back on the field Wednesday morning at 8:20 local time, here's a look at what we've learned about them so far. After breaking down the offense and the defense, here’s a look at special teams:

Status quo: It's status quo among the three specialists -- kicker Mason Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and long-snapper Brett Goode. There's no in-house competition at those positions. Crosby, who was under the microscope at this time last season after coming off a sub-standard 2012 season, appears to be in a similar groove to last season, when he made a career-best 89.2 percent of his field goals. In the only field goal period of camp so far, he made 7-of-8 kicks, including a pair of 50-yarders.

Returners wanted: Special teams coach Shawn Slocum is shuffling returners through the drills like it's a wide-open competition. The days of receiver Randall Cobb handling the duties appear to be over even though he's their most accomplished returner. Safety Micah Hyde, who had a punt return for a touchdown last season as a rookie against the Vikings, has gotten the first crack at the job again. But rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis and second-year receiver Myles White also have gotten looks. Running back DuJuan Harris looks like the early leader to handle kickoff returns.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- After three days of training camp practices, the Green Bay Packers are taking Tuesday off.

It's a small sample size, but before they get back on the field Wednesday morning, here's a look at what we've learned about them so far.

After looking at the offensive side of the ball, it’s time to examine the defense:

Youth movement: It's clear the Packers have moved on from the days of having three, 330-plus pound defensive linemen up front. On most days, the Packers have lined up with Datone Jones, B.J. Raji and Mike Daniels on the defensive line in the base 3-4. In order, those are players who weigh 285, 337 and an even 300. If the Packers want to go a little bigger, they have used the 310-pound Josh Boyd as a base end in place of Jones. That's a far different look than what the Packers had last year with Raji, Johnny Jolly (325) and Ryan Pickett (340).

Not so predictable: Although there are schemes defensive coordinator Dom Capers has not shown (or does not want other teams to know about yet), one thing is clear: the Packers aren't going to simply play 3-4 on first down, nickel on second down and dime on third as had become their pattern at times last season. Already, we have seen linebackers like Clay Matthews line up in spots not traditionally manned by an outside linebacker. The signing of Julius Peppers has given Capers more flexibility with the rest of his outside linebackers.

Serious about Hyde: Capers and coach Mike McCarthy would not have given so many of the starter's reps at free safety to Micah Hyde if they weren't serious about giving him significant snaps at that position even after drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. All signs point to Hyde playing safety in the base and perhaps even the nickel package and then moving to a slot position in the dime package, in which Clinton-Dix would then play free safety.

House call answered: Although there's no reason to think veteran cornerback Tramon Williams' job is in jeopardy, the Packers should feel good about the position behind him given Davon House's play, which has carried over from the offseason. The 24-year-old House appears to have improved his cover skills without sacrificing the physical presence he brings to the position at 6-1, 195.

Rookie linebackers: General manager Ted Thompson and his scouting staff always seem to find some hidden gems among the undrafted linebackers. This year looks like another strong class. Out of the group of the following players, it would not be a surprise to see one or two end up on the opening-day roster: Jake Doughty (inside linebacker), Joe Thomas (ILB), Jayrone Elliott (outside linebacker) and Adrian Hubbard (OLB).

Packers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:

