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Notebook: Receivers Take Strides During Offseason

With more snaps to be had during OTAs and mini-camp with the No. 1 offense, fourth-year wide receiver James Jones and third-year wideout Jordy Nelson both made the most of their opportunities.


Those increased reps came courtesy of wide receiver Donald Driver's absence after the 35-year-old veteran had clean-up procedures on both of his knees this offseason.

"I think James Jones and Jordy Nelson have had outstanding offseasons," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "If you go through the OTA films, James Jones, just from a production standpoint, probably stands out as one of the top performers through the OTAs. He's gotten a lot of opportunities, particularly in the slot with Donald's absence, and I think he's done a very good job of that.

"I think Jordy's had some outstanding days of practice and is very fundamentally sound. So that group has a lot of experience, the tight end group, they have a lot of experience together. I really like the perimeter group, just the timing and the meshing, particularly this time of year."

That meshing was apparent during the two days of mini-camp with quarterback Aaron Rodgers spreading the ball around to both his receivers and tight ends.

"You saw today, on our last drive, Jordy catches a big one, James catches a big one, and Greg (Jennings) catches a big one," Rodgers said. "That is nice having those weapons and being able to add Donald Driver back into that mix, and the big fella, (Jermichael) Finley. I think Donald Lee has had a great summer as well."

Jones bounced back last season after missing six games in '08 due to a knee injury, catching a career-high five touchdown passes, which tied for second on the team, and posting 440 yards receiving on 32 grabs.

Nelson saw his catch number drop in his second season, from 33 as a rookie to 22 in '09, but his average yards per reception jumped from 11.1 to 14.5, while his touchdown total (two) stayed the same.

While the two receivers will surely be competing for time behind Driver and Jennings, their position coach isn't putting too much emphasis on who will be the 'No. 3' wideout.

"I just think they are both playing so well that it is going to be hard to say, 'Well, this guy is in here all of the time and the other guy is not,'" wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said. "I just think they both need to play because I just feel so strongly about both of their abilities. They are both playing so well. I think they have had great offseasons and they deserve to both play. They are both very talented, and they would probably be starting in other places in this league.

"There are not enough balls for everybody, but this is an unselfish group. They all want to make plays, they all want the ball in their hands, and they all deserve to have it in their hands."

Safety first

A few teams around the league were docked OTA days because of excessive contact during practice this offseason, but McCarthy said adhering to the league's rules regarding offseason work has always been a priority.

"(GM) Ted Thompson is very conscientious of everything we do, so I have another set of eyes if we get a little rambunctious as a coaching staff," McCarthy said. "I don't think we've ever had an issue with any of our player reps. I've never been part of a conversation where there was a concern. Player safety is of very high importance for us here in Green Bay. I think that's illustrated, A, just in our practice environment. You look at the investment in the fields and what we do for our players, and that's no different the way we practice.

"I think we practice the right way in OTAs. We definitely practice the right way in training camp. It was a different approach, and it works. I think we are respected. I can't speak for the union or our player reps. I would think our players respect the way that they are treated and they way they're trained here in Green Bay."

Surprise last day

The Packers were originally scheduled to wrap up their mandatory mini-camp on Wednesday, but McCarthy surprised the team by canceling the final day of practice and meetings.

"I've felt really coming off of Wednesday's and Thursday's practice last week that it was appropriate," McCarthy said. "I think our players have earned that and deserve that."

The players will be off until they report for training camp on July 30, and the coaches will get some time away as well.

"My training camp schedule is presented to the coaching staff probably in the first week of May," McCarthy said. "So we've been working on training came the last four or five weeks as a coaching staff. Our schedule is done, obviously our structure is done. Our scripting of practices is completed. Our playbooks are completed.

"We had an in-depth personnel depth chart by position as a staff yesterday morning. We feel like after (Tuesday's) practice that we'll be ready to go and charged up for training camp."

At the conclusion of Tuesday's practice, the Packers held a home-run derby on Ray Nitschke Field as a team-building activity. Each position group selected two players to represent them -- one to pitch to the other -- in the contest, which featured players hitting an oversized softball into a pretty stiff wind.

Cones were placed in an arc around the field to mark "home run" distance, and each hitter got three swings. The only two players to hit any beyond the cones were Nelson and rookie offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga, whose shot to right-center on his final swing as the final hitter carried farther than Nelson's.

"I won't get anything, just some bragging rights," Bulaga said. "I can talk a little trash to Jordy."

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