Offseason Format Helps Rookies Adjust


TE Jermichael Finley

For rookies, there are myriad adjustments as they make the jump to the NFL from the college game, but that transition for the Packers' newcomers was made easier thanks to the schedule used by the team this offseason.

After the draft in late April, the Packers' draft picks and non-drafted free agents reported to Green Bay for a three-day rookie orientation camp the following weekend. The team then held OTA practices from mid-May to mid-June and then wrapped up the offseason work with mini-camp last week. In Head Coach Mike McCarthy's first two seasons, the team held mini-camp earlier in May and then followed that up with OTAs before breaking until training camp.

"I feel really comfortable because it was a good progression," quarterback Brian Brohm said. "At rookie camp, we were able to take it a little slower through that process because the vets weren't around to speed things up. Then you go into the OTAs and that's when we installed everything.

"It built very nicely where in mini-camp we rookies know all of the installs and we can come in and jump in right away and go right to work. Just talking to guys from other teams where maybe mini-camp was their first thing, they jumped in and their head was swimming when they got there. It has really helped the rookies out quite a bit."

The rookie orientation camp provided the rookies with not only their first on-field work as Packers, but the team also dedicated time throughout the weekend to helping them adjust to what will be expected of them away from the field.

"When you play professional football, they have professional responsibilities and personal responsibilities," McCarthy said. "(It's) just how we expect them to conduct themselves professionally as a Green Bay Packer on the football end of it, what we expect in the classroom, the practice environment, what's expected in the weight room.

"Then you go to affiliations of their job in professional football, their responsibilities of dealing with the media, community relations, security. It's all the different aspects that these players are touched with when they make the adjustment from college football to professional football."

The OTAs were the first full-squad workouts as the team completed quite a bit of installation work along with some review during the 12 practices. This made for some anxious moments early on for the younger players as they worked with the veterans for the first time with a lot of information being thrown at them.

"On the first day of OTAs I felt like, 'Man, what have I got myself into?'" tight end Jermichael Finley said. "By the end I started to feel a lot more comfortable and now I love it.

"OTAs were like a little review or a learning process, and mini-camp is kind of like a breeze because it feels like I have been here for a long time. Every OTA we would put in an install, and in mini-camp you were just combining all of that. When I first got here it was a lot of thinking but now it's really just playing football."

Following the final OTA practice, McCarthy took note of the progress that had been made to that point and how it had contributed to more productive work for the entire roster.

"You are always looking for that point where the rookies catch up to the veterans and the quality of your practice improves and we are definitely at a higher rate compared to the last two years," McCarthy said. "We are a lot further ahead there, which is normal in Year 3, but it is a very comfortable feeling coming out of your offseason program, basically having everything in. Compared to the last two years, this is what the offseason program is supposed to look like, so I am very pleased with that."

McCarthy described the mini-camp as more of a 'cleanup' for some of the areas that still needed work after OTAs, but the rookies also got the chance to experience practicing twice a day for the first time.

"I think it was good progress to have a couple of practices a week and work our way into two-a-days," wide receiver Jordy Nelson said. "This has given us a little bit of a look at what training camp is going to be like. I think if mini-camp had been right after the draft it would have been a much bigger adjustment having two practices right away."

{sportsad300}In addition to the structure of the offseason schedule, the Packers' rookies also benefited from the help they received from veteran players during practice and in the meeting rooms.

"The veterans have been great," Nelson said. "Pretty much on every play we have run they give you different ideas on what to do and what they do. You've got to watch them and pick their brain.

"They explain that it's just football. It's another level but it's still football. Just go out there and play. The level is a little higher but you've just got to play the same and enjoy it."

Finley, the youngest player on the roster, said that he has leaned not only on other players in his position group for advice, but on teammates throughout the roster.

"If you need help, they are there for you," Finley said. "It's a great locker room. I can't imagine it being better anywhere else."

When the rookies look back to their orientation weekend compared to where they stand today, the progress they have made is apparent.

"It's night and day," Brohm said. "I feel really good about where I am at. Obviously I can get a lot better and I am going to keep working, but I'm getting more comfortable every day."

McCarthy echoed the same sentiment about the team's progress on the final day of mini-camp as the Packers now turn their focus to training camp in late July.

"Clearly I think it's the best offseason that we've had to date (with) the individual time that the players spent with the coaches, the commitment to the offseason program and the strength and conditioning all the way through the OTAs," McCarthy said. "I really like the way our offseason came to a conclusion here with the mini-camp at the end. I liked the way the rookies jumped in there and picked things up. It puts us in a very good position to start off camp healthy and ready to go."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content