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More Traditional Schedule On Tap For Camp


Last year, Head Coach Mike McCarthy often made reference to a "disjointed" training camp schedule that was mostly the result of having the first preseason game slated for national television on Monday Night Football.

That's not something McCarthy has to deal with this year, and he seems to appreciate it for a handful of reasons.

"We'll have more padded work this year than we did last year," McCarthy said during his season-opening press conference on Friday from Lambeau Field. "We had a very different training camp schedule last year with just the way our preseason games fell and so forth. Our snaps, our reps, this year will be the highest of my four years here."

Because the collective bargaining agreement with the players' union states that players cannot be required to report for training camp more than 15 days prior to the first preseason contest, the Packers' schedule was off-kilter from the start because the preseason opener against Cincinnati was slated for a Monday night.

After reporting day, the first training camp practice was then on a Monday, not a Saturday like this year. It led to the team having only six days of camp before the Family Night Scrimmage, instead of the usual seven, and then the second preseason game (on a Saturday) was just five days after the first, instead of the usual seven.

On top of that, when the Packers tried to schedule their third preseason game in Denver seven days after the second, they couldn't because of the Democratic National Convention. So the team never got a full week between two preseason contests, which made scheduling all the practice work, film review and meeting time a greater challenge.

This year, everything is back to the more traditional pattern. The first camp practice is slated for Saturday at 2 p.m., followed seven days later by the Family Night Scrimmage on Aug. 8. The first preseason game then comes a full week later, on Aug. 15 vs. Cleveland, and the second preseason game seven days after that, on Aug. 22 vs. Buffalo.

"Just looking at the schedule, we have seven days between the first two preseason games," McCarthy said. "If you have ever laid out a training camp, that is important. It makes it flow better. I don't know the exact number, but we had less snaps in training camp last year. Of the four years, last year was the least."

In all, the Packers have 26 practices in camp, including Family Night, with 20 slated for full pads, though that is subject to change. McCarthy also is continuing the practice he started in 2007 of giving the players Wednesday afternoons and evenings off for physical recuperation. Players won't practice on the first three Wednesdays in August, but will have meetings and film study in the mornings before being dismissed to get ready for two practices the following day.

McCarthy didn't use the shortened, disjointed schedule as an excuse for the team's 6-10 record last year. In fact, with the Packers starting 2-0 in 2008, it was an indication they were able to adequately and successfully prepare during camp.

But the more traditional schedule this year should help the team get the feel for the regular-season routine that much sooner. Even though the third and fourth preseason games occur at six-day intervals, that's the norm and it should keep training camp feeling like it usually does for the veteran players.

As for those players who will be put through the training camp grind, McCarthy said he feels this is the most competitive training camp, position-wise, in his four years at the helm. He even went as far to say he expects some of the players who end up cut from the current 80-man roster to show up on other teams' 53-man rosters as the season goes along.

"I feel that strongly about it," he said. "So it's a great opportunity for all of us, players and coaches and support staff to pull this thing together and have an excellent football team. That's what we're looking forward to starting tomorrow."

{sportsad300}Key competitions for starting jobs on the offensive side include right tackle, where the offensive line is looking for a replacement for Mark Tauscher from a group that includes Allen Barbre, Breno Giacomini, Tony Moll and rookie T.J. Lang, and center, where veterans Jason Spitz and Scott Wells will go head-to-head.

On defense, many eyes will be on the competition for the starting job at outside linebacker opposite Aaron Kampman, with the top candidates being Jeremy Thompson, rookie Clay Matthews and Brady Poppinga. The safety spot opposite Nick Collins, where Atari Bigby is coming back from an injury-plagued '08 and may be challenged by newcomer Anthony Smith or third-year pro Aaron Rouse, also will be watched closely.

And on special teams, punters Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks will be fighting for that job.

"I think it's going to be great to watch this offense and this defense schematically challenge each other and get ready for these preseason games," McCarthy said.

"I think it's going to be a great camp. We just have to stay healthy."

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