The Packers' first live two-minute drill in this year's training camp started with a bang but quickly fizzled during Tuesday night's practice.
The scenario put the No. 1 offense on its own 24-yard line with 1:45 on the clock, two timeouts, and a 14-10 deficit. Against the dime defense (six defensive backs), Brett Favre hit Greg Jennings deep down the sideline on the opening play for a 57-yard gain to the 19. Jennings made a nice catch against tight coverage from Jason Horton.
Favre then hit Bubba Franks for a 5-yard gain to the 14, but the drive stalled there. A run by Samkon Gado lost 3 yards and two penalties pushed the offense back another 15 yards. Then on fourth-and-long from the 32, Favre's deep ball down the middle seam to tight end David Martin was picked off by Tra Boger.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy was more frustrated the offense couldn't finish what it started than pleased the defense found a way to get the stop.
"When you're calling plays, I'm obviously rooting for the offense," McCarthy said. "But I'm proud of the defense.
"If you get hit on a big play like that -- the failure was more self-destructive because of the offense's penalties -- but that's a big-time stand for the defense."
McCarthy added that on the final play Favre made the correct read because Martin was the only receiver in single coverage, but the pass just didn't get through.
Much was made during mini-camps and the organized team activities of Gado's struggles to adapt to the new zone-blocking scheme, but he has looked much smoother and more decisive when his number has been called thus far in camp.
With Ahman Green still recovering from a torn quadriceps tendon, Gado has been working with the No. 1 offense the last couple of days and doing what's expected.
"I think Samkon, the way he runs the football, he's a guy you're going to see be more productive when he puts the pads on," McCarthy said. "He's not a slithery ... he's more of a power runner. I've been very pleased with him once we got into the padded work."
Gado confessed he probably makes the scheme more complicated than it needs to be, but he is letting his natural football instincts dictate his play more and it's helping him.
"I still think I have a long ways to go, but I'm encouraged with the growth I've seen so far," Gado said. "The thing that needs to be done is just to turn your brain off and just play. That's where I think the progress begins, not so much thinking. That's what I was doing before, thinking, and you can't do that out there."
Not so new
One player who hasn't had much trouble adjusting to the zone-blocking scheme is center Scott Wells, who played in a similar system at the University of Tennessee.
"I feel natural at it," he said. "I feel very comfortable with doing the reach blocking, trying to pick up linebackers on the run. I feel I'm built for that system and look forward to it."
With two rookie guards likely to start on either side of him, Wells has been lumped into the "young" interior of the offensive line that must prove itself. A third-year pro who started 10 games last year at guard, Wells has considerably more experience than Daryn Colledge or Jason Spitz, though he has never been a full-time starter at center since his days at Tennessee.
But Wells doesn't necessarily want to label anyone "young" until it's revealed how they perform in a game.
"I think if you ask anybody on the line we feel comfortable and confident with what we've got," he said. "To us the age factor is not really an issue. With the amount of time we've put in OTAs and mini-camps, we feel comfortable with the scheme. The preseason games will definitely help to see how we react to the live bullets."
Players new to the injury list who sat out the morning practice Tuesday included receiver Cory Rodgers (hamstring), cornerback Mike Hawkins (knee) and guard Junius Coston, who was still recovering from heat-related issues from the previous day. Will Whitticker continued to work as the No. 1 left tackle in place of Chad Clifton (knee).
Rodgers and Hawkins returned to practice in the evening, and receiver Leo Bookman was back on the field for the first time since the opening practice, when he injured his right ankle.
In the evening, Favre apparently was kicked in the calf during a blitz drill but put ice on it and is expected to be fine. Najeh Davenport also sustained a cramp and missed part of the workout.
Just for show
On kickoff return work during the morning practice, receiver Donald Driver was taking turns as the deep man along with Robert Ferguson, Greg Jennings and Ahmad Carroll.
But don't expect Driver to be doing the job during a game.
McCarthy said special teams coach Mike Stock was just working different units and getting them all adequate repetitions. Driver may have just been filling in for Cory Rodgers on one particular unit.
"I've never been on a team, and especially since it's my team, where the starting flanker is catching kickoffs," McCarthy said.