Aaron Kampman broke his self-imposed media silence on Wednesday following the Packers' organized team activity (OTA) workout, but he didn't shed much light on his true feelings regarding the new 3-4 defense or his position switch from defensive end to outside linebacker.
Kampman, who hadn't spoken publicly about the new defense or his new position all offseason, emphasized that he's learning the new system and wants to stay focused on football. One of the more media-friendly players during his first seven seasons in Green Bay, Kampman appeared disinterested in talking about the ongoing transition as well as uncomfortable with so much attention being focused on him.
"The whole defense is trying to learn and figure out the new techniques," he said. "I'm one of 11 in this defense."
A two-time Pro Bowler at defensive end, Kampman is faced with a number of changes in switching to outside linebacker. In the base 3-4 alignment, he's in a two-point stance rather than with his hand on the ground, and he'll be required to drop into pass coverage much more often than he did as a defensive end.
Kampman made a couple of plays in coverage during practice on Wednesday that drew audible praise from outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, one where he got a good jam on a receiver in the slot, and another where he ran down the running back in the flat to get in good position for a tackle on a swing pass.
Greene, one of the best 3-4 outside linebackers ever to play the position, is one of the most vocal coaches during practice. He's constantly chatting with the linebackers, including Kampman, and coaching in a very hands-on manner.
"He's a very intense man, he brings a lot to the table from experience, so I hope I can learn a lot from him," Kampman said. "I think Kevin has done a great job explaining what the roles are. You have to rush, you have to play the run hard, you have to be able to drop into coverage."
Kampman wouldn't address how comfortable he is just yet, only emphasizing that he's still learning. He says he didn't train any differently in the offseason and that he's still at the same playing weight, around 265 pounds, though it may be a little leaner 265 now. He also said he's putting in a lot of extra time on his own studying the new playbook.
If Kampman's reluctance to elaborate on what he's going through in the transition is a reflection of any hesitancy about the new defense, or if it's related at all to the fact that he's entering the final year of his contract - both of which have been the subject of speculation in media reports - it's not coming across to the coaching staff.
Last week Capers said that Kampman has been professional in his approach to the change from the beginning, and he was pleased with his progress. Head Coach Mike McCarthy echoed those thoughts again Wednesday.
"I think he has really fit in very well," McCarthy said. "I think he attacked the new defense just like you think Aaron would. He spent a lot of individual time with Kevin Greene over the last three months. You could see he has a complete understanding so far of the installs that we have put in there, and I think when you do reach that point as a player, regardless of what position, it gives you the ability to play faster."
Receiver Donald Driver practiced on Wednesday for the first time since OTAs began last week, but he denied that his absence to this point was due to any dissatisfaction with his contract, as several media outlets reported last week.
Driver confirmed his agent is having discussions with the Packers about "reworking" parts of his deal, but that he was absent last week for family reasons. He said he stayed home in Texas with his children while his wife attended the out-of-state funeral of a relative, and earlier this week his son graduated from kindergarten.
"We talked about negotiating a new deal, but there's no drama between (me and the Packers) at all," Driver said. "Nothing at all. It was family and personal issues."
Driver said he plans to attend the rest of the OTA sessions as well as the mandatory mini-camp later this month.
Players who were either limited in their participation in practice or sat out entirely due to injury included safety Atari Bigby (ankle), linebackers Nick Barnett (knee) and Clay Matthews (hamstring), defensive ends Cullen Jenkins (ankle) and Alfred Malone (wrist), receiver Lorne Sam (abdominal), center Scott Wells (shoulder) and tackle Chad Clifton (knees/shoulder).
Tight end Evan Moore dropped out of practice late with an unspecified leg injury.
Safety Nick Collins and nose tackle Ryan Pickett did not attend. Like last week, Aaron Rouse and Anthony Smith were the two safeties with the No. 1 defense in team work in place of Bigby and Collins. Pickett was replaced by B.J. Raji at nose tackle, with Johnny Jolly and Justin Harrell the starting ends in team drills.
Two rookies, running back Tyrell Sutton and cornerback Brandon Underwood, remained absent due to school obligations.
Plays of the day
Within a few snaps of one another during a team period, the offense and defense each had an eye-catching play.
For the offense, receiver Jordy Nelson made a nifty tip-toe grab along the sideline, hauling in a strong throw from a scrambling Aaron Rodgers and barely getting his feet down in bounds.
For the defense, cornerback Tramon Williams snagged an interception off a deflection when tight end Jermichael Finley nearly made an impressive diving catch over the middle. Finley appeared he was going to make the grab, but when he hit the ground, the ball popped straight up and Williams was there to snatch it out of mid-air.