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Packers Mini-Camp Report: May 7


The first step is usually the hardest.

But having now completed it, first-year Head Coach Mike McCarthy hopes that when the Packers' second mini-camp starts May 19, the footprint from that step will still be around.

Having met with his players, and having instilled within them and his coaching staff the direction the team is headed, McCarthy is confident that the installation of the first and second down offense was a success. And in less than two weeks he'll be back at it again.

"When we come back for the second mini-camp we're actually going to go back and repeat it, particularly for the young guys," McCarthy said. "So our first and second down offense will be repeated, the foundation of it, in the second mini-camp, and then we'll introduce third down. Once we get to the OTA we're going to go back and repeat it again."

The organized team activities that McCarthy was talking about will take place in two- and three-day segments from May 31-June 21.

"Also in our OTAs we're going to have review days. We're taking steps; it is our first year as a coaching staff in all three areas and the defense is probably ahead of the learning curve because they were together last year in their system," McCarthy said. "We're just very conscientious of getting the foundation of our offense in so that it will kind of give us the opportunity to help the older guys get reps but also tailor our installation process to our younger guys."

And those younger guys have begun to thrive.

"I came in here with the thought process and the mind frame that everyone was going to be fast," rookie wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "But you have to adjust your game to that speed and that's what I tried to do. The biggest thing was getting the offense down and not having to think."

Of the skills players the Packers are taking their first look at, Jennings excelled, making catches on deep balls and cutting his routes with a precision that had McCarthy thinking he was Donald Driver at one point.

Favre returns

With quarterback Brett Favre back in Green Bay, the Packers were able to begin installing their new offensive scheme with a 16-year NFL veteran at the helm.

And the dialogue between coach and quarterback began early on with a 2-hour conversation on the eve of Friday's mini-camp practice. McCarthy contends that because Favre "has the mind of a coach" he has adapted well to the new way things are being done in the organization. While the language barrier was one that could have gotten in the way, Favre has embraced the new ways he will be calling plays and has learned very fast the technique his new coach wants him to use, according to McCarthy.

"It's important for him to play within the realm of your offense and I think he always has," McCarthy said of Favre. "I've said it over and over again, when you call plays, the play caller and the quarterback have got to be on the same page and have got to know when to push the envelope and when to pull back."

Mr. Rodgers' weight room

With Favre in limbo about his return up until a few weeks ago, second year quarterback Aaron Rodgers took it into his own hands to prepare as though he may be starting for the Packers this season. Coach McCarthy praised the young man's decision to attend the off-season weight-lifting program and quarterback classes, saying that since college Rodgers has become faster and stronger.

"I came in this off-season (and) for the first year in a couple years," Rodgers said. "I actually have been healthy so I have a good base to build on and have been working hard in the weight room and in the training room doing some stuff to get my core right."

Gado running up the reps

Samkon Gado burst onto the NFL scene last season with an array of power and ability. This year he started the season by taking a handoff from Favre on the first snap of mini-camp and hitting the whole hard for a 20-yard burst.

Gado, who signed with the Packers as a free agent out of Liberty University last season, is again making the most out of injuries to running backs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport.

"Sam has done a great job with the off-season training program," McCarthy said. "He's a powerful young man, he has a very bright future ahead of him, he's very explosive and he has a complete understanding of what's asked of him. He's a good example of a guy that's benefited from being here since March 20. He knows the assignments ... I'm excited to see him when we get into pads."

A new Pickett in Green Bay

With all the excitement that has surrounded the signing of free-agent cornerback Charles Woodson, free-agent tackle Ryan Pickett seemed to slip a little under the radar this mini-camp. But that doesn't mean that he wasn't being watched intensely by the coaching staff. For Pickett, a six-year veteran, the move to Green Bay has provided a fresh start that he looks to turn into season of fruitful reward.

"I'm excited because I'm starting all over again," Pickett said. "I'm learning stuff that I've never learned before and I'm excited about learning it. Coach (Bob) Sanders' defense, I think, is going to be phenomenal. I'm loving it ... It feels like my first year playing football."

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