5 things learned at Packers training camp – Aug. 21

Rookie Christian Watson was “itching” to return to team periods

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WR Christian Watson

GREEN BAY – Coming off Friday night's preseason game against New Orleans, the Packers conducted a 1-hour, 20-minute practice geared towards the starters on Sunday afternoon.

Here are five things we learned:

1. Christian Watson couldn't wait to put on his Packers uniform…and enjoyed a productive day in 11-on-11.

The rookie receiver didn't play against the Saints but warmed up with his teammates and participated in the early walkthrough at Lambeau Field.

Non-participants often will throw on a shirt and sweatpants before the start of the game, but Watson enjoyed wearing the uniform so much he remained suited up on the sideline the entire game.

"I came in (to the locker room). I talked to Coach (Matt) LaFleur and I was like, 'Should I take it off?' He was like, 'Nah, you look good. Just leave it on,'" said Watson with a smile.

"Obviously, it was my first time putting it on and getting to go out there. Even if he didn't tell me to leave it on, I probably would've left it on anyways. I felt really good."

The uniform came in handy Sunday, as the second-round pick returned to team periods for the first time since undergoing a minor knee procedure after the Packers' offseason program.

Watson caught a couple passes, too, a 15-yard crosser from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in stride and a 9-yard slant during the move-the-ball period.

"It feels amazing just to be able to go up against the defense and get some live reps," Watson said. "It feels like it's been a long time coming for me. It's only been a few weeks, but I feel like it's definitely been a long time coming and I've been itching to get back out there."

Watson doesn't know whether he'll play in Thursday's preseason finale against Kansas City but believes the combination of practice and off-the-field due diligence have him prepared whenever his number is called.

Small conversations with Rodgers off to the side also have helped Watson gain a deeper understanding of the "whys" behind the offense and the MVP quarterback's pre-snap reads.

"Just knowing the reasons and knowing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing and why I'm doing it on that play, that's something that's big for me," Watson said. "I want to understand everything, just being able to go to him after and kind of pick his brain a little bit and learn more."

2. LaFleur was glad to see David Bakhtiari back "on the grass."

The All-Pro left tackle participated in individual drills after being activated off the physically unable to perform list.

It's a big checkpoint for Bakhtiari, who has undergone three procedures since first injuring his knee on Dec. 31, 2020.

LaFleur said there has been "no thought" yet about Bakhtiari's availability for the regular-season opener in Minnesota. The focus is for Bakhtiari to get back in the swing of things again and see how he responds.

Still, the head coach admitted it's good to have the team's franchise left tackle back on the practice field.

"It's just the next step but we are excited to get him out there on the grass," said LaFleur before practice.

"He's been making really good progress and mentally, I think he's in a very good place, as well. He's worked his tail off for a long time now to get to this point."

It's been a good seven days for Green Bay's offensive line, which also welcomed back Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins (knee) last Sunday from the PUP list.

Both veterans have been active in communicating with the younger O-linemen in practice. On Sunday, Bakhtiari could be seen working with Yosh Nijman and rookie tackle Caleb Jones.

"They know how to play the game, they know what to expect when they go out there," LaFleur said. "Just their ability to communicate and see things, their experience speaks for itself. So, I do think there's going to be a ton of benefit to when we can get them out there."

Afterward, LaFleur brought the team in for a post-practice huddle where there was an eruption of cheers at the pronouncement of Bakhtiari's return. Practice ended with the five-time All-Pro breaking down the team huddle.

3. Packers get Innis Gaines back but are still light at safety.

The first-year safety returned to individuals but Darnell Savage (hamstring), Dallin Leavitt (shoulder), Tariq Carpenter (knee), and Vernon Scott (shoulder) all remain out with injuries.

LaFleur said the team was getting more opinions on the shoulder injury Scott suffered against the Saints. With Adrian Amos possibly sitting out in Kansas City, Shawn Davis, Micah Abernathy and Gaines could be the only safeties available Thursday night.

"I've never seen anything like that," said Davis on Friday when asked about the Packers' injuries at safety. "But I'm pretty sure those guys are going to get healthy and will be right back on the field with us."

4. Packers have a decision to make with their starters.

After holding out at least 30 players in each of the first two preseason games, LaFleur and his coaches will soon make a final call on which veterans will dress in Kansas City.

The Packers haven't played established veterans in their previous two preseason finales under LaFleur. One thing that is certain is everybody will "suit up and go through the warmups at a bare minimum," according to LaFleur.

"I see benefits on both sides, but I also see some things that you'd be kicking yourself if something went wrong in a game," LaFleur said. "There's benefits to going through the mental preparation of getting yourself ready for a game. Just working out the kinks of your pregame or whatever it might be. Also, just going out there and playing and having the confidence."

The Green Bay Packers held training-camp practice at Ray Nitschke Field on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022.

5. As Mason Crosby progresses in his rehab, Ramiz Ahmed finds his comfort zone on field goals.

Although Crosby is kicking again after having his knee scoped last month, the Packers aren't expecting their all-time leading scorer to be available in Kansas City.

That provides another massive opportunity for Ahmed, whom Green Bay signed last Sunday. The former Nevada walk-on made both of his field-goal attempts against the Saints and went a perfect 6-for-6 on Sunday from 33, 41, 44, 46, 48 and 51 yards.

"I'm just taking it day by day and kick by kick, trying to soak it all in and get better," said Ahmed last week. "I only have two years of kicking field goals so I'm still young in this kicking career. But I've been training with John Carney and he's got 23 years and I've been with him for years. I've soaked up as much information as I could from him, so I feel very well-equipped to be able to go out on an NFL field and make kicks."

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