Last year’s rookies didn’t have the luxury of an orientation weekend and OTA sessions to get introduced to the NFL before training camp started. It’s a good thing for this year’s Packers that’s not the case.
A year ago, the lockout wiped out the entire offseason program, but it could be argued the Packers – who were coming off a Super Bowl championship with their starting lineup basically intact – were less affected than other teams.
This year, the Packers used their first six draft picks on defense to potentially re-tool a unit that dropped to the bottom of the league rankings. There are starting spots and other prominent roles to be won, and the OTAs and upcoming June minicamp should only enhance the chances for those rookies to make an impact.
“I think it helps them out tremendously, coming in here and learning the playbook, so that way when they’re in (training) camp, they aren’t just thrown to the wolves,” outside linebacker
Matthews emphasized that the faster first-round pick
Looking at the rest of the defensive draft class, fellow second-rounder
“I couldn’t even imagine not having the rookie camp and throwing the whole book at you and telling you to learn it,” McMillian said. “Since you have the time to develop and grasp the concepts and everything, it’s helpful.”
Another fourth-rounder, defensive lineman
“Definitely it’s a big-time help,” said Manning, who spoke with former college teammate Nate Irving, drafted last year in the third round by Denver, about how rough the process was his rookie year. “If I didn’t have these OTAs, I don’t know what I’d do. I take my hat off to those fellas that actually made the team. Without the OTAs, there’s a big learning curve.”
One of those rookies who made it is sixth-round linebacker
“It’s kind of like a silver-spoon mentality,” he said with a chuckle. “They’ve got it good.
“These guys coming in have a really good opportunity to be able to play fast, play smart and go all out. We’re putting the plays in every day, and to go over them every day, all that recall is going to help these guys out a lot.”
In other words, the time to be swimming (or in some cases, drowning) in the playbook is now, not when the pads go on in late July. Even with OTAs reduced from 14 sessions to 10 under the new collective bargaining agreement, that’s still loads more introductory work than anyone got last year.
Perry said “studying and studying” is going to be the key for him over these next several weeks, and the veterans have seen the rookies taking advantage of this time already.
“Training camp by itself is already a monster,” defensive lineman
Matthews said last year’s rookies have told him that this year’s crop has it “easy.” If they take advantage, that should make it easier for the Packers defense to return to its pre-2011 form.
“We need guys to come in and play right off the bat,” Matthews said. “So that’s what we’re expecting from these young guys.”