  • Lest you forgot about Sean Richardson when it came time to talk about playing time at the safety position, the third-year pro reminded everyone of his potential on Monday. With the pads on for the first time, Richardson made a play that has rarely been replicated by a Packers safety since the days of Nick Collins or Charles Woodson. During a team blitz period, Aaron Rodgers fired a pass over the middle to Jordy Nelson but Richardson jumped in and snatched the ball away from Nelson for an interception.
  • For the first padded practice of camp, the temperature on Monday morning when things kicked off at 8:20 a.m. local time was just 56 degrees. An hour into the practice, it was not yet 60 degrees, but the Packers took one of their TV timeout regeneration breaks and followed it with one short period followed by another water break. Still, when asked whether it was fun to put the pads on, veteran guard Josh Sitton said, "I mean, fun is a little strong." The practice lasted 2 hours, 26 minutes – or about 10 minutes longer than the non-padded practices each of the first two days.
  • Nose tackle B.J. Raji got off to a strong start in the first one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He won all three of his reps. Of course, when someone wins, it means someone else looked bad. Twice, Raji beat JC Tretter, who is trying to lock down the starting center job. Raji beat Tretter with his quickness on one turn and then overpowered him on another. Tackle Bryan Bulaga also looked good in his first turns since blowing out his knee last camp. He won all three of his reps, including one at left tackle against Clay Matthews.
  • In other odds and ends from practice: Cornerback Davon House had a strip-sack of Matt Flynn and recovered the fumble during the team blitz period. … If you're looking for an undrafted rookie to watch, keep an eye on inside linebacker Joe Thomas of South Carolina State. He's a bit undersized (6-1, 227) but is around the ball often. … In what could be a bad sign for undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, he was relegated to the scout team that worked against the defense at the start of practice while the majority of the offensive players, including fellow undrafted rookie tight end Justin Perillo, practiced inside the Hutson Center at the start of the session.
  • Outside linebacker Mike Neal said he could be cleared to practice as soon as Wednesday. He remains on the PUP list with a core muscle injury but is scheduled to be examined on Tuesday. He said he reported to camp lighter than ever, at 263 pounds. He played last season at 275, which is about 25 pounds lighter than he was is first three seasons, when he played defensive end.
  • In addition to Neal, others who remained out were: Nick Perry (foot, knee), Jamari Lattimore (illness), Jeff Janis (illness), Letroy Guion (hamstring), and Jerel Worthy (back). Janis made an appearance at practice for the first time in camp.
  • The Packers do not practice on Tuesday. They return to the field on Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. local time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Julius Peppers, all 6-foot-7 and 287 pounds of him, strikes an impressive pose on the practice field.

He stands – literally in some cases – a head above his new Green Bay Packers teammates.

That was unmistakable even in shorts and helmets during the offseason practices.

Put the pads on, like the Packers Monday did for the first time in training camp, and the full-frame image of Peppers was even more impressive.

He looks the part of a pass-rusher worth the $7.5 million signing bonus the Packers forked over as part of the three-year, $26 million free-agent contract he signed in March. He split four reps in his first go-around in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill on Monday, registering two victories.

[+] EnlargeJulius Peppers
AP Photo/Morry GashJulius Peppers is excited about his role with the Packers.
But it looks like the Packers are going to ask him to do more than just rush the quarterback.

And that's fine with him.

He's an outside linebacker now in a 3-4 base scheme after playing the last four years as a defensive end in the Chicago Bears' 4-3 system and before that in Carolina for eight seasons.

There he was on Monday, dropping into coverage against tight end Jake Stoneburner on a crossing route.

Although Peppers would not concede that he needed a change to revitalize his career, which he does not believe needs revitalization, there's reason to think the 34-year-old who is entering his 13th NFL season has a renewed sense of purpose on the field.

"It's fun. It's fun," he repeated. "I'm actually having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying it. It's a little different than what I've been used to in the past. I actually think it fits my skill set better than just being down every play. I'm having fun doing it. I'm just enjoying it."

All that might be fun for Peppers and a way for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to disguise him, but the Packers signed Peppers for one overriding reason: his 119 career sacks, which rank third on the active list.

"He's here to go towards the quarterback; we all understand that," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "But when he does drop, he has great ability and range. And you look at his ball skills, we do a lot of ball skills with the whole team by design, I want everybody to handle the football. He handles the football like an offensive player."

Peppers had only 7.5 sacks last season -- his lowest output since 2007 -- and he chuckled at those who use the word "only."

"You look at my last year, was it one of my better years?" Peppers said. "Probably not, you know, statistically. But if you compare it to a lot of the guys who played last year, it was better than a lot of guys. So I don't really think I need to revitalize anything, just improve upon what I did last year. That's not going to be easy to do. I should be able to do it."

Even if Peppers was only able to replicate his sack total from last season, it would be better than any Packers player not named Clay Matthews since Aaron Kampman had 9.5 in 2008.

"It’s not about really proving anybody wrong," Peppers said. "It's about accomplishing some personal goals, one of which being is winning a world championship. That's the main thing. That's the main motivation. All that other stuff, it's there, but it's not as big as coming in here and helping this team hoist that trophy at the end."

