GREEN BAY – The Packers were back at Ray Nitschke Field on Tuesday for a padded practice (shoulder pads only) as the final week of the preseason got underway.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Rashan Gary took another significant step in his recovery.
A "big" one, the fifth-year edge rusher called it, participating in 11-on-11 work for the first time as he continues to battle back from last season's torn ACL.
He made no promises about being ready for Week 1, saying it's still a day-by-day process. But with 2½ weeks to go before the trip to Chicago to open the regular season, Gary's progress is certainly encouraging.
He showed off an impressive move in a one-on-one rep against right tackle Zach Tom, and then he cut it loose in the team drills, generating at least one pressure.
"That's getting back to playing real football, getting back to moving without thinking," Gary said after practice. "So just being back out there with the defense, feeling that energy, flying around with my guys, it's no other feeling like it and I'm happy to be back."
Teammate Quay Walker, who has been calling the defensive signals while De'Vondre Campbell is out with an ankle injury, said he didn't know Gary would be in the huddle until he heard him ask what specific personnel grouping was called.
"He always asks me what the personnel is," Walker said. "That's when I realized (he was in). I was happy to see him back out there, knowing all the work he put in."
2. The first units continued to go back and forth in terms of which had the edge.
But the No. 1 offensive line, playing with Rasheed Walker at left tackle in place of David Bakhtiari, returned to its stout ways on display through the first two preseason games and helped Love & Co. find their footing.
The passing game began connecting on various downfield throws, leaving it an open question which should count as the play of the day – a deep shot to rookie receiver Jayden Reed between cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Keisean Nixon, a slick post route by Samori Toure on which he made a sliding catch, a red-zone post for a touchdown by Christian Watson with Nixon falling down off his break, or a perfectly executed middle screen to running back Aaron Jones that opened up for a long catch-and-run with a convoy of blockers.
Cast one vote for the middle screen, which Jones called one of his favorite plays to run.
3. The safety competition has come full circle.
The open starting job alongside Darnell Savage began with Rudy Ford taking first-team snaps early in camp. Then Jonathan Owens took the spot for a while, and Tarvarius Moore rotated in with the first unit as well.
Then in last Saturday's preseason game vs. the Patriots, it was back to Ford, and he was there again Tuesday during practice. One of his two tackles against New England came behind the line of scrimmage on a running play in the red zone, a play he attributed to "instincts."
However the competition has played out, Ford – who at one point was working with the third-string defense – hasn't let it distract him.
"I never lack confidence," he said. "My goal is to play like I'm a starter. I am a starter. I don't control the rotation, but as far as when Im' in there, I just try to play my best, give my best to the team, the guys that I'm out there with, try to communicate."
4. Anders Carlson continues to search for consistency.
The rookie kicker, dealing with a strong crosswind, made just 2-of-6 field goals in the live kicking period. After hitting a PAT from 33 yards, he missed from 45, was good from 47, and then missed from 51, 52 and 53. Three of the misses were wide left, one was wide right.
5. Some players came back from injury in time to fight for roster spots, while others are now out at a potentially bad time.
Offensive tackle Caleb Jones and defensive backs Corey Ballentine and Innis Gaines all returned to the practice field from injuries that kept them out last week during the joint practices and preseason game vs. the Patriots. Gaines continued to work mostly as a nickel corner rather than his original position of safety.
New to the injury list from Saturday night's game, and now sitting out of practice, are receiver Dontayvion Wicks (hamstring), safety Tarvarius Moore (knee), fullback Henry Pearson (knee) and defensive lineman Jason Lewan (back). Offensive lineman Jake Hanson (shin) also got hurt in the game and was waived/injured to make room for new cornerback Elijah Hamilton on the roster.