Training Camp Report: Draftees To Get Their First Taste Of Lambeau On Saturday

Saturday's Family Night scrimmage will be the first opportunity for Packers fans to see the team's new additions in live action, and the atmosphere in the stadium will be new to some of them.

Third-round draft pick James Jones comes from San Jose State, where he says the team was lucky to get 15,000 or 20,000 fans on game day, let alone the 60,000-plus expected for a glorified practice.

Jones said when he sees the crowd, the thought might finally hit him how far he's come, from homeless at times as a child to a small-school college prospect to the pro ranks.

"I'll (be thinking) man, this is crazy, I really am in the NFL, you know?" he said. "I'm excited about it and I'm happy to be here."

So are his other draft mates, but they won't necessarily be thrown off by the large crowd. Second-round pick Brandon Jackson played at Nebraska, where Husker Nation is one of the country's most rabid fan bases.

"I won't be that nervous," Jackson said. "I'll just go out, very calm, play the game, show the coaches I can take a hit, bounce up, keep going and do the things they want me to do."

First-round selection Justin Harrell played at Tennessee in the football-mad Southeastern Conference, and he's looking forward to comparing the atmosphere to that of his college days.

"At Tennessee, we played in front of 100,000 people every game, so it wouldn't be anything different for me," Harrell said. "It will kind of remind me a lot of home. I've heard how the fans get out here and how crazy the whole atmosphere is. So it should remind me a lot of Tennessee."

Head coach Mike McCarthy said the scrimmage will be live, with tackling, in the offense vs. defense periods, and in the two-minute segments. The special teams work will not include live tackling.

Extra protection

In a drill that gets a lot of attention and can raise players' emotions, the running backs worked on their pass protection against blitzing linebackers on Friday. It's similar to the one-on-one pass rushing/blocking drills done by the linemen, except instead of coming off the line of scrimmage, the linebackers blitz from their normal position, and the running backs have to step up and make the block.

Fullback Brandon Miree showed how fundamentally sound he is in the drill, and some of his teammates and coaches call him "the technician" when it comes to pass blocking.

Veterans like Noah Herron also generally fare better than younger players like rookies Jackson and Korey Hall. On one snap, linebacker Tim Goodwell simply ran over Corey White, which can happen if the back gets caught on his heels.

Still, McCarthy sees it as a valuable drill, and there could be more of it as camp continues.

"We've got a lot of ability there," McCarthy said. "We just have to get them trained and get them experienced."

{sportsad300}Offense sharp

The No. 1 offense looked particularly crisp during one red zone team period on Friday. On a series of three plays, Brett Favre hit Greg Jennings on a post route for a touchdown, as Jennings got a half-step on Al Harris; Favre then connected with Jones on a short crossing route, and Jones hung onto the ball despite a big hit from Charles Woodson; and then Favre hit Jennings again on a slant that split the safeties.

Later in practice, Favre also hit tight end Donald Lee for a touchdown, as Lee made a sliding catch near the sideline, and he lofted a pass to the corner of the end zone that running back P.J. Pope reached up and hauled in one-handed for maybe the best catch by anyone thus far in camp.

Injury, participation update

The tight end group got incredibly thin on Friday, as Clark Harris (ankle) and Zac Alcorn (feet) were added to the injury report, and Bubba Franks (eye) missed practice again. With Tory Humphrey (ankle) placed on injured reserve, that left Lee and newly signed Joe Werner as the only tight ends for the entire practice.

Linebacker Juwan Simpson (shoulder) returned to practice.

Rule changes

NFL Referee Gene Steratore was scheduled to meet with the Packers on Friday evening to show a video outlining a handful of rule changes and points of emphasis for officials in the upcoming season.

Steratore met with reporters before practice to show the video and answer questions. Among the notable rule changes:

*Spiking the ball after being tackled at the end of a non-scoring play will now be a 5-yard delay of game penalty. If the player is not down by contact, a spike that goes forward will be ruled an incomplete forward pass, while one that goes backward will be a fumble and a live ball.

Packers fans will remember last season at the Metrodome, when receiver Ruvell Martin got up and spiked the ball in celebration after wrestling a reception away from a Minnesota defender for a key 20-yard gain to convert a third down in the fourth quarter. Martin was down, so the play was over, but that action would now draw a flag.

*Illegal touching of a forward pass, such as by an offensive lineman or other ineligible receiver, will now have to be intentional for a 5-yard penalty to be called. If the pass hits a lineman in the back or deflects off his helmet, when the lineman made no effort to catch or touch the ball, it will no longer be a 5-yard penalty.

*A block below the waist on an eligible receiver beyond the line of scrimmage while the quarterback is in the pocket is now a 15-yard penalty instead of a 5-yarder.

An additional point of emphasis involves the illegal contact rule on defenders bumping or chucking receivers downfield. As the rule has been written, the 5-yard illegal contact penalty will be enforced only if the contact occurs while the quarterback is still in the pocket. If the quarterback leaves the pocket, there is no foul for illegal contact. The quarterback's location has no bearing on defensive holding or pass interference calls.

There were other changes and points of emphasis on more minor rules, but overall very few issues brought up league-wide.

"I think it's a direct indication that the game is playing very well," Steratore said. ". When we don't have extremely major changes, then that means that something isn't really majorly wrong.

"I would say that as it continues to lessen on that end, then maybe it's more of the 'this isn't really broke, I don't think we need to fix it' kind of mentality."

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