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Training Camp Report: Offensive Linemen Shuffle Spots


The Packers shuffled their depth on the offensive line Thursday night, moving Junius Coston from guard to left tackle, and doing the reverse with William Whitticker.

With starting left tackle Chad Clifton still out nursing a sore knee, Whitticker had been taking his spot with the No. 1 offense. But Coston, who had been backing up rookie Jason Spitz at right guard, is now playing there, and Whitticker is now at guard with the No. 2 unit.

"It's really to give 'Whitt' more reps where he has a legitimate chance to compete," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's a right guard/right tackle in our system. He's been very flexible throughout the spring."

McCarthy noted that he doesn't like moving young linemen around before they've had a chance to settle into one spot, and both Whitticker and Coston are just in their second year. But having six young linemen in all on the roster, combined with the season-ending injuries this offseason to Kevin Barry and Adrian Klemm, forced the coaching staff to shuffle things up.

"What we did with the young guys, we tried to anchor them all down to play one position, but unfortunately the priority changed on who could stay in the one position and who had to move," McCarthy said. "You can't have five guys at one position, it's unrealistic, especially if there are injuries."

Coston became the player the staff felt could provide the most flexibility, having played left tackle last year on the scout team. Whitticker started 14 games last year at right guard and will now stay strictly on the right side of the line at guard or tackle.

Woodson not likely to play offense, for now

Free-agent cornerback Charles Woodson hinted at wanting to play some offense when he signed with the Packers on May 1, but thus far he's focused on being a defensive back and punt returner.

McCarthy believes that's enough for a player new to the team.

"We just felt his plate was full as far as playing corner and nickel in the new scheme," McCarthy said. "He's played it before so the learning isn't anything he can't handle, but he's also going to be a punt returner. That's where we are today, but that's not to say we won't (look into it further) in the future."

Woodson, who intercepted Brett Favre three times in one practice earlier in the week, added another pick Thursday night when Favre tried to loft a short pass in the flat to fullback William Henderson. The ball tipped off the fingers of an outstretched Henderson and landed in Woodson's lap as he closed in on the play.

Successful two-minute drill

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers successfully led the offense down the field in the two-minute drill Wednesday morning.

The situation had the offense trailing 10-9, and Rodgers hit receiver Chad Lucas on a pair of passes and fullback A.J. Cooper on a screen, moving down to the 33-yard line. He then threw a sideline fade to Cory Rodgers, who made a juggling catch against tight coverage from Mike Hawkins for a 25-yard gain with 3 seconds left, and Billy Cundiff hit a 26-yard field goal on the final play.

"I thought Aaron made an excellent throw there on third down, obviously making it an easier kick," McCarthy said. "He did a nice job handling the clock."

In all the morning practices, Rodgers has gotten the lion's share of repetitions while Brett Favre has sat out, giving him more work with the No. 1 offense to help with his development.

"If you ask any quarterback in the league, anytime you get reps it's very valuable because they're so hard to come by," McCarthy said. "Especially the opportunity to run with the "1's" and two two-minute drills in one day, it's very valuable."

Player tryouts

The Packers brought in former Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings kicker Paul Edinger for a tryout earlier this week, but General Manager Ted Thompson said that was not because he was dissatisfied with the work Billy Cundiff and Dave Rayner have done thus far in camp.

"We're fine with the kickers we have now," Thompson said. "There's constant communication with (special teams coach) Mike Stock and the coaching staff and us, and it's going fine.

"We'll bring in tons of players between now and January or whenever. We just do that, we bring guys in and look at them."

The Edinger tryout had been previously scheduled, as was the workout for offensive tackle Todd Williams, whom the Packers signed last Sunday. It was merely coincidence, Thompson said, that Williams' tryout ended up at the same time offensive tackle Adrian Klemm suffered a season-ending Achilles' injury.

Injury update

Tight end Bubba Franks sat out both practices with what McCarthy termed "camp swelling" in his right knee.

Al Harris also sat out with an elbow injury sustained on a running play during Wednesday's practice, when Samkon Gado and Nick Collins crashed into a water cooler while going out of bounds.

Tight end Zac Alcorn missed practice because of an injury to his side, sustained when he fell on the ball while making a diving catch over the middle on Wednesday. Najeh Davenport (ankle, cramps) missed both practices after previously being on a schedule where he'd sit once on a two-practice day.

Guard Jason Spitz had his quadricep wrapped in ice at the end of the evening practice.

Rule changes

NFL referee Bill Carollo visited with the local media Thursday to go over various rule changes and points of emphasis for officials for the upcoming season. He and some of his crew members will be doing the same with players and coaches over the weekend. Some of the highlights include:

*Hits to a quarterback's knees or below will draw a 15-yard penalty and potential league discipline if the official deems the defensive player could have avoided the low hit, even if coming off a block. This will be enforced when the quarterback is in the pocket or if he has clearly re-established himself as a passer after scrambling out of the pocket. One such play that garnered lots of attention last year was when Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer was injured on a low hit by Pittsburgh's Kimo von Oelhoffen in the AFC Wild Card Game.

*The jersey has been added to the illegal "horse-collar" tackle rule, meaning the penalty now enforced when a player is grabbed by the inside edge of the shoulder pads and yanked to the ground will also be called if the jersey is used to make the tackle in similar fashion.

*For onside kicks, it will be illegal to overload one side of the kicking formation. At least four players from the kicking team must be on each side of the kicker.

*Replay reviews are being cut down from 90 seconds to 60 seconds from when the official begins looking at the play with the field-level monitor to when he must make the call.

*Plays ruled "down by contact" are now subject to review. Previously, when the officials on the field ruled a player down by contact, the play was over and no replay could be viewed to check on a potential fumble. But now, regardless of when the whistle blows, a play ruled down by contact can be overturned if the official sees two things on the replay: 1. the ball clearly was fumbled before the player was down, and 2. a defensive player clearly recovered the ball (not simply someone emerging from a long scrum with the ball in his hands). If both qualifications are met, the ball will be given to the defense at the spot of the recovery, with no advancement allowed.

*Penalties called on the kicking team before the receiving team actually secures possession of the ball can now be enforced from the end of the runback. Previously, those penalties were marked off from the previous spot of the kick, followed by a re-kick, or they had to be declined. Now the receiving team gets to choose which enforcement.

*Offensive holding will be a point of emphasis with officials, as they will be watching for any grabbing by offensive linemen that impedes a defender's progress or changes his route.

*Cut blocks and other unnecessary blocks away from the play will now be penalized, and even if the officials miss the call on the field, the player will be subject to league discipline. Carollo pointed out that under this interpretation, the unnecessary and devastating block delivered by Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp on Green Bay's Chad Clifton in 2002 well away from the play on an interception return would result in a flag and disciplinary action.

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