The pads can't go on soon enough for Head Coach Mike McCarthy and his Green Bay Packers.
Sunday night, the Packers concluded their second practice of training camp in shorts and helmets and McCarthy felt the workout went much like the first one – productive, with the normal ups and downs of the early stages of camp, but without much basis for true evaluation.
It'll get a little more real when the pads go on at 7 p.m. Monday night.
"The real work shows up in the pads," McCarthy said following Sunday night's workout. "We're getting the plays right, we're getting to the right drills, we're getting things orchestrated the way they need to the last two days, but I think everybody to a man is looking forward to tomorrow night."
Mental errors were down from opening practice of camp on
Saturday, McCarthy said, but otherwise a lot looked the same. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in sync with his veteran receivers, finding Donald Driver plenty and making some nifty connections with Greg Jennings. In seven-on-seven work, Rodgers lofted a beautiful deep ball just over the outstretched arms of cornerback Sam Shields and into Jennings' hip pocket. Another time, Rodgers rifled one through a tight window to Jennings on a crossing route with cornerback Charles Woodson no more than a half-step behind.
Rodgers continued to work on his rapport with rookie tight end D.J. Williams, who has been deeply involved in the action, since Jermichael Finley has yet to be cleared for team drills and fellow tight end Andrew Quarless has yet to pass his physical. Williams is catching a ton of passes.
The struggles any veteran has working with young players for the first time were evident when Rodgers tried to connect with rookie receiver Randall Cobb, a second-round pick. During a team drill, Rodgers and Cobb weren't on the same page and a pass floated right to safety Charlie Peprah for an easy interception. Later, cornerback Tramon Williams jumped a short route by Cobb and nearly picked off Rodgers again.
The missed connections were nothing to be alarmed about, but further evidence of a rookie class that got no offseason work with their new professional teammates.
"You see it clearly when they are thinking," McCarthy said of the rookies. "It slows down for them. They're reacting instead of attacking. It's a process.
"We're going to throw a lot at these guys the next 10 days. Our installs go all the way until next Wednesday, so this is kind of normal. It's never as clean as you'd like."
On another note, McCarthy was pleased to hear that fullback John Kuhn and receiver James Jones had re-signed with the team. Kuhn was in attendance Sunday, watching practice from the sidelines.
Free-agent signees cannot take the practice field until Thursday, Aug. 4, which is one of the reasons the Packers' first planned off day is Tuesday, just the fourth day of camp – so all the free agents (Kuhn, Jones, Mason Crosby, Spencer Havner and Brett Swain) miss one less day of practice.
"John has played so many positions for us, and I know (special teams coordinator) Shawn Slocum really leans on him in the special teams area," McCarthy said of Kuhn. "Same thing with James. I think James' best football is in front of him.
"Anytime you're able to keep your weapons intact as an offense, I know the quarterback, the offensive staff and everybody feels very good about getting those two guys back."
Other notes from Sunday night's workout:
Erik Walden took the first-team snaps at outside linebacker, rather than Frank Zombo, who did so on Saturday. Looks like a rotation is developing.
Cobb remained the first man up on punt return, but fellow rookie Alex Green was first up on kickoff return. Cornerback Pat Lee and Cobb also took some kick-return reps.
Defensive end C.J. Wilson dropped out of practice briefly with what McCarthy called a bruised calf, which happened while blocking on a kick return. Rookie defensive end Chris Donaldson (collarbone) also dropped out of practice, and rookie offensive tackle Theo Sherman (unspecified) did not practice.
Also on the injury front, Finley could return for team drills on Thursday, McCarthy said, while Quarless (hip flexor) might be back by the end of the week.