If there's pressure on Peppers to improve the Packers' defense from its 25th overall ranking last season, it might not be even close to what the Bears placed on him last season before they cut him because they felt he wasn't worth the $18 million salary-cap charge.

"You look at our defense right now, there's a lot of high expectations for those guys," Packers guard T.J. Lang said. "The talent that they have, all across our D-line, the linebackers, the defensive backs. It's a group that you look out at, it's impressive to look at 'em. Just the physical stature that Julius has. I mean that alone is intimidating enough for an offense. We've played him eight or nine, 10 times since I've been here. Every time you look at the guy, you're just as equally impressed as the first time you've seen him. He's just a freak. And then you go to Clay out there, who's also proven to be one of the best pass-rushers in the game. It's just an impressive group to look at."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In every offseason practice -- whether organized team activities or minicamp -- and in the first two days of training camp, Micah Hyde took all the snaps with Green Bay Packers' defensive starters in a safety tandem with Morgan Burnett.

That, in itself, tells you what coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator think of the second-year defensive back.

[+] EnlargeMicah Hyde
Morry Gash/AP PhotoMicah Hyde showed increased awareness for the ball during the Packers' first training camp practice in pads on Monday.
Then, consider that general manager Ted Thompson used his first-round pick on safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to fill one of the team’s greatest needs yet the 21st overall selection in the draft had run exclusively with the second-stringers, and you can tell they are serious about Hyde.

But maybe the real competition started on Monday.

The pads went on for the first time, and Clinton-Dix finally got his chance to rep with the No. 1s -- at least for a few snaps. Although Hyde, who played exclusively as a slot cornerback last season as a rookie, continued to take the first snaps at free safety with the starters, Capers paired Clinton-Dix and Burnett for a few snaps and also unveiled a sub package that included all three of the safeties on the field at the same time.

Regardless of who wins the starting job, it appears both will play and either will be an upgrade for a group that not only lacked big plays (it was the only safety group in the NFL last season without an interception) but also big hits.

"I don't know exactly what went on before I was here," Clinton-Dix said. "But I just know they brought me in here for a reason, and that's to win."

The first day in pads was rather tame, but the most vocal member of the defense, Mike Daniels, who said this offseason it was time for the Packers to get mean, can't wait to see Clinton-Dix start hitting.

"When he got drafted, I was walking around my house screaming 'Yes' about five times; I think they showed five clips of him knocking the crap out of somebody," Daniels said. "Some things translate at any level. If guys are going to hit, you're going to hit when you're [waist high], you're going to hit when you're in high school, you're going to hit in college, you're going to hit in the NFL because it's in your nature. Some things don't translate, but toughness translates at any level. So I'm excited. We'll see."

Surely, the Packers would like Clinton-Dix to be their starter, but they might not need him to be right away given how Hyde has transitioned from a slot cornerback last season as a rookie.

Since Hyde let a potential game-changing interception slip through his hands late in the fourth-quarter of the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers -- a play he said he will "remember until I'm 50 years old," -- he has shown an increased awareness for the ball. So far in camp, his pass breakup numbers have been high. On Sunday, he broke up a deep ball for Jordy Nelson, who has been catching everything in camp.

McCarthy was succinct in evaluation of Hyde’s transition from cornerback to safety.

"Seamless," he said. "Micah Hyde is a football player. I think you can line him up anywhere. You really can. He's had the offseason to learn the position, to get the communication down where it's so important. He's a playmaker."

Yet if you ask Hyde, he will say, "I'm not there yet."

"I still go out there, I try to play fast, I try to make things easier on myself but at the same time I think it comes with time and it comes with experience," said Hyde, who as a fifth-round pick played more snaps (542) last season than any Packers' defensive rookie. "I think every day I'm getting better and better. Once I make a mistake, I think I learn from it and I just go out there and try to not make the same mistake twice."
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. Nothing has changed early in camp to make anyone think differently.

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 (5)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Jeff Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. But given the fact that Janis is on the non-football illness list, he might be quickly losing ground. And if the Packers do end up keeping a sixth receiver, at this point Myles White or Chris Harper might have a better chance.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla, who has had a couple of dropped passes so far in training camp.

