Notebook: Rookies Try To Absorb It All


Not that anyone is holding it against them, but the first couple of days in the NFL for the Packers' rookies has been a bit overwhelming at times.

From getting fitted for equipment to taking their physicals to learning about Packer history and then studying their brand new playbook, there's a lot for the new crop of rookies to pack into this weekend's orientation camp.

The most challenging of all those activities is also probably the most important - learning the playbook - and all the players are getting a crash course in an introductory section of either offense or defense that they're trying to apply to the practice field as well as study up on their own.

"There was a lot of smoke going out of my ears yesterday, just hearing all of it," first-round draft pick and defensive tackle Justin Harrell said. "The playbook is thicker than anything I've seen in my life. It's going to take some time, take a lot of studying and hard work, but I should have it down in a couple of weeks."

That's exactly what this rookie orientation camp is for, to give the young players some sort of foundation before the full-squad mini-camp that begins May 18. It's difficult enough to compete for jobs and playing time against NFL veterans, but the Packers coaching staff wants them to be as mentally prepared to do so as possible.

"It's really accomplishing what we want it to," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's the individual, get your hands on the guys, walk them through it, let them ask all the questions they probably are not very comfortable asking in front of a veteran or in front of a group.

"This is the time to get all that out of their system, ... because what they're doing today is exactly what they're going to do in two weeks when the veterans show up. So it's really giving the young guys an opportunity to step right in and try to compete."

Which means there are almost no wasted moments, even when the day is done and the playbooks are left behind.

"There's no taking the playbook with you, so you have to write your own notes down and study real hard when you get back (to the hotel)," third-round pick and wide receiver James Jones said. "And when you get back, hopefully it will all be in the brain and you can just let it out and play."

Valuable pick

Having been drafted in the third round, Jones clearly was someone the Packers wanted to bring to Green Bay and add to the receiving corps.

The Packers, according to numerous media outlets, had been discussing a potential trade with the Oakland Raiders for veteran wideout and former Pro Bowler Randy Moss during the draft. A deal was never worked out, and Moss ended up going to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick.

So it's saying something that the Packers used a third-round pick, which presumably they could have parted with for Moss to trump the Patriots' offer, on a wide receiver.

"It definitely means a lot to me," Jones said. "It definitely means they like the way I play and they like what I can bring to the table. I'm very excited about the opportunity.

"I can't tell you what's going to happen. I can tell you I'm going to go out there and play to the best of my ability, but we never know what's going to happen, and we'll just take it from there."

{sportsad300}Renewing battles

Wide receiver David Clowney and safety Aaron Rouse had their share of head-to-head battles in practice together at Virginia Tech, and the two look forward to spurring each other on as Green Bay Packers.

As for who got the better of the other in pass coverage during their college practices, well that depends on whom you ask. But both players credit their teammate for helping to get drafted and get this far.

"Me and Rouse, we battled a lot throughout our careers at Virginia Tech together, one-on-one's," said Clowney, a fifth-round pick. "We worked together to help each other, and that's one of the reasons we're here now.

"Rouse came in projected as first-round material, and he was the type of player I had to go up against every day. That just made me a better athlete and made me perform better in practice everyday at Virginia Tech, and it will do the same here."

Clowney always has had the advantage in speed against Rouse, while Rouse is the bigger, more physical player.

"It's just great competition, the athlete he is, to go against him in practice," Rouse said. "It gives you great training for game-like situations."

Wanting a shot

Former University of Wisconsin quarterback John Stocco wasn't the only successful college signal caller whose name wasn't called during the draft.

Florida's Chris Leak, Boise State's Jared Zabransky, Pittsburgh's Tyler Palko and Oregon State's Matt Moore all went undrafted last weekend and face an uphill climb to land a spot on an NFL roster.

Stocco's may be an even steeper climb than the rest, having not received an offer to sign as a free agent with a pro team either. Stocco is in Green Bay's rookie orientation camp this weekend for a tryout, simply hoping he'll be able to stick around a while longer.

"I'm getting a chance now, and in the end that's all that matters," Stocco said. "It just feels great to be here right now, but I've got a lot to prove.

"I felt like I got a lot better each year that I played, and I still feel like I can get a lot better. That's been one of my goals my whole career is to improve every year that I've played, and I think I've done that so far and I think I can still do that."

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