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5 things learned at Packers rookie minicamp

Eric Stokes flashes his speed; new number has special meaning for Amari Rodgers

CB Eric Stokes
CB Eric Stokes

GREEN BAY – The Packers' 2021 rookie class was in uniform for the first time Friday, as the team kicked off its rookie minicamp at Clarke Hinkle Field.

Here are five things learned from the first of two practice sessions open to the media:

1. Eric Stokes flashes his speed, is focused on technique

The Packers' first-round pick was one of the most visible players on the practice field and not just because of his 6-foot, 194-pound stature.

Stokes displayed quickness breaking to the ball in drills and even broke up a few passes, including one against undrafted receiver Chris Blair during one of the combo periods.

Stokes said he was "still mad at that play" because he crossed over the receiver and was forced to lean on his recovery speed to make the play. At the same time, however, Stokes admits having sub-4.3 speed is always a good fallback option.

"Having speed is tremendous," Stokes said. "But the more I haul into my technique, the more I do everything else to where I don't have to use speed.

"If I go ahead and learn to play with technique now, when I get down the road, my speed starts to decline, I already know how to play with technique so I'm not losing anything and I can still be the best player I can be."

Stokes hasn't wasted anytime getting to know his position room. He's enjoyed working with secondary coach Jerry Gray and already exchanged numbers with Jaire Alexander, Kevin King and several other Packers defensive backs.

2. Amari Rodgers' choice of No. 8 to symbolize 'everything coming full circle'

The third-round pick was the first to take advantage of the NFL relaxing its rules on which numbers skill-position players are permitted to wear.

Unfortunately, the No. 3 Rodgers wore at Clemson already was retired in Green Bay in honor of Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Tony Canadeo.

No problem. Instead, Rodgers decided to get a little more creative and picked out the No. 8.

"You know, '8' is just a three but you close it in," Rodgers said. "Everything came full circle, so that's really how I saw it. Everything coming full circle, all the work I put in came full circle. Now I'm here achieving my dream. That's what that '8' symbolizes to me."

While Friday's rookie minicamp practice lasted just over an hour, Rodgers made a positive first impression in a Packers uniform.

The 5-foot-9, 212-pound receiver had offensive players hooting and hollering after catching a deep ball from quarterback Chad Kelly midway through practice. He also was the lone individual fielding punts on Friday.

"I'm ready for it," said Rodgers of wearing so many hats in practice. "I'm just gonna prepare myself, get my body in shape, to take on that role. I know they're looking at me in a lot of positions, so I just gotta be ready for it. I'm just gonna embrace it, attack it head-on."

3. Josh Myers' toe is healed; he trained with fellow draft pick Cole Van Lanen

The second-round pick was cleared to practice, marking the first time Myers has been on the field since undergoing offseason foot surgery for the turf toe injury he suffered during Ohio State's playoff push.

"I'm able to run pretty much full speed," Myers said. "I was doing offensive line drills all day today. There were a couple things that I'm getting held out on, and that's more of a safety thing for now. … Other than that, I'm doing pretty much everything."

The 6-foot-5, 310-pound center/guard already knows one of his new offensive linemates after training with sixth-round pick Cole Van Lanen during the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft.

"It's been awesome getting to hang out with those guys and spend time with them," Myers said. "That's one of the things these last several months that I missed a lot was getting to spend time with teammates and the little things. We just piled into a minivan and came back over to Lambeau after practice."

4. Matt LaFleur wants Aaron Rodgers back and is excited about Blake Bortles

The Packers made some waves on the eve of rookie minicamp when the team announced Thursday the signing of veteran quarterback Blake Bortles.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur said Bortles' previous working relationship with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in Jacksonville and previous experience in a comparable offense with the Los Angeles Rams were attractive to the Packers, who previously had only Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love as QBs on their offseason roster.

"This is a guy that started a lot of games and has had a lot of success," LaFleur said. "Shoot, he led his team to the AFC Championship Game and I mean they were close to knocking off the Patriots in New England. He's got a lot of experience and that's something that you can never take for granted."

With no quarterbacks currently on the roster who were eligible for this weekend's minicamp, Kelly and free-agent quarterback Kurt Benkert each participated on a tryout basis.

Benkert spent the past three years with the Atlanta Falcons before being released in February, while Kelly has been out of football since being released last September by Indianapolis.

When asked for an update on Rodgers, LaFleur said he didn't have anything new to report on the NFL's reigning MVP other than the Packers still hope to have him back at some point.

"We want him back in the worst way," LaFleur said. "I know he knows that and we'll continue to work at it each and every day."

5. Aaron Jones' twin brother participated on a tryout basis

Besides Benkert and Kelly, linebacker Alvin Jones Jr. was the only other tryout player the Packers brought in for rookie minicamp.

Jones, 26, entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens in 2018. He didn't play in the NFL last season but did have a tryout with Green Bay last October.

NFL clubs were permitted no more than five tryout players at rookie minicamp due to COVID-19 restrictions. For that reason, the Packers had 28 players practicing Friday, down from 49 during the team's last rookie orientation two years ago.

Second-year running back Patrick Taylor was allowed to participate this weekend after spending his entire rookie season on the team's non-football injury list.

Four practice-squad holdovers also were eligible to practice due to their limited NFL service time: running back Mike Weber, defensive lineman Delontae Scott, punter Ryan Winslow and kicker JJ Molson.

Take an inside look at the first day of Packers rookie minicamp on Friday, May 14.

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