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 (5)

There's a drastic change here from our first projection, which listed seven defensive linemen. But after Letroy Guion (hamstring) and Jerel Worthy (back) both failed their physicals and landed on the non-football injury list, they might be in trouble. Also, the Packers might be included to keep an extra couple of linebackers given that Julius Peppers and Mike Neal, who are counted among the outside linebackers, also can play defensive end.

Linebackers (10)

If the Packers have shown anything early in training camp, it's that they plan to use a lot of linebackers in a variety of roles. With Neal and Perry sidelined, Palmer has received plenty of playing time so far. Undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard is a promising prospect but has not yet shown enough to warrant a roster spot.

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 (5)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, has worked with Clinton-Dix as the No. 2 safety combination.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots, and Crosby opened camp by making 7-of-8 field goals in his first kicking session.

Packers Camp Report: Day 2

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
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.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You may have heard that Green Bay Packers players have been snacking during training camp practice, and we're not talking about orange slices sent by Aaron Rodgers' mom.

The team's training staff is offering red JELL-O-like snacks and granola-type bars during scheduled breaks that coach Mike McCarthy calls "TV timeouts." Those regeneration periods, which also include musical interludes, started in training camp last season but without the snacks, which were being offered in the team dining area instead.

"It's really something that we have here in the cafeteria that they've added to on the field," McCarthy said after Sunday's practice.

Fullback John Kuhn said he ate what he described as "some chocolate-peanut butter thing" and also a fig bar.

"I tell you what, morning practices are tough to eat before," Kuhn said. "So it's tough to really do your body justice going into a practice when you have to be down there at 8 o'clock and do everything up here [in the stadium] first. So having that on the field is a huge benefit for me because I felt myself at times where I was a tiny bit hungry, and they came out with those things and it was great."

It is another sign that the Packers are searching for anything that will prevent the fatigue-type muscle injuries that have plagued them in recent years

On Sunday, the team announced the hiring of a Adam Korzun as director of performance nutrition -- a newly-created position. Korzun, a registered dietitian, previously worked as the director of sports nutrition for the University of Oregon and for the United States Olympic committee as a sports dietitian.

This offseason, the Packers also contracted with Catapult Sports to help study practice habits and injuries. McCarthy also has rearranged his practice plan for this season.

But for now, the most noticeable difference is snack time.

Tight end Brandon Bostick said he has only tried what he called "the red things," but he thought they helped.

"Or it could be a mind thing, I don't know," he said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Maybe Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb was just speaking in hyperbole. Or perhaps he did not want to come across like the stereotypical diva NFL receiver.

Whatever the reason, Cobb said Sunday that he doesn't believe he has done enough to warrant a contract extension.

The Packers almost certainly will see things differently.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers already does. He said Saturday that he would “love for Randall to be next” when it comes to contract extensions.

Maybe the Packers will want to wait to make sure last year's fluke injury was, well, a fluke. But there's little or no reason to think they will let a young, budding star receiver get away even after they signed their top receiver, Jordy Nelson, to a four-year, $39 million contract extension on Saturday. Cobb, who won't turn 24 until next month, is in the final year of the rookie contract he signed after the Packers drafted him in the second round in 2011.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who has an excellent track record with second-round receivers (see also Nelson and Greg Jennings) already knows what kind of dynamic player Cobb can be from the slot position. This year, after the departure of James Jones in free agency, Cobb also will be able to expand his role into a complete receiver who plays both inside and out on the perimeter.

The Packers watched Cobb catch 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 and likely would have seen equal, if not better, numbers last season if not for the broken tibia he sustained on a low hit from Baltimore Ravens safety Matt Elam that knocked him out for 10 games.

Had it not been for the Elam hit, it might have been Cobb's name on that contract the Packers worked up on Saturday.

"Woulda, coulda, shoulda," Cobb said. "At the end of the day, I didn't. I wasn't out there 10 weeks. Regardless of what it may be, what my injury was, there was nothing I could do about it.

"For me, I feel that was part of God's plan. I've done everything I can in the offseason. I've come back and I'm ready for training camp as we get going over the next few days, throwing the pads on, so I'm excited about this season."

