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Training Camp Report: FB Hall Has Health Plan

With the preseason games yet to be played, the fullback competition hasn’t really begun in earnest. But Korey Hall, the primary starter at the position the past two seasons, feels a key to his chances of hanging onto his job is to stay healthy for the full year, and he’s trying to beef up his body a bit to help in that regard. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Aug. 10

With the preseason games yet to be played, the fullback competition between Korey Hall, John Kuhn and rookie fifth-round draft pick Quinn Johnson hasn't really begun in earnest.

But Hall, the primary starter at the position the past two seasons, feels a key to his chances of hanging onto his job is to stay healthy for the full year, and he's trying to beef up his body a bit to help in that regard.

Hall, who normally plays at between 230 and 235 pounds, said he's trying to push his weight closer to 240 to help withstand the pounding a fullback's body takes over the course of a five-week training camp and 17-week season. He has consulted with nutritionists to learn how to put the right kind of weight on through the wear-and-tear of training camp.

"This is one of the most critical times," Hall said. "Last year I lost a bunch of weight in camp, and this year I've been able to keep it on. It will be nice if I can keep that going this year."

Hall has been bitten by the injury bug his first two years. He missed the final two regular-season games of 2007 with a hip problem, and then he missed five games - a three-game stretch from Weeks 3-5 and a two-game stretch in Weeks 15-16 - last year with a knee injury.

To Hall, it's not a coincidence that his injury issues have cropped up either toward the end of the long season, or in the case of last year, shortly after training camp ended. Those are the times the body is the most beaten down.

Adding three to five pounds of lean muscle mass may not put that much more punch behind his lead blocks or blitz pick-ups. But if he can get closer to 240 (he said he's just over 235 now), then if he does lose a few pounds, theoretically he'll only drop to 235 or so rather than to 230 or below.

"I think it will help me from an endurance standpoint," Hall said. "Throughout the season like last year I got banged up a couple times, and hopefully if I can get a little more mass on, hopefully that will help with some of the injury situations."

Hall and Kuhn split time last year at fullback, and with the addition of Johnson to the mix this year, the trio is most likely fighting for two roster spots. Thus far Hall has taken the bulk of the snaps with the first-string offense, but he doesn't take that as any extra sign of job security.

But he doesn't take the occasional reps with the backup units as a sign either, but he rather uses every opportunity on the field to get prepared for the season. He said his primary focus for improvement has been on his pass blocking.

"I actually like getting the variety, working with the 1's, working with the 2's, 3's," Hall said. "It makes you kind of know your stuff better. You're not always relying on people to make the calls, and you know what the calls should be. I think it kind of sharpens your game working through all the rotations."

The depth chart will take more serious shape once the preseason contests begin, and in the meantime Hall will keep working on his physical shape. He says he's no more motivated by the competition at his position than he otherwise would be, but he remains most in tune with his own performance, which he grades as "all right" so far.

"There's always room for improvement," he said. "It's been a real competitive camp so far. It's going to come down to guys that are consistent and go out there and keep fighting throughout the whole camp."

Big day for cornerbacks

The Packers' deep cornerback stable made its share of big plays during the team (11-on-11) periods in Monday's practice, highlighting the varied responsibilities they take on in the new 3-4 defensive scheme.

On separate plays, Al Harris, Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams each came free on a blitz to get a clear shot at a quarterback sack, while Joe Porter made a diving interception. Then during two-minute work, Woodson made an impressive interception, dropping off his man along the left sideline, reaching out with two hands to deflect Aaron Rodgers' pass, and then catching his own deflection for the turnover.

In the new defense, the corners can be asked to play man-to-man press coverage, play "off" or zone coverage, or blitz the quarterback.

Williams said it's hard for his eyes not to light up when he gets his number called to blitz, something that happened very rarely if at all in the past.

"We don't get a chance to get up in there too much and get to the quarterback, so once you get that chance, you want to make it count," he said.

Williams added that the biggest benefit of playing more zone is it allows the cornerbacks to stay aggressive reading routes as well as the quarterback's eyes, but doing so knowing they have safety help at almost all times, which isn't necessarily the case in man coverage.

{sportsad300}But for the most part, what the corners like the most is the variety this defense brings to their jobs and the action as a whole.

"It's definitely fun," Williams said. "It's one of those defenses where you can play with the quarterback's mind. You can move around a little bit, do different things, give him different looks, and they pretty much don't know where things are coming from. It's definitely going to be fun out there."

Injury/participation update

Returning to the field from injury absences late last week were safety Anthony Smith and defensive end Justin Harrell.

Linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Jeremy Thompson (groin, arm) are considered day-to-day, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. Matthews wasn't suited up but just took a few reps during the opening jog-through. Thompson was suited up but did not do any contact drills. When he tried to take a rep in 7-on-7, he inadvertently ran into another player and left the field, dealing with an apparent stinger in his left arm or shoulder.

Running back DeShawn Wynn, who has a bone bruise on his knee, is also day-to-day.

Remaining out were cornerback Pat Lee (back), running back Brandon Jackson (shoulder), receivers Ruvell Martin (groin) and Patrick Williams (hamstring), tight end Tory Humphrey (forearm), defensive end Johnny Jolly (ankle), linebackers Nick Barnett (knee/PUP) and Brad Jones (back/PUP), and nose tackle B.J. Raji (unsigned).

McCarthy said Jolly is getting close to returning. Barnett has not re-tested his knee yet and the staff hasn't decided exactly when he will do so.

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