Anthony Smith's time with the No. 1 defense is expected to end once starters Nick Collins and Atari Bigby return to the field, but for now, the fourth-year safety is looking to help in the defense's transition to the 3-4 scheme that he is familiar with from his time in Pittsburgh.
During the past three weeks of OTAs, Smith has worked with the first unit opposite third-year safety Aaron Rouse with Bigby still recovering from offseason ankle surgery and Collins absent from the voluntary workouts.
"They already know what I can do," Smith said. "That's why they brought me here. With those guys being out, obviously I'm getting a lot more reps with the ones. It not only helps me but it helps everybody else."
Smith signed with the Packers as a free agent in March after spending his first three seasons with the Steelers, who drafted him in the third round in 2006. Smith started the final four games of his rookie season in '06 when starter Ryan Clark was injured, and went on to start 10 more games in 2007, mostly for an injured Clark. Smith posted career highs in '07, recording 74 tackles and two interceptions.
But Smith fell out of Pittsburgh's defensive rotation in 2008, seeing time primarily on special teams. He was inactive for all of the Steelers' playoff games, including Super Bowl XLIII. Smith brought experience with the new defensive scheme being implemented in Green Bay under new coordinator Dom Capers, and also with safeties coach Darren Perry, who tutored Smith in Pittsburgh in '06.
"Anthony looks very comfortable," McCarthy said. "Definitely his experience in Pittsburgh has really helped him. He understands conceptually there are probably some things that we ask him to do differently just as far as communication.
"But he was the furthest ahead of anybody when we started this process. He looks very natural out there. He's an athletic safety. I can see why people were as high on him as they are, and I think he'll definitely factor in our safety group."
Smith has the ability to play both safety spots, which is imperative in Capers' defense and beneficial if either of the starters goes down with an injury.
"Anytime you start a new system, you always want to be able to train left and right, because it gives you more flexibility," McCarthy said. "It's really no different with the outside linebacker. You can really make the same case as the inside linebackers. Anytime you're in the balanced situations, when you're left and right, and don't have to go strong or weak, it gives you a lot more flexibility.
"That's where we are right now. It just gives Dom more flexibility once we get into game-planning with matchups."
The game-planning aspect is a few months away, but Smith said his teammates are coming along with the scheme he knows well.
"Everyone has a different learning curve, so when guys are out there, if I can help them I'll be able to help them and tell them what to do," Smith said. "For the guys who have been in Green Bay and just played cover-one (man-to-man) pretty much for the whole time, it's a little different for them because it's a lot more terminology and techniques they have to play. But everyone is coming along good and catching on to the scheme of the defense."
Center of attention
One of the more interesting position battles during training camp will come at center, where Jason Spitz and Scott Wells will compete for the starting nod.
Wells, who has been sidelined during OTAs as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, has started 42 games at center the past three seasons, but battled a trunk injury last season that forced him to miss the first two games in 2008. McCarthy said he spoke with the team's medical staff Wednesday morning and that Wells is expected to be cleared for training camp.
Spitz started every game for the Packers last season, opening up at right guard for 11 games, left guard for two, and center for three. McCarthy said Spitz's experience at guard should serve him well as he looks to make the move to center full-time.
"I have always referred to the center and two guards as the core of our offense," McCarthy said. "I believe, in every offense I have ever designed, I have always started with the core, and that's the center, two guards, the quarterback and the tailback because everything inside there starts there and it works its way out.
"That's why I am a firm believer in availability and accountability, and it's because of creating offensive schemes, those particular players need to practice all of the time together, they need to play all of the time together. I think that's when you really see consistency in your offense. So Jason having the opportunity to learn guard and then move to center really helps him."
The Packers waived punter Adam Graessle on Tuesday, leaving them with two punters, Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks, who are expected to compete for the job in training camp.
"They're young guys that are battling it out," McCarthy said. "We don't have a lot of experience there. I think that's fairly obvious. There's a lot of charting, there's a lot of evaluating with those two young guys. You can't ask more from them for what they've done since they've been here. They've been here every day. They've spent a lot of time with Shawn Slocum and Curtis (Fuller), and they're continuing to work.
"But we're not going to answer that question this spring, or this June. Is it summer around here? It doesn't look like summer around here. But we're not going to answer that question in June."
Green Bay also waived nose tackle Brian Soi on Tuesday.
Players who were either limited in their participation in practice or sat out entirely due to injury included Bigby (ankle), Wells (shoulder), linebackers Nick Barnett (knee) and Clay Matthews (hamstring), tackle Breno Giacomini (ankle), defensive ends Cullen Jenkins (ankle) and Alfred Malone (wrist), tight ends Evan Moore (unspecified) and Carson Butler (unspecified), receiver Lorne Sam (abdominal) and tackle Chad Clifton (knees/shoulder). Tight end Donald Lee dropped out of practice early and had ice on his thigh.
Wide receiver Jake Allen was absent due to a personal issue.
Running back Tyrell Sutton, who missed the first two weeks of OTAs due to school obligations, made his on-field debut Tuesday and practiced Wednesday.
Cornerback Brandon Underwood remained absent due to school obligations.
A different kind of camp
Former fullback William Henderson, who played 12 seasons (1995-2006) in Green Bay, will take part in the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp at NFL Films in Mt. Laurel, N.J., from June 22-25.
Henderson served as co-host of 'Monday Night Kickoff', a show produced by Green Bay TV station WBAY, for eight seasons (1999-2006).
The camp, which will be attended by 24 current and former players, is part of an ongoing NFL-NFLPA initiative to assist players in preparing for their post-playing careers. It will include hands-on work in various areas of broadcasting, and each player will tape segments as a studio and game analyst and take part in a networking session with television executives.
Of the 40 players who took part in the broadcasting camp in 2007 and 2008, 21 have already earned broadcasting jobs as a result of their participation in the program.