Notebook: Rookies To Return In Two Weeks

The Packers’ formal 2009 rookie orientation concluded on Sunday, but informally it continues two weeks from now. All the draft picks and non-drafted free agents are scheduled to return to Green Bay on Sunday, May 17, and they’ll get one week to join the veterans in the offseason training program before organized team activities (OTAs) begin following Memorial Day. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - May 3

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The Packers' formal 2009 rookie orientation concluded on Sunday, but informally it continues two weeks from now.

All the draft picks and non-drafted free agents are scheduled to return to Green Bay on Sunday, May 17, and they'll get one week to join the veterans in the offseason training program before organized team activities (OTAs) begin following Memorial Day.

That introduction to the offseason program, combined with the three days of on-field and administrative work this past weekend, is designed to put the rookies on as close to equal footing as possible with the veteran players while they're learning the offensive and defensive installations during OTAs.

Veterans already have the edge in experience, naturally, but through rookie orientation and a week in the offseason program, the environment and the expectations are all revealed to the younger guys.

"The whole thought process is for the rookies to have a complete understanding from the first time they step on the field on OTA No. 1," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "That week (of May 17) they'll work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, just like our vets have been doing throughout the offseason program. So they'll know exactly what's expected of them in the weight room and really the tempo.

"That's one of the biggest adjustments that a college player has to make when he goes to the professional level is just the pace, the speed, the tempo of the drills, the weight room, the practice field and so forth. So we're trying to acclimate those guys as quick as we can."

The rookie group that will be joining the veterans later this month will include the eight draft picks, 11 non-drafted free agents, and perhaps another free agent or two from the 22-player tryout pool brought in over the weekend.

McCarthy said the coaching and personnel staffs would likely make their decisions on whether or not to sign any tryout players later Sunday or Monday. The Packers have signed a few tryout players each of the last two years, but the 80-man roster limit does force some tough decisions.

Also, not all the signees will make it to training camp. Currently the draft picks are not under contract, so they don't count against the 80-man limit. But as training camp nears, the draft picks begin signing and corresponding roster moves must be made.

That's why it's all the more important to get as good a look at the rookies during OTAs as possible, and that can't happen if their minds are still overwhelmed by the basic adjustments to pro football. The orientation and succeeding week of offseason training helps to combat that.

"The feedback from the prospects has been they feel like they'll be able to come back here ... and just jump right in and get to the football, and that's what you want," McCarthy said.

"A lot of times individuals don't have success in their profession not because of what they actually do professionally. It's the other distraction, the other angles of things that are coming at them. We're trying to eliminate them, or reduce those stresses to our players, so that they can concentrate on football."

Expanding the impact

McCarthy brought up an interesting statistic as it relates to Aaron Kampman's transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in the new 3-4 defense. In McCarthy's three seasons, Kampman has 37 sacks, and McCarthy said all but 31/2 of them have come in what the coaches call "sub" defenses, or nickel packages and the like that are not the base defense.

Knowing that, McCarthy feels the switch to the 3-4 should help Kampman have a bigger impact on pass plays that are run against the base defense. One of the advantages in a base 3-4 alignment is the offense doesn't always know who's rushing the passer aside from the three down linemen, and the Packers can better disguise when Kampman is going to strike from the outside linebacker spot on first or second down.

"His sub-defense responsibilities are not going to change. That will look very similar to the way you view our defense," McCarthy said. "This base defense will help him with more pressure opportunities because of the ability to not always have the same fourth rusher coming out of the same front.

"I think this potentially has a chance to help Aaron in normal down-and-distances as far as pressures on the quarterback, because he's done an excellent job obviously, the statistics support that, in the sub defenses."

Potential visitor

One of the top pupils from McCarthy's days of running quarterback school in Kansas City, Rich Gannon, may be stopping by to visit the Packers' young quarterbacks at some point this spring.

{sportsad300}Gannon, who earned four Pro Bowl bids and a league MVP award in Oakland after working with McCarthy for four years in Kansas City, visited Green Bay to meet with the quarterbacks in McCarthy's first season, 2006, and shared how he applied the tutelage from QB school to take some major steps in his career.

"He's a big believer in the quarterback school and breaking the position down," McCarthy said. "The spring is your best time to really attack (fundamentals) and try to get improvement on it."

Collins appears

McCarthy confirmed that Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins participated in the team's offseason program last week. Several media reports have indicated Collins was staying away from workouts as an objection to his current contract situation. He also was attending to family matters, namely the birth of his third child last month.

According to McCarthy, Collins spent time with both safeties coach Darren Perry and defensive coordinator Dom Capers last week.

"We respect everybody's business situations," McCarthy said. "He's going through one right now. But we do have a new defense, and Nick is a main communicator in that defense, and for him to come in here and to work with Darren Perry and try to catch up on what's been going on here is important."

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