Packers' rookies logging extra time, on and off the field

Getting up to speed as new NFL players a bigger challenge than usual this year

2019 Packers practice

GREEN BAY – The Packers' rookie class will continue putting in overtime as training camp rolls on.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur said Tuesday Green Bay's rookies already have been getting extra meeting time in the morning and evening every day to teach them the playbooks, up to two hours' worth.

Once practices start on Saturday, there will be extra time allotted for the rookies on the field as well. They'll be allowed in the facility up to an extra 2½ hours per day compared to veterans, and that time will be split up various ways but will include on-field time.

"We'll get the veterans out of there, the guys we know what they can do, and hold the young guys back and have some post-practice scrimmages or periods for those young guys," LaFleur said. "Not only to get them the experience but to make sure we get a good evaluation on them as well."

In a normal year, there is extra meeting time built in for rookies at various points of their transition to the NFL, but there's even more of it now due to everything they missed due to the pandemic.

No rookie orientation, no regular offseason workouts, and no OTAs are significant missed opportunities for players joining the pro ranks.

"Right now we've only been involved with the walk-throughs," LaFleur said regarding any gauge of how well they're grasping the schemes and assignments. "You can see, there are a lot of mistakes, which is to be expected. It's no different than when they come here in the offseason, those OTAs are vital for those guys to get meaningful reps."

The Packers' current roster consists of 22 rookies – nine draft picks and 13 undrafted prospects. There are also 10 first-year players who have spent time in professional football but do not have an accrued NFL season, such as former practice-squad members.

They all have a limited window to make their case for a roster spot or to stick around on the expanded practice squad.

Some of the Packers draft picks from a year ago who held limited roles will be looking to make a similarly strong first impression when practices begin as well.

LaFleur talked about running back Dexter Williams, a sixth-round pick a year ago from Notre Dame, and linebacker Ty Summers, a seventh-rounder from TCU, as players eyeing a more prominent place on the team.

Williams, who enters camp as likely the fourth running back behind Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and rookie second-round pick AJ Dillon, appeared in only four games as a rookie and was a game-day inactive otherwise. He's been "working really, really hard in all the video I've seen of him in the conditioning phases," LaFleur said.

Summers became a core special-teamer in 2019, recording nine coverage tackles (including playoffs), and will be part of the competition involving Oren Burks, Curtis Bolton and rookie fifth-round pick Kamal Martin for a front-line role at inside linebacker alongside veteran Christian Kirksey.

LaFleur called Summers "a consistent performer" in the third phase who should benefit on defense from being in the system a second year.

Everything is just a projection for now, though, until practices get going full-force.

"I think the true test," LaFleur said, "is when things start going fast on the field."

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