Packers Camp Report: Day 1

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers' training camp:
  • Finley's future: The Packers kept tight end Jermichael Finley's name on his locker throughout the offseason but when training camp opened Saturday, instead there was a non-personalized "Packers" placard in its place. There has been no indication that the Packers have medically cleared the free-agent tight end from the neck fusion surgery he underwent last November. "For him, it's a matter of getting cleared and I don't know his medical diagnosis [or] where he's at, but I can tell you we've had a number of those injuries and it's been tough for a couple guys [to come back]," Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
  • Clinton-Dix still a backup: It was just the first of 21 practices but if the Packers plan to start first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, you would think they would want him on the field with the No. 1 defense from the outset of camp. But when the starters took the field for the first time on Saturday, second-year pro Micah Hyde remained at free safety alongside strong safety Morgan Burnett. Hyde, who played exclusively as a slot cornerback last season, and Burnett were the top safety duo throughout the offseason practices, too. Clinton-Dix worked mostly with the No. 2 defense. Even if Hyde wins the starting job, it's possible he could move to the slot cornerback position in certain sub packages, which would allow Clinton-Dix to get some snaps.
  • Hayward shines: How much did the Packers miss cornerback Casey Hayward last season, when he was limited to just three games because of a recurring hamstring injury? Hayward broke up three passes on Saturday during team periods. "I thought Casey had a good day," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's back. So instinctive, his ball skills, you can see him jump off the spot a few times and make a play." In 2012, Hayward led all NFL rookies with six interceptions while playing almost exclusively as a slot cornerback in the nickel and dime packages. Last season, the Packers had only nine interceptions total from their entire cornerback group.
  • Barclay's value: With right guard T.J. Lang limited to only some individual drills because of a sore shoulder, Don Barclay worked in Lang's spot with the No. 1 offensive line. It once again showed Barclay's versatility and value. After starting most of the last two seasons at right tackle, Barclay has given that spot back to Bryan Bulaga (who has returned from reconstructive knee surgery). However, Barclay has shown he can fill in anywhere on the line. "He plays any position," McCarthy said. "He's played some center. If he had to, he could go out and play some left tackle. He's a tough guy, technical."
  • Medical report: Here are the specifics on the players who did not pass their physicals on Friday: Outside linebackers Nick Perry (foot, knee) and Mike Neal (core muscle injury) were placed on the physically unable to perform list, but McCarthy said both are close to returning. Defensive end Jerel Worthy is on the non-football injury list because of a lower back problem and is out indefinitely. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion is on the same list because of a hamstring injury. Rookie receiver Jeff Janis, who is on the non-football illness list, was not at practice because he was sick.
  • Odds and ends: Undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla got off to a rough start. He dropped a pair of passes, one of which should have been routine on a well-placed, roll-out throw from Matt Flynn. The other was on a deep ball that Flynn underthrew. Lyerla appeared to slip while trying to come back for the pass but still got his hands on it. … Mason Crosby made 7-of-8 kicks during a field goal period. His only miss was wide right from 44 yards. He converted field goals of 33, 33, 36, 36, 44, 50 and 50 yards. … Rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley is probably a longshot to unseat center JC Tretter for the starting job, but he has moved up the depth chart to No. 2 at the position. During the offseason, he was No. 3 behind Garth Gerhart. … Rookie fourth-round pick Carl Bradford has changed jersey numbers to 54. In offseason practices, the outside linebacker wore No. 91, which now belongs to undrafted rookie linebacker Jayrone Elliott.
  • What’s next: After practicing for 2 hours and 15 minutes on helmets and shorts on Saturday, the Packers will hold another non-padded practice on Sunday at 8:20 a.m. local time. The first full-pads practice will be Monday at 8:20 a.m.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – There are formations and schemes that Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy does not want anyone – especially not the Seattle Seahawks – to know about.

Some of the tactics defensive coordinator Dom Capers has concocted won't be worked on until the Packers get behind the closed doors for the handful of training-camp practices that are not open to the public.

And the ones that they do practice in front of the public eye, they have asked their credentialed media to discuss vaguely.

