Jones, who sustained a bruised lower back when he took a helmet to that area in the first training camp practice last Saturday, returned to the field on Thursday for both practices and said he felt no lingering effects as he did his usual work at outside linebacker.
The absence wasn’t nearly as long as last year, when Jones strained his back during the conditioning test on the day players reported for camp. That injury kept him out of the first two full weeks of camp and left his roster spot in jeopardy until he was able to play in the final three preseason games.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that long, but then again you never really know until a couple days go by and you can feel it start getting better,” Jones said. “But I’m glad I was able to turn it around so fast.”
This year, with Jones a potential starter at outside linebacker opposite
Earlier this week, veteran
When Jones returned on Thursday, he had to make an immediate adjustment, getting shifted from the left side, where he played last year in tallying four sacks over the final five games of the regular season, to the right side. With Chillar one of several veterans taking the morning off and Matthews taking only limited snaps in the morning, Jones was paired primarily with
“I’m excited to play the right side if I get a chance to,” Jones said. “Clay had all those sacks on that side, so maybe I can.”
When Chillar returned in the evening, he remained paired with Matthews on the No. 1 unit in both base and nickel. Jones and Poppinga were together with the No. 2 defense. So it appears even though Jones started seven games at outside linebacker last year in place of Aaron Kampman and was with the No. 1 units throughout the spring, the starting job is up for grabs.
“There’s competition everywhere,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following the evening practice. “We’re not giving the job to Brad, we’re not giving it to Brandon. Availability is the No. 1 component of being on the field. Brad’s had an issue with that beginning of last year and the beginning of this year. We’ve got healthy competition. We like the rotation now that it’s been created with Brandon over there.”
If he has to battle for a spot, that’s fine with Jones. A seventh-round draft pick a year ago who wasn’t even on the field until midway through camp, he’s used to having to work for any playing time he gets.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going on with everything, but you have to compete for your job always,” Jones said. “It’s the NFL. It’s the best players in the world. I would have to compete for a spot if I was anywhere on the team.”
Runnin’ with the 1s
In addition to Chillar, several veterans sat out the morning practice, allowing some younger players to step in and take snaps with the No. 1 units during the nearly two-hour workout.
Given the morning off were cornerback
Among the young players who got to run with the 1’s was
“You’re a rookie but you need to learn fast,” Neal said. “Like coach says, you don’t get a redshirt season this year. This ain’t no season where you can just sit back and be like, OK, I can learn. You have to be able to learn on the fly, you have to be able to learn and produce.”
That’s what makes snaps with the first unit so valuable, especially for players new to the NFL and still adjusting to the overall speed of the game.
“It helps you out because then you get put into those situations where … this is game-time situations,” Neal said. “It’s two-minute. This is how fast the calls are going to be coming in, this is how fast the ball is going to be moving. So it gets you acclimated with those types of situations, which will definitely help you out. So when you get thrown in a game, you’re not just out there running around looking lost. You feel more comfortable.”
Other young or less experienced players getting their chance to work with the top units on Thursday morning were
Interns at work
The Packers have two interns on the coaching staff and two in the scouting/personnel department for this year’s training camp, and all four of them are former NFL players.
On the coaching side, the interns are Carnell Lake and Joel Hilgenberg.
Lake played 13 seasons as a defensive back in the NFL (1989-2001), the first 10 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played under Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers and was a teammate of Packers safeties coach Darren Perry and linebackers coach Kevin Greene. Lake also played for Capers for two seasons in Jacksonville (1999-2000) before finishing his career with the Baltimore Ravens.
Lake was a five-time Pro Bowler and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990s. Last year he was a coaching intern at the Philadelphia Eagles training camp and then spent the season coaching cornerbacks at his alma mater, UCLA.
Hilgenberg played 10 seasons (1984-93) for the New Orleans Saints as an offensive lineman, mostly at center. He was a teammate of Packers offensive line coach James Campen for two years with the Saints (1987-88) and made the Pro Bowl in 1992. Hilgenberg is the younger brother of former Chicago Bears center Jay Hilgenberg.
The two player personnel interns are both former Packers, linebacker Jim Nelson and running back Tony Fisher.
Nelson, a non-drafted free agent from Penn State, played 16 games with the Packers over his first two seasons in the NFL (1998-99) before moving on to play three years in Minnesota (2000-02), two in Indianapolis (2003-04) and one in Baltimore (2005).
Fisher played in 60 games over four seasons with the Packers (2002-05) after making the team as a non-drafted free agent out of Notre Dame, where he was a teammate of
In addition to Jones, guard