GREEN BAY—Fifty-eight players, ranging from first-round draft pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to surprise tryout prospect Colt Lyerla, were afforded an opportunity to make a first impression on Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy on Friday.
"They're all very good football players and they're here for a reason. It gives us a chance to continue the evaluation process … to build the best 90-man roster going into training camp," McCarthy said following a nearly two-hour workout at the Don Hutson Center.
Clinton-Dix was the first of nine draft picks by the Packers last week, and he was wearing No. 21, which was last worn by Charles Woodson, during Friday's practice. Lyerla is one of 28 tryout players invited to this weekend's rookie camp. He's the most noteworthy of the tryout players.
"We felt he's earned the right as a tryout player to earn the right to go to training camp," McCarthy said of Lyerla, a talented and highly regarded tight end whose draft stock sank amid difficulties that caused him to leave the team at Oregon last season. The Packers were one of three teams that attended Lyerla's pro day at Portland State.
Friday, rookies went through roughly two hours of drills and got a fair share of seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 work thrown in. Photos by Jim Biever, Packers.com.
Friday's practice began with a tutorial on how to warm up. McCarthy referred to the workout as being more of an orientation than a practice. The rookies will do it one more time, on Saturday, and then the Packers will decide how many of the tryout players they'll sign to contracts.
"You want them to jump out at you. It's not how many balls you catch. You're looking for movement ability. You're looking for fit. You're looking for something special. We want to be open. This is the best evaluation process throughout the whole process," McCarthy said.
Tight end Richard Rodgers, a third-round draft pick, showed something special with a diving catch early in the practice, but then failed to get his head around in time to catch a deep pass over the middle later in practice.
Tryout player Cole Sanford, a wide receiver from Cal Poly, went high into the air to make a catch over two defenders along the sideline.
Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, a sixth-round pick, was clearly the most secure and graceful in fielding punts.
"He's definitely a very good athlete; very good body control. Strength and conditioning, he can make some gains there," McCarthy said of Abbrederis.
Inside linebackers? McCarthy volunteered this observation: "Look at our inside linebacker group. Put on the tape and every one of those men made every tackle for their team."
The practice was missing the pinpoint accuracy of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but undrafted free agent Chase Rettig of Boston College and tryout prospect Jacob Karam of Memphis were not out of their element.
"It's difficult for everybody. That's why we view it as orientation. No one is going to be extremely evaluated on the strength of the practice," McCarthy said.
In his address to the group on Thursday night, McCarthy highlighted the opportunity the Packers traditionally give undrafted free agents to earn a spot on the final roster. He talked of two undrafted players having started for the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
"Those are the kind of statistics you put in front of these guys to let them know they have an opportunity to make the ballclub. It's a young man's league," McCarthy said.
"There are some tryout players here I feel very strongly we're going to like at the end of the weekend." Additional coverage - Rookie orientation