5 things learned at Packers training camp – Aug. 24

Rookie safety Innis Gaines goes from DoorDash to NFL doorstep

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S Innis Gaines

GREEN BAY – The Packers continued their preparations for Saturday's preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills with a 1-hour, 58-minute practice on Tuesday morning.

The padded work started on Nitschke Field before moving inside the Don Hutson Center due to inclement weather.

Here's five things we learned on Tuesday:

1. Innis Gaines wouldn't let his NFL dreams die.

There are undrafted free agents and then there are undrafted free agents with stories like Gaines'.

After tearing his anterior cruciate ligament twice in the same knee during his final two years at TCU, the Packers' rookie safety was about as far off the NFL radar as it gets.

The second tear, which occurred in a 34-27 loss to Oklahoma State on Nov. 2, 2019, erased any hope Gaines had to be drafted since he wasn't going to be cleared until the summer.

With the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out NFL offseason programs, Gaines would have to wait until teams were back in camp to get a workout. Once that happened, just one, the Packers, called and brought him in on his 22nd birthday (Aug. 29).

"They told me they liked me a lot and they said they would bring me back," Gaines said. "Obviously, a lot of teams tell you they like you, so I was like, 'Do I keep going?'"

Gaines left Green Bay without a contract, returning home to Texas to continue his training and rehab. Even if the NFL wasn't going to happen, Gaines wasn't opposed to playing in the Canadian or indoor leagues.

To make ends meet, Gaines picked up a job delivering food for DoorDash in the Dallas area. It allowed him to make enough money to live on, while also keeping his schedule flexible enough to train.

"People eat a lot, that's what I learned," said Gaines of the experience. "They'll give you a super tip just to bring their food. That's one job that'll never go away: teaching, police officers and DoorDash. They're going to need those, for sure."

Months later, the Packers lived up to their word and brought Gaines in for another workout. Comfortable with the progress Gaines made with his knee, the Packers signed the 6-foot-1, 202-pound safety to a futures contract shortly after New Year's.

Gaines made a positive first impression during the offseason program and has carried that early momentum into training camp. He's also lived up to the "Thump" moniker he's had since high school, racking up six tackles and a pass deflection in Green Bay's first two preseason games.

Gaines is in a unique position in a deep safety room. One of his primary adversaries for a spot on the 53-man roster is close friend and former college teammate Vernon Scott, with whom he played for four seasons at TCU.

Gaines is keeping it simple this week, not allowing the moment to affect him. Whatever happens, Gaines is just grateful for the opportunity to prove himself and keep playing football.

"It's just been a blessing to be here," Gaines said. "Last year, I was sitting out, from the outside looking in, just doing anything to make ends meet.

"So being here with some of my old teammates and stuff, having fun making plays is what I've been wanting to do my whole life. It's a dream come true every day getting to walk into the building and keep working for what I want."

2. Jordan Love continues to make progress.

The Packers' second-year quarterback participated in the team drills on Tuesday, a positive sign Love could be available for Saturday's preseason finale in Buffalo.

Love returned to individual drills on Monday, his first on-field practice participation since injuring his shoulder in the first half of the Packers' preseason opener against Houston on Aug. 14.

Love had a little rust to knock off in the first team period but finished practice with six consecutive completions. MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers continued to look sharp, connecting with Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a 50-yard touchdown pass.

3. Packers lose a key special-teamer in Will Redmond.

Green Bay has placed the sixth-year safety on injured reserve, and since Redmond wasn't carried on the initial 53-man roster, that means his 2021 season with the Packers is officially over.

A special-teams stalwart who had experience playing all six positions in the secondary, Redmond recorded 65 tackles and a pass defensed in 31 games with the Packers over the past three seasons.

Redmond was activated last Monday from the non-football injury list. He started Saturday's preseason game against the New York Jets but suffered a toe injury at some point during his 10 snaps (nine defense, one special teams).

"That's been kind of a bummer coming back and not really being part of much on the field," LaFleur said of Redmond before Tuesday's practice. "Certainly, he's got the ability to play in the box when we go into dime or play as a deep safety. He's got the corner background so he can get you out of a game there, too.

"And just his contribution on special teams, he's been consistently our best special-teamer over the course of two years here, so yeah, he is an impact player in that phase of the game."

4. Back from injury, Isaiah McDuffie hopes to finish strong.

The Packers' rookie inside linebacker told reporters he suffered a hamstring injury shortly before the start of training camp that caused him to start camp on the non-football injury list.

McDuffie, who returned to practice on Aug. 12, made his preseason debut against the Jets, registering four tackles in 19 defensive snaps.

"It felt amazing," McDuffie said. "I was really excited to get back out there and play. It was my first NFL game experience. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it."

5. The decision to move on from Kamal Martin wasn't easy.

As part of the NFL's mandatory roster reduction to 80 players, the Packers parted ways the 2020 fifth-round pick.

Martin looked impressive out of the gate last summer and even made a run at a starting job before a knee injury sidelined him for the first six games of the season. He started six of his 10 appearances in 2020, playing mostly in the base defense.

The Packers had a crowded inside linebacker room, with Krys Barnes and De'Vondre Campbell slated to start on defense, and veterans Ty Summers and Oren Burks known as core special-teamers.

"It's just unfortunately we're at the spot now where we have to make some really tough decisions," LaFleur said. "Kamal was a great teammate, did everything we asked him to do. Sometimes you have to make some tough decisions."

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