Training Camp Report: Connecting On And Off The Field

As Aaron Rodgers enters his first season as the Packers’ starting quarterback, he inherits one of the most talented receiving corps in the league, and hopes the special connection that he has developed with third-year wideout Ruvell Martin will serve as one more benefit. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Aug. 8

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As Aaron Rodgers enters his first season as the Packers' starting quarterback, he inherits one of the most talented receiving corps in the league, and hopes the special connection that he has developed with third-year wideout Ruvell Martin will serve as one more benefit.

The bond between the two began in 2005, Rodgers' rookie season, when Martin was signed to the Packers' practice squad in November, and both players worked on the scout team in preparation for each week's opponent.

"The connection we formed when he first came in and was working the scout team a bunch has really carried over," Rodgers said. "I have a lot of trust in him as a player. We connect well personality-wise off the field. I just feel like when I throw the ball to Ruvell, he's going to be in the right position to make the catch."

Rodgers chuckled when he recalled a game where his comfort level with Martin resulted in him incurring the wrath of Head Coach Mike McCarthy. When starter Brett Favre left with an elbow injury vs. New England in November 2006, Rodgers saw the most extensive action of his career to that point as he played the entire second half.

"I threw one ball to him and I came off to the sidelines and Mike (McCarthy) ripped me," Rodgers said. "He said, 'why did you throw over there?' I said, 'That's my guy.'"

Martin agreed that the connection dated back to his practice squad days, and said he continues to work toward developing it even more now in practice.

"I think I take time to make sure after every play, or if there is a questionable play, I'll go over afterwards and ask him what he was thinking so I can make the adjustment for next time," Martin said. "I think he has the same dialogue with me and with all of the receivers, and that's important, to make sure you're on the same page with the quarterback.

Sometimes the tandem doesn't need to talk to get on the same page.

"I don't think we lack for verbal communication, but I think the necessity of it isn't there as much," Rodgers said. "If there is a route or a ball, we just kind of give each other the look and we know what the other person is looking for."

Martin, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in '05 with San Diego, caught 16 passes in 2007, with 15 of them either going for first downs or touchdowns, with four scores. He has looked impressive during training camp, especially on fade routes when he can use his 6'4" frame to his advantage.

"I think Ruvell is having an excellent camp," McCarthy said. "He has made a couple of big-time catches just in the last two days. Ruvell is a guy that you get excited about because you've seen him grow since the day that he has been here. He continues to get better each day and each year."

With veteran receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings firmly entrenched in the starting lineup, Martin will be battling talented second-year wideout James Jones and rookie Jordy Nelson for playing time this season.

"I don't think roles have really been defined yet," Martin said. "In my head I'm always trying to do as much as I can for the team. Every time I am out there, anything they ask me to do. I would welcome a bigger role, but if it's not the case, it's not."

Whatever role Martin ends up playing in the offense in '08, he said improving every day will continue to be his focus.

"That's one of the tricks I have learned is to not look backwards, to always look forwards to the next practice," Martin said. "For me, anything I did in the past, good or bad, it doesn't really matter, because I feel I need to go out the next practice and have the best practice that I have ever had.

{sportsad300}Big night under the lights

The Packers defense had a strong night in the final session of two-a-days of training camp.

Highlights for the defense included two interceptions by rookie CB Pat Lee, a pick by CB Will Blackmon on a tipped throw by Rodgers, and a fumble recovery of a Rodgers snap by DE Jason Hunter.

"I think it is great film, I really do," McCarthy said. "That's what I was telling the offense. I thought defensively it was outstanding. I really like the way they were disguising their pressures."

During special teams work in the morning, the kickoff return unit practiced recovering onside and pooch kicks. The top "hands" team that special teams coordinator Mike Stock put out there included fullback Korey Hall, linebacker A.J. Hawk, wide receivers Jones, Nelson and Martin, tight ends Lee and Jermichael Finley, safeties Nick Collins and Bigby, and cornerback Jarrett Bush, with Blackmon the lone deep man.

Injury/participation update

Nine veterans were given the morning off and were not on the field: OTs Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, WR Donald Driver, LB Nick Barnett, DEs Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, DT Ryan Pickett and CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson.

Players who sat out both practices on Friday were S Aaron Rouse (hip flexor), S Charlie Peprah (hamstring), WR Jake Allen (groin), G/C Junius Coston (lower back), C Scott Wells (trunk), DT Justin Harrell (back), RB Ryan Grant (hamstring), RB Vernand Morency (groin), T Orrin Thompson (ankle), and DT Johnny Jolly (hip flexor).

New to the absentee list at night were WR Greg Jennings (knee soreness) and DE Jeremy Thompson (slight neck stinger). Gbaja-Biamila (knee) and Pickett (hamstring) sat out Friday night as well.

Clifton took part in some 11-on-11 work Friday night, and Daryn Colledge took the snaps at LT when Clifton was not in.

Running back Brandon Jackson and tight end Tory Humphrey returned to practice in the morning after missing time earlier in the week.

McCarthy said after the morning practice none of the injuries are serious, and he considers most of them fatigue injuries more than anything.

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