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Notebook: O-Line Still A Bit Unsettled

This offseason Head Coach Mike McCarthy has expressed a desire to settle in on five offensive linemen so they can develop continuity, but due to injuries along the front, that looks like a goal that will be hard to accomplish during OTAs. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - May 28


Offensive linemen Jason Spitz (left) and Daryn Colledge work on a blocking drill during Thursday's OTA workout at the Don Hutson Center.

This offseason Head Coach Mike McCarthy has expressed a desire to settle in on five offensive linemen so they can develop continuity, but due to injuries along the front, that looks like a goal that will be hard to accomplish during OTAs.

During Thursday's first open OTA workout at the Don Hutson Center, the first unit lined up with Tony Moll at left tackle, Daryn Colledge at left guard, Jason Spitz at center, Josh Sitton at right guard, and Allen Barbre at right tackle with tackle Chad Clifton (knees/shoulders), center Scott Wells (shoulder) and tackle Breno Giacomini (ankle) all sidelined as they recover from offseason surgeries.

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said while he certainly would prefer to have all of the linemen healthy and participating in OTAs, he is not overly concerned at this point of the offseason.

"I think it would be ideal, obviously, if we could do that, and we knew here on May 28 exactly who the five guys are and they were getting reps and cohesiveness and all of that," Philbin said. "The OTAs are extremely valuable and very, very good experience for coaches and players. But with the offensive line, you really need to wait until training camp.

"If we can get everybody healthy and get everybody ready for training camp to compete, I think football is not that complicated and we'll be able to figure out who the best five are and where they can best help us."

Wells, who has started 42 games at center over the past three seasons, will compete with Spitz for the starting position once he returns to the field.

"There's nothing like competition," McCarthy said. "Scott Wells has been a very good starter for us. Scott is fighting through some injuries. I think it's really a product of our offensive line with the depth. I think the depth has improved.

"I was just looking at a picture up in James Campen's office yesterday, and it was the first play against Chicago our first year together, and Tony Moll and Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz, ... you look at that picture and you look at them today, and it seems like it was 20 years ago. But I also know since then the depth of that group has increased a lot, so with that comes competition, and that's why we've created that competition at that position."

The other spot on the offensive line that is wide open at this point is right tackle, with Barbre, Moll, Giacomini, and rookie T.J. Lang all expected to battle it out for the position held by Mark Tauscher for much of the last nine seasons. Giacomini said Thursday he expects to be ready for training camp, and that any on-field work during OTAs and mini-camp would be a bonus.

"Anytime you make a change from an eight- to nine-year starter to a new player there's going to be some type of inexperience," McCarthy said. "The positive of our offensive line group is we've had a number of players play two or three different positions. We'd like to lock some particular players into more one position to have the continuity that we're looking for.

"We're going to line those guys up and let them battle it out, and we're going to have to make a decision probably sooner than later when we get into training camp, because I do want to make sure that the five linemen that are going to line up against Chicago have plenty of reps together."

Participation strong

The Packers had a vast majority of the roster in attendance for Thursday's OTA workout, with 10 players either sidelined or limited due to injury.

In addition to Clifton, Giacomini, and Wells, linebacker Nick Barnett (knee), safety Atari Bigby (ankle), and defensive ends Alfred Malone (wrist) and Cullen Jenkins (ankle) were either limited or did not participate in Thursday's workout, with most of them doing some rehab work off to the side.

McCarthy said Barnett, who was not at practice on Thursday due to a personal matter, is doing very well in his recovery from a torn ACL sustained last season and has been working out at Lambeau Field since March. Brandon Chillar replaced Barnett at inside linebacker with the No. 1 defense alongside A.J. Hawk.

Jenkins is expected to return either by training camp or near the end of OTAs following offseason ankle surgery.

Rookie linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Brad Jones (groin), along with first-year wide receiver Lorne Sam (abdominal strain), did not participate in Thursday's workout.

Matthews sustained the injury during Wednesday's workout when he was chasing the quarterback, and said his status is "day to day".

Tight end Travis Dekker, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Air Force, was placed on the reserve/military list by the team Wednesday.

A pair of rookies, running back Tyrell Sutton and cornerback Brandon Underwood, were not in attendance because their respective schools are still in session.

Wide receiver Donald Driver, safety Nick Collins and cornerback Charles Woodson were not in attendance at Thursday's OTA workout. In the team (11-on-11) drills, Collins and Bigby were replaced by safeties Aaron Rouse and Anthony Smith.

{sportsad300}Williams inks one-year deal

The Packers announced Thursday afternoon that the team had agreed to a one-year contract with cornerback Tramon Williams, who was an exclusive rights free agent.

Williams, who played in all 16 games with a career-high nine starts last season, posted career bests in tackles (52), interceptions (5) and passes defensed (14).

Despite his uncertain contract status heading into OTAs, Williams said he did not consider skipping the voluntary OTA workouts.

"It would hurt me and the team more really, and that's something that I don't want to go through," Williams said. "If I hurt myself by doing it, OK, that's cool, but if I am hurting my teammates, that's where I draw the line.

"It's team first with this and I have to learn the defense also. Basically, (new) defense or not, I was going to be up here anyway. That's just the guy that I am."

Jennings not preoccupied with new contract

Wide receiver Greg Jennings, coming off a 2008 campaign that saw him post career highs in receptions (80) and yards (1,292), is entering the final year of his contract but said that his focus remains on the field.

"Honestly since we have gone through this whole contract talk, I have talked to (agent Eugene Parker) maybe three or four times," Jennings said. "I feel like I hired him to do a job and I trust what he is doing. I don't need to know every little update or what took place every single day.

"Right now we are here as a team playing football and that is my focus."

Jennings added he is optimistic that he will be able to reach a deal with the team that will keep him with the Packers for the long term.

"I'm hoping for the best," Jennings said. "That's really all I can say. I'm hoping something will get done. What that entails, I don't know, but I'm sure something will get done.

"I don't want to become a distraction to my teammates. It's not who I am and it's not what I want to become. Hopefully it will all get worked out and resolved in the near future."

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