By Mike Spofford and Wes Hodkiewicz, packers.com
INDIANAPOLIS – Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Brian Gutekunst had extensive sessions with the media on Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Here are some news and notes from Day 1 in Indianapolis.
1. Packers want to keep their offensive perimeter personnel intact, but add more: While Gutekunst mentioned several times he doesn’t want to see veteran receivers Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb “walk out the door” for financial reasons, it doesn’t sound as though the Packers are going to stand pat at the position, either.
“They still have value,” McCarthy said. “There’s no question about it. Their leadership, their instincts, their awareness as players, it increases as their years go on. You’re always going to measure the physical part of it. That’s the science and chess match of this whole thing.
“Jordy and Randall can still play. But we need to improve.”
While something may need to be done about the salary-cap numbers for Nelson and/or Cobb now that Davante Adams has a new contract, Gutekunst isn’t writing off either veteran despite declining production last year following Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone injury.
Nelson finished the year with 53 catches for 482 yards, his lowest totals in five and seven years, respectively. His six touchdown catches all came in the first five games with Rodgers at QB. Cobb had 66 catches for 653 yards and four TDs in 15 games, only slight improvements over his 13-game numbers in 2016.
Nelson is the older of the two veterans, as he turns 33 this spring while Cobb will turn 28 during training camp. With Nelson in particular, Gutekunst believes his six TDs in the first five games of 2017 with Rodgers are a more accurate indicator of what he can do for the offense than his falloff thereafter.
“He’s still a very strong contributor for us,” Gutekunst said. “You saw early in the year the impact he had in those games. He’s still a really good player in my eyes.
“We’ve had Jordy for a long time and we know his preparation. He’s kind of one of those guys, at this point in his career, that experience is vitally important.”
2. Rodgers should be ready: The Packers are optimistic Rodgers will be ready to go when the Packers’ offseason program begins on April 16.
Rodgers said earlier this month at the NFL Honors ceremony that his surgically repaired collarbone is “feeling great” and hasn’t forced him to alter his offseason training regimen.
“I feel confident that he’ll be ready to go,” McCarthy said. “Just had a meeting yesterday with Dr. Pat McKenzie, his assessment of Aaron so far is that everything looks good.”
3. Thompson settling in to new role: Gutekunst expects former GM Ted Thompson will remain a fixture in the team’s personnel department for the foreseeable future.
Thompson, who didn’t make the trip to Indianapolis, remains in all of the draft meetings in his new role, which has Thompson scouting at both the pro and college levels.
“He loves that part of it. He loves scouting,” Gutekunst said. “I’m sure he’ll spend more time in Texas than he was able to in the past, but I expect him to be (involved).”
4. Quarterback conversation continues behind Rodgers: McCarthy is ready to get back to work with backup QB Brett Hundley after his up-and-down run as the team’s starter last season.
Both McCarthy and Gutekunst see quarterback as another position that can benefit from more competition, though neither specified whether that would come through free agency or the draft.
Hundley completed 192-of-316 passes for 1,836 yards with nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions (70.6) during Rodgers’ absence, winning three of his nine starts.
The third-year quarterback had his moments, including a three-touchdown performance against Pittsburgh, but also had five starts where he finished with less than a 60 passer rating.
“Brett Hundley wasn’t ready for what he needed to be ready for,” McCarthy said. “That’s something that we have to learn from, and that stings. That’s something that we should’ve been better prepared for, and I say ‘we’ because it’s not just on Brett. But in the same breath, there wasn’t enough step-up around him, either. It wasn’t just one guy.
“I look at that position no different than any other, we can’t have enough competition. We need to increase the competition in our training environment.”
5. Bulaga’s recovery going well: Right tackle Bryan Bulaga continues to make progress after undergoing surgery for the season-ending knee injury he sustained Nov. 7 against Detroit.
Bulaga was one of three tackles who finished the season on injured reserve, along with Kyle Murphy (foot) and Jason Spriggs (knee).
“He’s down in Florida,” said McCarthy of Bulaga. “So far, everything looks good. It’s all been positive feedback. He’s down at the IMG (Academy).”