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Training Camp Report: Rookie O-linemen Moll, Spitz To Open '06 Season As Starters


With two preseason games in the books and two to play, Head Coach Mike McCarthy on Monday said he will not wait until the end of training camp to name his opening day starters along the offensive line.

Joining veterans Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher and third-year center Scott Wells will be 2006 draft picks Tony Moll and Jason Spitz.

"This is the direction we'll go, with Tony at right guard and Jason on the left," McCarthy said. "I thought it was important and I think we've talked about it the last couple of weeks that I was not comfortable waiting until the end of training camp to name the starting five. So by going in this direction it gives us a chance to get these five guys prepped and ready for Chicago."

Moll, a fifth-round draft choice from Nevada, has had solid performances throughout training camp practices, capped by an impressive night vs. Atlanta, Saturday.

"When I got drafted it sounded like I would just be sitting the bench if I made it playing tackle," said Moll, who played tight end and defensive end in high school and tight end during his first four years at Nevada. "So I've made a complete 180 with this and hopefully it's a good decision. Now I can only play my best."

With two preseason games in his future to help him acclimate to his new starting role before the Chicago Bears come calling September 10, Moll looks forward to the opportunity to continue to impress coaches and the time to gel with the same set of linemen on each and every play.

"It shows that the coaches are noticing that I'm working hard and understanding what needs to be done at the NFL level," Moll said. "It's more than one guy. I'm part of a five-man line, so I can only do my part and I'm going to do it to the best of my ability.

"Everyone has their own little trademarks in what they do and everyone's a little different in their calls. Now that I know I'm going to be working with the same guys, it will make a difference."

Spitz, a third-round draft choice from Louisville, agrees that not having the pressure of trying to win a starting role the rest of training camp will help, but in no way does it give them room to relax.

"Anytime you're in there together as one unit it's going to give you time to gel," Spitz said. "I think it's going to be a long time until we are where we need to be. And in no way is (being named a starter) an indicator of how it's going to be the rest of the season.

"You can't get caught up in that. You still have to do your job and you still have to perform everyday. It's a 'show me' world so if I'm not doing my job, a couple of weeks from now it's not going to be the same five."

Gado, running backs to fill in for injured Henderson

McCarthy said that one of the Packers' most durable players, fullback William Henderson, could miss at least three weeks due to the knee injury he sustained in the Packers' preseason game against Atlanta, Saturday night.

"He had it scoped this morning, he just had it cleaned out," McCarthy said. "So we're expecting him back as soon as possible. If anybody can get back in a quick, timely fashion, it would be William. I'm hopeful for the opener."

In the meantime, the Packers will turn to some of their running backs for help.

"As far as our run schemes, the battering ram fullback is something that we don't do a lot of, so we can get that productivity from the halfback position," McCarthy said. "You'll see us training some of our halfbacks in that position and also some of our tight ends. We've always cross-trained those guys and we'll probably do a lot more of that the next couple of weeks getting ready for Chicago."

One player already preparing for an added role is Samkon Gado, who received reps at the fullback position, Monday.

"It was very different," said Gado, who last played fullback during his sophomore year in high school. "I'm not used to fullback, obviously, and I'm used to being in a two-point stance. But we're hurt right now at that position and we need to get ready for Chicago. If we're going to have any kind of season I think we need to have some depth there."

For Gado, the challenges lying in front of him may not sound difficult to those who haven't played the position.

"(The biggest challenge) is actually picking up the reads from a three-point stance," Gado said. "It's a little harder to see when you're in a three-point stance because your head is facing down and you need to be able to make the same cuts and the same reads that a running back does, but you have less time to do it."

But with a deep pool of talent at running back, Gado also sees this new position as an opportunity to add to his versatility.

"Coach (Edgar) Bennett told me that the more I could do, the better chance I have of being on the field," Gado said. "And obviously I would rather be on the field than on the bench with four running backs, so I think this is my best option.

"Football is football. So just being on the field is a lot better than being on the sideline, and with Ahman Green coming back, Coach told me he was going to be on the field a lot. It doesn't matter how good you are at running back, Ahman Green is going to play. So would you rather sit the bench at running back or play a little fullback? I think I would rather play fullback than sit the bench."

Ryan lone man punting, for now

The release of B.J. Sander on Monday left the Packers with one punter on the depth chart.

Jon Ryan, who signed with the Packers as a reserve/future free agent in February, spent two years with the Canadian Football League's Winnipeg Blue Bombers, setting a single-season CFL record with a 50.6-yard gross punting average in 2005.

But much like the newest starters on the offensive line, Ryan knows that just because he's number one now, doesn't mean he'll be number one when it matters.

"There's a little bit of relief being the only guy," Ryan said. "There's not as much pressure, but at the same time I feel like I'm competing against every free agent punter out there. The job isn't mine yet and I'm certainly going to have to prove myself over the next couple of games."

Ryan has been impressive in practices but says he has not been overly excited about his performance in games thus far.

"Just consistency," Ryan said when asked on what he viewed as his most needed area of improvement. "I feel like I'm hitting the ball well right now but it hasn't always carried over to the games."

In two games, Ryan has averaged 45.4 yards, including a 55-yarder at San Diego, but most recently has been reeling over his lone attempt in Saturday's game against Atlanta, when he dropped the snap from Rob Davis. Ryan still managed to get off a 42-yard punt but knows that type of mistake won't help his chances of staying on the team.

"I don't want to use any excuses," Ryan said. "Something like that should never happen. It's never happened to me before and I pray that it will never happen again. It's something that is inexcusable, really, and was a bad mistake. I take full responsibility for that.

"For right now, I'm the guy. But by no means do I have the spot just yet. There are a lot of punters out there and I still have to prove myself. I still have to earn this job."

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