In the first full squad practice of training camp, approximately 1500 people gathered around Clarke Hinkle Field to take it all in. They were treated to a high tempo practice, as the first full contact drills seemed to energize the team.
It didn't take long for the crowd to liven up, either. As the five quarterbacks jogged toward the fence, the crowd applauded the signal-callers and a few chanted for Brett Favre. That may have been the first time the players heard from the crowd in the morning, but it was far from the last.
Some people, including many coaches, don't feel that the season starts until you can hear the pads crunch in all-out drills. If that is the case, the Packers season got off to a quick start this morning as teammates got reacquainted with one another again in11-on-11 drills less than an hour into practice.
There were plenty of highlights during the morning session as the offensive unit quickly went to work for numerous big plays. Wide receiver Donald Driver excited the fans when he shed cornerback Al Harris to snag a Tim Couch pass along the left sideline. The next time Driver and Harris squared off, the defender got the upper hand when Harris batted away a pass from Craig Nall.
Favre quickly got in on the action as well. He showed his trademark toughness by getting out in front of an end around play to block for Javon Walker. He also connected on a pass to Bubba Franks up the seam for 20 yards as the crowd showed its approval with applause. However, the passing unit's best play of the morning came when Walker went up high over cornerback Jason Horton along the left sideline to grab another Couch pass out of mid-air.
The passing game wasn't the only aspect clicking for the offense in the morning session. The rushing attack got things rolling when Ahman Green knifed through the defense for 10 yards. His backfield counterpart, Najeh Davenport, also burst through the line and into the secondary for a 12-yard gain, which earned GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman's approval.
"Good work, Najeh, that's the way to run," Sherman said. "Good job offense, way to work."
Just as 11-on-11 drills play an important role in camp, the one-on-one drills are also a staple of the workouts. Kevin Barry stood out for his blocking when he locked up and stuffed defensive linemen Kenny Peterson and Tyrone Rogers on consecutive attempts.
The afternoon session was originally scheduled again for Clarke Hinkle Field but was moved inside to the Don Hutson Center after a short period of rain.
Much of the practice regimen stayed the same indoors with more one-on-one and full team drills. Couch also continued his hot passing with a long completion to Scottie Vines. When Joey Thomas bit on a pump fake from Couch and a double move by Vines, the rookie was beaten for a touchdown.
The defense did show improvement in the afternoon as Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila bull rushed virtually everyone he faced in one-on-one drills. James Lee showed a quick burst off the ball when he penetrated into the backfield past rookie offensive lineman Scott Wells. Cornerback Jason Horton also caused a turnover by intercepting an errant Couch throw in the end zone.
Overall though, the theme of the day was offense.
The offense again attacked the defense in a game situation drill. The ball was placed on the defense's 40-yard line and it only took four plays for the offense to reach pay dirt. Davenport shot through the defense for two long runs before Favre hit Robert Ferguson on a 10-yard touchdown strike.
Practice ended 10 minutes ahead of its scheduled time, but before that, B.J. Sander and Nathan Chapman shared punting duties. Antonio Chatman, Robert Ferguson, Carl Ford, and Darren Sharper all took turns fielding the punts in the bright lights of the Hutson Center.
Numerous players put in extra work after practice including Joey Thomas and Ahmad Carroll who both worked on footwork with assistant defensive backs coach Lionel Washington. It was Carroll's first full training camp practice as he signed his contract in the morning and took part in only a portion of that workout.
Missing both practices were Brennan Curtin, Chris Johnson, Mike Flanagan, Mike McKenzie, Eric Powell, and Mike Wahle. Grady Jackson sat out the afternoon session with sore knees, but did conditioning work on the sideline. Wahle bruised a knee during workouts this summer and Flanagan has tendonitis in his left knee. Curtin has an injured groin and Eric Powell and Chris Johnson are on the physically-unable-to-perform list continue to rest their knees and stress fracture, respectively.
The Packers return to practice again tomorrow for two full squad workouts at 8:45-11:15 a.m. (pads) and 2:45-4:00 (no pads).
Where: Clarke Hinkle Field in the morning, Don Hutson Center in the afternoon session
Weather: 80 degrees, sunny in the morning.
Did Not Participate: Brennan Curtin (groin), Mike Flanagan (knee), Chris Johnson (stress fracture), Mike McKenzie (not in camp), Eric Powell (knee), and Mike Wahle (knee).