GREEN BAY – The pass-heavy offseason program will eventually morph into a run-centric training camp in Green Bay, and the Packers have plenty of young running back prospects eager to get to that point.
"I can't wait for it," rookie fourth-round draft pick Jamaal Williams said as minicamp wrapped up this past week. "I've been waiting to run the ball for a while and just show the tenaciousness. I can't wait for contact. Contact is my favorite part."
There's only so much a running back can show without pads on, but the past several weeks were still plenty valuable for the Packers' stable of rookie backs, which runs five deep – Williams from BYU, fifth-round pick Aaron Jones (UTEP), seventh-rounder Devante Mays (Utah St.), and undrafted signees Kalif Phillips (Charlotte) and William Stanback (Virginia Union).
The group was focused on learning the playbook together and getting introduced to the checkdowns and protection responsibilities in the passing game, which can be significantly more complex than at the college level.
The mental side of the game, combined with learning blocking or route-running techniques they may not have been introduced to before, kept the rookie backs' plates full.
"You just have to keep working at it, watching it, looking at your playbook," Williams said. "That's something you can never get tired of doing, watching film. I'm glad I don't have school anymore, so I can be 24-7 watching film and playing football."
Williams described it as a "friendly competition" this spring amongst the young running backs. They've helped each other along, and they've done their best collectively to make sure such a young group, led by Ty Montgomery in his first full season in the backfield, isn't blamed for holding the offense back in any way.
That said, there will only be so many snaps in each training camp practice and preseason game to go around, so there's a balance between studying together off the field and pushing toward self-reliance on it in what will be one of the most-watched position battles in camp.
"You know you can't make too many mistakes, because there are other backs who are right there wanting the same carries as you," Jones said. "So you have to make the most of every opportunity."
The rookies will need the next five weeks to get some rest, too.
From the end of their final college seasons last winter, they've been on a non-stop schedule training for the scouting combine and pro-day workouts, and then plowing through rookie orientation plus a month of OTAs and minicamp.
The physical break will be important while they stay sharp on the mental aspects.
"Once you get the offense down, you can play without thinking," Jones said. "That's when it turns into fun."
Working on the good, ol' fashioned ground game will be fun, too.
"Running the ball is what we do," Williams said.