[+] EnlargeClay Matthews
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers and linebacker Clay Matthews will look to exploit teams' weaknesses.
One thing is clear after seeing the first practice of training camp on Saturday: The Packers are not short on linebackers and appear prepared to use plenty of them in a variety of ways.

That, of course, includes four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who practiced Saturday for the first time since he broke his thumb for a second time last season on Dec. 22 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was Matthews, with a small brace on his right hand, on the field for the first time with new teammate Julius Peppers. And put it this way: Matthews was not just lined up on one side of the defense with Peppers on the other for every snap.

It's not the first time Matthews has lined up in a variety of spots – on the left, on the right and even in the middle. But it could be even more prevalent this season, beginning with the marquee season opener in Seattle against the defending Super Bowl champs on Sept. 4.

"As you guys saw today, they definitely had me moving around from lining up in the middle of the field as a stack backer to the left, to the right, lining up in the slot, and just putting more of our playmakers on the field," said Matthews, who sat out all of the offseason practices to allow his thumb to heal.

"I think the problem that it presents for the offense is so many moving pieces. It allows me to use a multitude of my weapons and not just lining up in one spot rushing the passer. I think I bring a multitude of weapons to the game, and I think I could do that through lining up all over the field. I think it's about mismatches and putting us in advantageous positions. We'll see how that does moving forward, but I felt good about it today and hopefully it will only get better moving forward."

The addition of Peppers in free agency is perhaps the key to giving Matthews more freedom. In the 34-year-old Peppers, the Packers finally have an established pass rusher to complement Matthews. Sure, there were times on Saturday when Capers simply put Matthews at left outside linebacker, Peppers at right outside linebacker and played a base 3-4 defense, but there were other times when there were more linebackers at a wider variety of positions than normal.

"It definitely helps," Matthews said of adding Peppers to the defense. "I think we're all about taking advantage of mismatches, but any time you could add someone of Peppers' caliber to the line, who gets after the quarterback and has a proven sack record, it definitely helps. At the same time, the same is expected of me no matter where I'm at in the line, whether it's left, right, in the middle. So I'll be expected to handle my plays accordingly as well as him."

And Capers might do even more when Mike Neal and Nick Perry join practice. The pair of outside linebackers, who combined to play more than 1,100 snaps last season, began camp on the physically unable to perform list. According to McCarthy, Neal has a core muscle injury and Perry is still bothered by the foot and knee problems that limited him last season. Both, he said, are close to returning.

Just don't expect to find out too many specifics of what McCarthy and Capers have planned.

At least not until Sept. 4 at Seattle.

"Obviously, we're not going to shut down and practice behind closed doors all the time," McCarthy said. "There's things you live with, and we have the traditionally two practices we lock in on certain things we've always worked on in closed practices. We closed two other practices this year really because we're going to a new format of a shortened practice, and I want to get the team acclimated."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Packers already had quarterback Aaron Rodgers signed through the 2019 season and now have receiver Jordy Nelson locked up through 2018.

So where does that leave Randall Cobb?

Cobb is entering the final season of his rookie contract and despite missing 10 games last season because of a fractured leg, he has shown enough in his first three seasons to warrant a big-money extension.

If the Packers don't give it to him, surely another team will.

This offseason,'s Mike Sando ranked Cobb fifth on his list of the top free-agent wide receivers for 2015Insider. Nelson, who is now off the market, was fourth.

"I'd love for Randall to be next," Rodgers said Saturday. "He's a guy, again, who's done it the right way. He's been a great leader for us. He's had some injury issues last year that hurt him that was out of his control. But he's a consistent performer for us and a great guy in the locker room as well."

The Packers began the week with nearly $13.7 million in salary-cap space. But that was before Nelson's four-year, $39 million contract extension was signed on Saturday. Until the exact breakdown of that deal is available, it won't be known how much room the Packers will have for a potential Cobb extension.

"Every coach wants his core guys, no doubt about it," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You want to sign them all. Like I said before, if I was in charge of the player checkbook, we would have been way over the budget a long time ago. Yes, Randall's an excellent football player and you always want to see your guys get paid and you continue to grow with them."

But Cobb isn't the only starter who is scheduled to hit free agency next offseason. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, nose tackle B.J. Raji and cornerback Tramon Williams all are entering the final season of their current contracts.