5 things learned at Packers training camp – Aug. 23

Aaron Rodgers commands the two-minute drill, Mason Crosby finishes it, plus some live tackling in practice

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QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – The Packers were back Sunday, in full pads again, on Ray Nitschke Field for their seventh practice of training camp.

Here are five things learned from the workout:

1. Aaron Rodgers was at it again in the two-minute drill.

It's hard to find a quarterback who executes better in two-minute situations, and Rodgers was masterful once again, taking over at his own 25-yard line with 1:15 on the clock, one timeout and down by two points.

The most impressive thing about Rodgers driving the offense into position for a walk-off 47-yard field goal by Mason Crosby might have been how he pulled it off without a single explosive play.

The biggest gain on the drive was a 12-yard strike to tight end Robert Tonyan to convert the initial third down, followed by a spike to stop the clock. He then improvised on the next third down with a shovel pass to running back Jamaal Williams, which got the ball across midfield and led to Rodgers calling the lone timeout with 33 seconds left.

At that point, special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga was alerting Crosby, holder JK Scott and long snapper Hunter Bradley to be ready for what Mennenga calls "a hurricane situation," meaning a run-on field goal with the clock ticking.

No worries. Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a quick out to the sideline for 7 yards, then Tonyan for 5 more over the middle, and spiked the ball with 17 seconds left at the 34-yard line. A 52-yard field goal certainly would have been in Crosby's range, but he got the veteran kicker another 5 yards closer with a quick flip to Jake Kumerow over the middle and then calmly lined everyone up for a final spike with three ticks left. Textbook.

"That's what he does," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I mean, he is in full command out there at all times. Especially in those two-minute gotta-have-it situations, you have all the confidence in the world.

"He's done it a bunch and that's the standard that he's set … whether it's methodically move the ball down the field or hit the big plays in those situations. I thought he did a tremendous job, not only just taking what the defense gave him there, but managing the whole situation."

2. Crosby has been as steady as it gets.

The Packers' all-time leading scorer has attempted more than 30 field goals in live practice situations to date and missed only two. He's had plenty of camps in his career where he's appeared locked in, and this one is no exception.

He's performed well whether the snapper has been Bradley or John Leglue, who was filling in when Bradley was on the COVID reserve list, and whether the holder has been Scott or backup QB Tim Boyle.

3. A couple of young defenders have consistently shown up as well.

Rookie linebacker Kamal Martin and third-year cornerback Josh Jackson have been tough to miss, as they've gotten noticed day after day.

Martin's body type (6-3, 240) is well-suited to cover tight ends, but he's stood out as a run defender, too. Sunday's practice ended with a live-tackling sequence of 11-on-11 involving younger players, and the fifth-round draft pick from Minnesota shot into the backfield to blow up a running play and get the tackle for loss.

"There was a blitz called and he timed it right and made a play in the backfield," LaFleur said. "He has shown that explosive ability and we've just got make sure that he continues to grow and learn and know the details of what we're asking him to do. I think Kamal's got a high ceiling."

Jackson has gotten beat here and there, like any corner, but he's broken up far more plays than he's allowed through the first full week. Jackson never got going in 2019, in part due to a foot injury that limited him throughout the offseason and training camp, but the former second-round pick appears back on track to finding a role in Mike Pettine's defense.

"I feel great and I'm glad to be able to start from scratch Day 1," Jackson said. "I feel pretty hungry and ready to help the team."

4. The live-tackling period was a first, but it won't be the last.

Without preseason games this summer, LaFleur plans to sprinkle some live tackling into camp, primarily to help with evaluations of young players fighting for roster spots. The work was definitely spirited at the end of the longest and hottest practice of camp to date.

"It's unscripted so it's harder for our players to prepare for those moments when anything could get called on either side of the ball," LaFleur said. "Also, (we want) to see how guys respond in the heat of the battle when it's more real. We want to continue to put guys in those situations where they have to think on their feet and react."

5. The Packers were among the teams getting some apparently false-positive COVID tests.

According to media reports, roughly one-third of NFL teams suddenly had positive tests from the same processing lab, and LaFleur said a couple of Packers players were included. He did not specify which players, but follow-up, rapid-response tests cleared them, and LaFleur felt comfortable having them and the rest of the team practice, especially given what was being reported around the league.

One player who did test positive at the beginning of camp, went on the reserve list, but has since returned, is second-year tight end Jace Sternberger. He's been back to full duty for several days now.

"I did have it, but fortunately I didn't really have any symptoms, and the recovery process wasn't as difficult as some of the other people who dealt with COVID," Sternberger said.

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