GREEN BAY – The Packers hit Nitschke Field for the first practice of their 2023 training camp on Wednesday.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Jordan Love heard from Aaron Rodgers the night before his first camp practice as QB1.
Love said his predecessor and four-time MVP quarterback texted him Tuesday night with some words of encouragement. They weren't anything Love hadn't heard before, but it was meaningful to connect with Rodgers on the eve of his next milestone day.
"He said just be yourself, have fun, enjoy it," Love said after practice. "It's obviously my time now and he just said be yourself. And I mean, that's all you can do.
"That's kind of been the message from everybody, just be yourself. Don't try to be anybody else, don't try to be Aaron. Just be yourself. And that's what I'm trying to do."
The first day went to the defense, which is typical. On a few notable throws, CB Corey Ballentine broke up a deep ball down the sideline for rookie TE Luke Musgrave, CB Keisean Nixon batted away a crosser to rookie WR Jayden Reed, and CB Jaire Alexander knocked away a deep sideline shot for WR Romeo Doubs.
Love finished the day on a high note, hitting WR Samori Toure on a crossing route against Nixon for a nice gain, but he certainly would've liked to connect on a few others. They weren't off by much, and the defenders made good plays, but throwing into a stiff breeze was definitely impacting Love's passes.
"Those couple throws I missed that were maybe a little bit short, that weren't over the shoulder like you might want … obviously the wind accounts for that, but you can never make excuses for that," he said. "You've just got to be able to play through it."
In the aftermath, Love was all business, saying he'd be reviewing the film like always, going through the critiques, and then getting ready for the next playbook install in Thursday's workout.
"This is a process," he said. "It's growing pains you've got to work through. Just like today is Day 1, it's not going to be perfect. It's something we've got to build every day."
2. The first crack at the open starting spots went to …
Zach Tom and Rudy Ford. Tom lined up at right tackle with the first-team offense, ahead of last year's primary starter there, Yosh Nijman. Alongside Darnell Savage at safety, Ford took the first-team reps.
Tom started five games last season, four at left tackle and one at left guard. Aside from Elgton Jenkins, he might be the most versatile lineman the Packers have, and he'll be given a chance to earn a full-time starting spot.
3. David Bakhtiari will have his workload managed.
The five-time All-Pro left tackle is healthy again after a long road to recovery from his ACL injury in late December 2020. Bakhtiari started 11 games last season through at times weekly uncertainty as to whether his knee would cooperate and allow him to play.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur said Bakhtiari's participation throughout training camp would be "modified" in order to be mindful of his workload. He took the initial first-team reps at left tackle Wednesday and then was subbed out for Nijman here and there. LaFleur said he wouldn't anticipate Bakhtiari practicing much, if at all, on Thursday.
The objective is for him to do enough work to be ready for Week 1, and to get there healthy.
"Obviously, we know what type of player he is," LaFleur said. "He's proved himself. I think anytime you get a veteran player that has that much experience, then you're willing to do that. We want the best for David because when he's out there playing, we're a better football team."
After a rainy morning, blue skies emerged for the Green Bay Packers' first practice of training camp at Ray Nitschke Field on Wednesday, July 26, 2023.
4. Rookie kicker Anders Carlson is off to a solid start.
The sixth-round pick from Auburn went 5-of-6 on live field goals between 40 and 45 yards, with the wind at his back. His only miss was wide left from 44.
From the outside, Carlson is looking to replace the franchise's all-time leading scorer, Mason Crosby, who remains an unsigned free agent. But that's not how he processes the task internally.
"For me, I look at my journey," Carlson said. "Obviously I admire the career he had here and the legend he is, but for me, it's all about my journey and what I can do to help the Packers.
The Packers don't have another kicker in camp competing directly with Carlson, but again, that's not necessarily how he sees it.
"No matter who's here, it's always me vs. myself," he said. "It doesn't matter if there is competition or there's not. It's about putting your best day forward."
5. Six players on the 91-man roster sat out the first practice.