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Notebook: Raji Showing Versatility

The learning curve for any newcomer in the NFL is an arduous one, but rookie nose tackle B.J. Raji has had the added responsibility of working at a couple of different spots on the Packers’ defensive line. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - June 22

The learning curve for any newcomer in the NFL is an arduous one, but rookie nose tackle B.J. Raji has had the added responsibility of working at a couple of different spots on the Packers' defensive line.

Throughout OTAs and once again during Monday's first mini-camp workout, Raji worked at left defensive end in Green Bay's No. 1 base defense, opposite defensive end Johnny Jolly and next to veteran nose tackle Ryan Pickett.

"I think B.J. has done a good job at the end position," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "His learning curve is probably a little higher than what you would like. You always would like to take a rookie and establish him in one position, but that's not always the best case to get the young man on the field. He has really trained in three positions. He's got the nose guard and then also the tackle in the sub groups and the defensive end in the base group.

"He has worked his way through it. He's a gifted young man. You can see why everybody was so high on him. His foot quickness, the leverage that he plays with and his leg strength is definitely exceptional."

Raji, a three-year starter at Boston College, said he played some defensive end in certain packages for the Eagles, but served primarily at nose tackle. He led BC in sacks with eight in 2008, with nearly one-third of his tackles (32 1/2 of 105) were behind the line of scrimmage.

Raji said the biggest adjustment with playing more end has been learning the playbook and his responsibilities.

"For the most part, it is just knowing your assignment in this defense," Raji said. "Sometimes you're going to have contain and sometimes you are going to have responsibility to slant inside and control the 'B' or 'A' gap. Just knowing your assignment is the biggest thing.

"For instance, in OTAs we had different installs each day. You had to kind of refresh your memory from the previous install when you are learning the current install. Sometimes out there Coach (Dom) Capers will throw out things from different installs just to see how we look."

Although the defensive end spot in the 3-4 is charged with stopping the run and occupying blockers so linebackers are free to make plays, Raji said it can be a play-making position as well.

"We have a lot of good defenses in this scheme where we are kind of getting after the opponents a little bit, getting up the field," Raji said. "Even though it's a 3-4 defense, at times we get after them a little bit."

Moll focused on earning spot

With starting left tackle Chad Clifton sidelined due to offseason knee and shoulder surgery, tackle/guard Tony Moll has worked at left tackle on the No. 1 offensive line during OTAs and mini-camp.

"Tony has done a very nice job at left tackle, and I think Tony has finally benefited from lining up and playing one position for a long period of time, meaning five or six weeks," McCarthy said. "Tony is like the rest of those guys. He's fighting for a position on our team, whether it be left tackle or going over and competing at right tackle.

"It's just trying to get away from so many multiple chairs that we've had up front. It's definitely a plus. It's a benefit to train younger players like that because it gives you flexibility going from the 53 to the 45, but where we are in our program now from an offensive line standpoint, we are creating competition as much as we can across the line."

Moll, who started three games at right guard and two at right tackle last season, will likely figure into the competition at right tackle along with Allen Barbre, Breno Giacomini and T.J. Lang when Clifton returns.

"I'm just trying to make the squad like everyone else," Moll said. "If they ask me to play left tackle, right tackle, right guard, left guard, it doesn't matter. I'm going to go out and give it my best shot, and just hope for the best and try to make this team."

Families in attendance

The families of the Packers' 2009 draft class were on the sideline Monday to watch practice on Clarke Hinkle Field.

"Just to have our parents come out and see what we have accomplished and be a part of the new city and be a part of the new life we are about to embark on, it means a great deal," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "It's nice to have a little family come out here and support us and see what we are going through."

{sportsad300}Matthews' father, Clay Jr., who played in the NFL for 19 seasons, received a warm greeting from Packers strength and conditioning coordinator Dave Redding. Redding served as Cleveland's first-ever strength coach from 1982-88 when Matthews played linebacker for the Browns.

Injury/participation update

Players who were either limited in their participation in practice or sat out entirely due to injury included safeties Atari Bigby (ankle) and Anthony Smith (groin), offensive tackles Clifton (knees/shoulder) and Giacomini (ankle), defensive ends Cullen Jenkins (ankle) and Alfred Malone (wrist), tight end Carson Butler (knee), wide receiver Jamarko Simmons (back), and center Scott Wells (shoulder).

Cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Will Blackmon were both excused from Monday's practice. Woodson was attending a charitable function, and Blackmon got married over the weekend. McCarthy said Blackmon was expected to arrive back in town later on Monday.

With Woodson and Blackmon not at practice, Tramon Williams worked as the starting cornerback opposite Al Harris, with Pat Lee at nickel back.

Afternoon break

The team received a respite Monday when McCarthy cancelled the afternoon practice and replaced it with a team-building activity of bowling.

The players and coaches bowled three games at a local bowling alley. The Packers return to the practice field Tuesday morning at 10:15 a.m., with a second practice in the afternoon at 3 p.m.

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