5 things learned at Packers training camp – Aug. 14

Returning rookie Christian Watson eager to learn from Aaron Rodgers

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WR Christian Watson

GREEN BAY – The Packers conducted an 80-minute practice in shoulder pads Sunday, tailored to the veterans who didn't play in Friday's preseason opener against San Francisco.

Here are five things we learned.

1. Christian Watson is "excited" to get back on the field.

The rookie second-round pick made his training camp debut Sunday after being activated off the physically unable to perform list along with offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins and tight end Robert Tonyan.

Watson missed the first 2½ weeks of camp after undergoing a minor knee procedure during the break between the end of the offseason program and start of training camp.

Still, the 6-foot-5 receiver said he never was concerned he might have to start his rookie campaign on the regular-season PUP, especially as he progressed through his rehab.

Watson was limited to only individual drills Sunday, but he already could feel the benefit of getting to work more closely with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the receiving corps.

"It's huge for me," Watson said. "I can take the mental reps, but it's a different change of pace when you're out there in the huddle, hearing the play from Aaron, looking at the defense, reading the defense, getting checks at the line. It's a lot different than standing on the side and doing it mentally. It's huge, and I'm excited."

The key now is consistency – both in Watson's recovery and performance. Position coach Jason Vrable and the receiver room have been huge assets when it comes to the latter, according to Watson.

The rookie also had a productive conversation earlier in the day with Rodgers, who reminded Watson that now is the time to make mistakes, and corrections, so they don't happen in-season.

"Obviously had a really good week last week recovering and doing stuff and building up a little bit, so I was ready to roll," Watson said.

"Today, being able to step on the field a little bit, get moving around a little bit, do some indy stuff, I think that was a big step for me. And I'm just looking forward to continuing to build."

2. Jenkins "not surprised" by early return from ACL injury.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the three returning players to the practice field Sunday was Jenkins, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament less than nine months ago in Minnesota.

The former Pro Bowl guard made steady progress throughout his rehab. Two weeks ago, with full fluidity in his movement, Jenkins said he felt fit to practice again.

On Sunday, the training staff gave him the green light to take the next step in his rehab.

"I'm not surprised," said Jenkins of his early return. "I just attack every day, just went through the process, went through everything and I feel good right now."

Jenkins isn't setting any timelines for his availability at the start of the regular season. But if he's cleared for Week 1 in Minnesota, Jenkins' return would come in the same venue, U.S. Bank Stadium, he originally injured his knee last November.

For now, Jenkins is enjoying going through drills again and said he experienced no pain in the knee, including when his fellow offensive linemen leaned on him during individual periods.

Jenkins' proven production and leadership are considered especially valuable this year given the team's young O-line. His five-position versatility also provides the Packers options for which position the team wants to play the fourth-year veteran.

"During the rehab process, I worked different positions just to make sure I get the feel at each position," Jenkins said.

"Going out there today in pads, with helmets on, it's been a minute since I did that. So, I feel like it's a mental hurdle that you gotta get over. The knee fine. Everything fine. It's just that thought process of what I've been through the last nine months."

3. Tonyan caught a few teammates off-guard on Sunday.

Coming off his own ACL injury, Tonyan felt he was close to a return after a good workout prior to Friday's preseason opener against San Francisco.

After meeting with General Manager Brian Gutekunst on Sunday, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end was given the green light to put the pads back on for the first time since last October.

Needless to say, Tonyan's return drew quite a response from his teammates.

"It was really hyped because I don't think anyone really knew," Tonyan said. "I had just talked to Gutey like probably an hour before practice and then I just got out there with shoulder pads and helmets on.

"The plan was to come back from PUP around this time. The fact that it happened is reassuring, for sure."

Tonyan had a breakout year in 2020, catching 52 of 59 targets for 586 yards and tying Paul Coffman's franchise record for most single-season touchdown receptions (11) by a tight end.

The fifth-year tight end was in the midst of a two-game stretch in which he'd caught seven passes for 112 yards when he tore his ACL in the third quarter against Arizona on Oct. 28, 2021.

"It's just a relief to get the helmet and show them that it's on again," Tonyan said. "It's been a long process. I was just kind of feeling a little out of the football loop for a little bit. So, to get back in there, running plays and lining up next to people and being in the huddle again was just a positive on my life in general."

4. Kingsley Enagbare packs some pressure in two-minute.

After recording three tackles, two quarterback hits and a sack against the 49ers, the rookie fifth-round pick continued to flash as a rotational edge rusher with the No. 1 defense.

Enagbare was in the neighborhood for a sack on two, and possibly three, plays during the final two-minute period at the end of practice.

The Packers have a wide-open competition for the backup spots behind starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith that includes Enagbare, former seventh-round pick Jonathan Garvin, La'Darius Hamilton, Randy Ramsey and Tipa Galeai.

"The last couple practices, I feel like I've been coming along," Enagbare said. "It's trying to stack each day and having a focus each day, whether it's my hands, my get-off, things like that. Just have a focus each day and try to attack that so, slowly but surely, getting better each day."

5. Packers provide an injury update coming out of San Francisco.

LaFleur confirmed safety Dallin Leavitt "will be out a while" after injuring his shoulder while forcing a fumble before halftime against San Francisco.

Since signing last month, the fifth-year veteran had been playing on most of Green Bay's No. 1 special-teams units. He previously played for new coordinator Rich Bisaccia with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.

With Mason Crosby (knee) still on PUP, Green Bay also announced a move at kicker, signing USFL veteran Ramiz Ahmed and releasing Gabe Brkic.

As it turned out, Brkic also was injured against the 49ers. The rookie kicker actually tweaked his hamstring during warmups but still handled field goals, extra points and kickoffs.

Brkic made all three of his extra points but missed wide left on a 32-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter.

"You gotta give him credit because he continued to kick out there," LaFleur said. "That's why a lot of our kickoffs were the way they were. Because we're not going to go ask him to unload on a kickoff when a guy has a tweak in his hammy."

Ahmed played for the Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL in 2022, connecting on 14-of-22 field goals (63.6 pct.) with a long of 61 yards.

Receiver Juwann Winfree (groin), defensive lineman Akial Byers (toe), safety Tariq Carpenter (knee) and Galea'i (elbow) also didn't practice after the 49ers game.

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