Notebook: Draft Picks Get Early Look At Tackle Spots

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has talked about wanting to establish continuity this season along the offensive line as several players compete for spots, and the Packers added to that group last weekend with the selection of guard/tackle T.J. Lang and tackle Jamon Meredith. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - May 1

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has talked about wanting to establish continuity this season along the offensive line as several players compete for spots, and the Packers added to that group last weekend with the selection of guard/tackle T.J. Lang and tackle Jamon Meredith.

During Friday's opening workout of rookie orientation, the young tandem lined up at the tackle spots, Lang on the right side and Meredith on the left.

While the rookies were at those positions on Friday and may continue to work there during OTAs, McCarthy said the health of other players on the offensive line also will factor into that. Left tackle Chad Clifton is recovering from minor offseason surgeries on both knees, so his status for offseason work hasn't been determined. Second-year tackle Breno Giacomini, expected to compete with Lang, Allen Barbre, and Tony Moll for the right tackle spot, is recovering from offseason surgery on his ankle.

"Not everybody is going to be clear as we go through May and June," McCarthy said. "That will sort itself out probably once we get to training camp. That's the thing with the reps. I know I have talked about the ability to get more continuity on the offensive line, but we're probably not going to get to that point until training camp just because not everybody is going to be able to work throughout the spring."

Lang, who spent most of his time at Eastern Michigan at left tackle, said he is confident about making the transition to the right side if that is where he ends up, and McCarthy said the 6-foot-4, 316-pound Lang also could slide inside to see time at guard.

"It might take me a few snaps to get used to just switching up the stance and flipping the plays and everything, but I don't see it being a major problem or anything," Lang said. "I know I have to still come in and prove myself. I'm not expecting to come in and start right away. I'm expecting to show what I've got, and whatever role they want me to play, I'll fit in."

Meredith played left guard in 2008 at South Carolina after starting at left tackle most of his career there, which is where McCarthy said the Packers projected him.

"That's the position we really evaluated him for," McCarthy said. "I knew he moved to guard, but that is something our regional scout there, Brian Gutekunst, definitely felt that he had that ability. We want to take a real long look at him at left tackle."

With plenty of time between now and training camp, both players said their focus is on the rest of rookie orientation weekend.

"I just hope to feel comfortable about the offense and the schemes and just feel better about learning the offense as a whole," Lang said. "Also, just learning each position because I don't know where I am going to end up. I just hope to keep learning and get better as the weekend goes on."

A learning experience

Cornerback Brandon Underwood, who was selected with the Packers' second sixth-round pick last Sunday, took a winding path to the NFL, starting his career at Ohio State before being released from his scholarship after three seasons due to academic reasons.

From there it was on to the University of Cincinnati, where Underwood paid most of his own way through school. To accomplish that he had to do something he had never done before: find a job.

"Hollywood Video," Underwood said. "I was a guest services representative. I would go to class and practice, and then get out of class and would go back to work. It was just a crazy thing I had going on, but I had a great manager who was willing to work with my schedule."

Underwood made the most of his second chance, earning first-team All-Big East honors at safety with four interceptions, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries to go along with 66 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 198-pounder also saw time at cornerback and was named the Bearcats' special teams player of the year.

"Every day of my life I am still going to have to prove to people that I'm not like how I was when I was at Ohio State," Underwood said. "I don't have a chip on my shoulder. This is just a great learning experience and I have been blessed to be here, so I'm just going to take advantage of my opportunity."

Underwood showed some flashes of his ability during Friday's workout, returning an interception for a score during team work.

"You could see the athletic ability," McCarthy said. "No question, he's definitely one of the players that jumped out. It was one practice. Obviously I'll feel better about it once I watch it on film."

Tryout QB used to uphill battle

Quarterback Brian Johnson will participate in this weekend's rookie orientation camp on a tryout basis, but he can make one claim that not many other players in the NFL can.

Johnson, who helped lead Utah to a perfect 13-0 season in 2008 that was capped off with a 31-17 win over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, will be featured on the cover of EA Sports' "NCAA Football" for PlayStation 3 for 2010.

"I got a call sometime in mid-January about it," Johnson said. "I was as shocked as anybody. Growing up as a little kid, you buy all of those video games and you see the different people on the cover. Never in a million years do you think you would get that opportunity."

Johnson threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns vs. Alabama on his way to being named most outstanding player in the Sugar Bowl, and finished his career as Utah's all-time winningest quarterback with a 26-7 record as a starter, which included 21 wins in his final 22 starts.

Despite throwing for 27 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards as a senior, no team in the NFL offered Johnson a contract and the Packers were the only team in the league to even invite him to try out.

{sportsad300}The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Johnson said he is accustomed to facing long odds from his days as a lightly recruited quarterback out of Robert E. Lee High in Baytown, Texas, and it will be no different in Green Bay with starter Aaron Rodgers and two young backups already on the roster in second-year quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm.

"The odds have always been stacked against me, so I take that as a personal challenge to go out and compete and do my best each and every day," Johnson said. "If it works out, great, and if not then I feel like I am more than suited to move on and find something in the real world.

"It will be a longshot, but that's why they play the game. Nobody expected us to beat Alabama either."

Dining in

The rookies were scheduled to dine at the Packers Hall of Fame following Friday's practice, and they were going to be joined by two former Packers who will be inducted into the hall this summer.

Former wide receiver Antonio Freeman (1995-01, 2003) and running back Dorsey Levens (1994-2001) were slated to speak to the crop of rookies at the dinner on Friday night. On Thursday night the players had dinner on the sixth floor of Lambeau Field in one of the end zones and were addressed by Mark Murphy, the team's president/CEO.

"(It's) an opportunity for (him) to address the group and take them through the history and tradition, the importance of the Green Bay Packers, and the opportunity that they're given to be a Packer, and that will continue tonight," McCarthy said.

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