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5 takeaways from Packers' second joint practice with Patriots

Undrafted rookie Cody Chrest ready to live his dream at Lambeau Field

WR Codyy Chrest
WR Codyy Chrest

GREEN BAY – The Packers and Patriots squared off for the second consecutive day during a windy, and occasionally rainy, Thursday practice at Ray Nitschke Field.

Here are five takeaways from the full-pads workout:

1. Cody Chrest made heads-up play before his big day at Lambeau.

The undrafted rookie receiver closed Thursday's practice in a big way, catching a 21-yard touchdown pass after several New England defensive backs converged on a Sean Clifford pass into the end zone with four seconds remaining.

While the final Patriot attempted to scoop up an interception, the ball popped into the hands of Chrest to end the 11-play scoring drive and send the Packers' sideline into an energetic mass celebration.

"In that situation, it wasn't in my area but when you see DBs go up for the ball, you know they're probably going to collide and there's gonna be a rebound opportunity," Chrest said. "I just tried to get over there as soon as I could. I knew there was going to be an opportunity to rebound the ball and that's what happened. It was cool. It was a good moment."

It's the beginning of a big week for Chrest, who has deep ties to the state of Wisconsin. While Cody grew up in Houston, his father Craig is a native of Black River Falls who signed with the Packers in 1981 as an undrafted free agent following a prolific career as a receiver at UW-La Crosse.

In fact, Chrest was actually at his family's cabin in Port Wing, Wis., to celebrate his grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary last month when he received a call informing him that the Packers planned to sign him on the eve of training camp.

Chrest, whose parents bought him a share of Packers stock when he was little, said it's always been a "bucket-list item" for him to attend a game at Lambeau Field. While there wasn't an opportunity to do that when he was younger due to his football schedule, the 6-foot, 193-pound receiver will have a full contingent of family in town to watch him play the Patriots on Saturday night.

"It's gonna be great," Chrest said. "I have like 17 ticket requests. I couldn't get all of them. I wanted to, but I couldn't get all of them. It's going to be a great experience. It's gonna be a special moment. Really excited to have all my family here, really excited to get to go out on Lambeau and have this experience, take advantage of this opportunity."

Getting to this point wasn't easy. Chrest had a seven-year college career, which began with him missing most of his first three seasons at Harvard due to complications from a knee injury. Chrest transferred to Sam Houston State, where he played his final three seasons after receiving an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After going undrafted in the spring, Chrest had brief stints with both Indianapolis and Pittsburgh this offseason before finally getting the call from Green Bay. Chrest admits there were some dark times but support from his family and girlfriend was vital. He also never stopped believing in his dream of playing in the NFL.

On Saturday, that march continues inside the same venue Chrest adored as a child.

"That's kind of part of my whole story is that so many people – if they were in my position, they probably would've given up," Chrest said. "They probably would've thought it was a farfetched goal. That's just part of my conviction where I really believe in myself.

"It's always been something I've dreamed of and always been kind of a bucket-list (item)," Chrest said. "Now my first time I get to play out there. It's pretty cool."

2. Thursday's practice was physical from beginning to end.

The second joint practice between the Packers and Patriots had its share of dustups, with several scuffles breaking out during the two-hour, 17-minute session.

The most visible incident resulted in Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings being thrown out of practice after a tussle with Packers linebacker Keshawn Banks during a punting period.

"Guys have had a day of banging, so you know what to expect and now you're going to come out there and just go full-tilt," Packers running back Aaron Jones said. "So, I feel like the second days are normally a little bit more aggressive. You've got a day of hitting in and now you're lathered up and ready to go."

While the goal is not to fight, several Packers players discussed in the locker room how proud they were of how teammates stepped up for one another when things got a little chippy.

"This is my first NFL locker room … but this locker room feels close," rookie tight end Tucker Kraft said. "We all get along. I don't have a problem with anybody in this locker room, and if I see someone out there getting pummeled on the field, I'm going to go out there and support them. We all wear the 'G.'"

3. Don't be surprised if the Packers schedule multiple joint practices again next year.

Pleased with the productivity of Green Bay's work against Cincinnati and New England, Head Coach Matt LaFleur told reporters before Thursday's practice that Green Bay "most likely" will look to schedule multiple joint practices next summer.

"I just think there's so much to get out of it," LaFleur said. "Especially when you're going against people that you know or respect how they go about their business and how they run their operation. I think there's just so much good out of it."

LaFleur and many Packers players lauded Bill Belichick and the Patriots for the array of looks they threw at the offense during practice, whether it was disguising coverages or mixing in stunts and twists against Green Bay's offensive line.

"This has been great," Clifford said. "Obviously in college, you don't do this. Sometimes you'll have your warmup games where you schedule a smaller school, but really you don't see other teams until Week 1. So being able to get in with the Patriots … talk about how they're doing and watching how their drills are and just taking little things here and there. I thought it's been fantastic."

The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots held their final joint practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023.

4. After leading a successful two-minute drive, the rookie Clifford has a clear goal for Saturday night.

The Packers' fifth-round pick backed up his impressive preseason debut last Friday in his hometown of Cincinnati with a cerebral two-minute drive in which he completed 7-off-11 passes, including a 28-yard liner to Grant DuBose in the seam to set up Chrest's TD.

With Saturday on the horizon, Clifford wants to cut down on the turnovers after throwing two interceptions in the second quarter, including a pick-six by safety Tycen Anderson. The former Penn State standout rallied to lead a successful two-minute drive before halftime, while completing 20-of-26 passes for 208 yards, one touchdown and the two INTs.

"Right away I said, that is NFL football because that's the fastest I've ever seen a safety react like that in my life, so noted," said Clifford, smiling.

"I'm always going to come back out and try to make a shot. Looking back from last game, just continuing to take the shots when they're there, don't be hesitant and make sure you take a little bit better care of the ball."

5. With De'Vondre Campbell out, Isaiah McDuffie is the next linebacker up.

The third-year veteran was once again lined next to Quay Walker in the starting defense after the All-Pro Campbell missed his second consecutive practice with an ankle injury.

A stalwart on Green Bay's special teams, McDuffie is also the next man up behind Campbell and Walker. In spot duty last year, the 6-foot-1, 227-pound linebacker recorded 43 tackles and a fumble recovery on 174 defensive snaps in 17 games with one start.

"It was very (beneficial)," said McDuffie when asked about the importance of first-team reps. "Any snaps I get I feel like are very, very critical for my development and for me to take that next step."

Defensive lineman Kenny Clark (back) and linebacker Tariq Carpenter (back) both returned to practice on Thursday. On the back end, former Houston starting safety Jonathan Owens was again working with Darnell Savage in the No. 1 defense.

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