Training Camp Report: WR Allen Has Impressive Day

In his second crack at making the roster, receiver Jake Allen wasn’t off to the best of starts. He faces long odds as it is to break into the Packers’ talented receiving corps, and it didn’t help matters when he dropped a couple of passes in the opening practices. Allen may have finally gotten himself straightened out, though, with a strong day on Friday. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Aug. 7

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Last year, then-rookie wide receiver Jake Allen made a quick impression early in training camp by catching nearly everything thrown his way.

He followed up that strong start with a dramatic last-second touchdown catch in the preseason finale against Tennessee, which was enough to earn the non-drafted free agent from Division III Mississippi College a spot on the Packers' practice squad for 2008.

But in his second crack at making the Green Bay roster this summer, Allen wasn't off to the best of starts. He faces long odds as it is to break into the Packers' talented receiving corps, and it didn't help matters when he dropped a couple of passes in the opening practices.

Allen may have finally gotten himself straightened out, though, with a strong day on Friday. He made a handful of impressive grabs in team (11-on-11) and 7-on-7 periods, an effort he hopes to carry over to Saturday's Family Night scrimmage and into the preseason slate.

"I think this was probably the best day I had so far," Allen said after practice. "Made some catches, made some plays. It was time. I've been down in a slump, so I really needed it.

"Some days are good and some days are bad, but it's good to have the teammates that I have. The guys were like, 'We need the old Jake back.' That's what the guys were telling me, and today the old Jake came back."

Allen's strong practice started when he jumped high on the sideline to pull down a bullet throw from quarterback Aaron Rodgers just as a defender was cutting over to try to break it up. Then in 7-on-7, he made a nifty tip-toe catch along the end zone sideline, getting his feet in bounds.

Later, on a fly route, he adjusted to an underthrown ball when quarterback Matt Flynn's arm was hit as he tried to go deep. The ball fluttered a little, and Allen came back for it, tripping up cornerback Charles Woodson in the process and making the catch.

Then in the final team period of practice during goal-line work, Allen got the call from Rodgers to run a fade to the back left corner of the end zone. Cornerback Will Blackmon was in tight coverage and the ball fell incomplete.

But just a few snaps later, Allen got the same call again, this time from Flynn. Against cornerback/safety Jarrett Bush, Allen shielded the defender from the ball, leaped and caught the ball at the top of his jump for an impressive touchdown.

"It feels good they've got confidence in me to give me another shot," Allen said. "They've got confidence in me, knowing I can make big plays. By them having confidence in me, it helps build my own confidence."

As all the young receivers know, barring an injury, landing a spot in the top five of the receiving corps will be all but impossible. Ruvell Martin is currently out with a groin injury, but it isn't projected as anything serious.

So the best chance for guys like Allen will be to make a strong enough impression to get the coaches thinking about keeping six receivers on the roster, or to stick around on the practice squad. Either way, Allen has an uphill climb, but he's hoping he started making some progress on Friday.

"You've got to use days like this for motivation," he said. "Once you have a good day, you want to keep pushing to have a better day, and a better day after that. Just keep on trying to have better days."

Rule changes and points of emphasis

A group of NFL officials led by veteran umpire Carl Paganelli are in camp through Saturday's Family Night scrimmage to officiate the Packers' workouts and speak to the team about the rule changes and points of emphasis coming from the league office in 2009.

The officials addressed the local media prior to Friday's practice to go over the same issues. Some of the notable rule changes for this year include:

--Eliminating a wedge blocking formation involving more than two players on kickoff returns.

--Eliminating the "bunch" formation on kickoffs by requiring kickoff teams to have at least three players outside each hashmark, with at least one player outside the yard-line numbers on each side of the field.

--Eliminating the automatic re-kick on an onside kick attempt that goes out of bounds or is illegally touched by the kicking team.

--Eliminating blindside blocks to the head or neck area of an opponent, and any initial contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless receiver. Players coming across the field but out of the opponent's field of vision cannot block that opponent in the head or neck area, but must instead make contact in the chest or waist area. As for a defenseless receiver, helmet-to-helmet contact already has been illegal, but now contact to that receiver's head or neck area via forearm or shoulder will also be penalized.

{sportsad300}--Expanding reviewable plays to include quarterback pass/fumbles when the ruling on the field is an incomplete pass and there has been a simultaneous recovery of the ball by the defense (the highly publicized Ed Hochuli ruling on the Jay Cutler play for Denver against San Diego early last season). Loose balls that have been ruled to hit the sideline are also now reviewable as well.

Some points of emphasis the league's officials have been told to watch closely include horse-collar tackles and taunting. Low hits on quarterbacks are also going to be under the microscope.

Players will be flagged for any hits on quarterbacks to their knees or below that come via the force of the helmet or shoulder, even if the defender is blocked into the quarterback. Wrapping a quarterback's legs to make a tackle, or swiping at the quarterback's feet to make a tackle will be legal, and encouraged as an alternative to delivering a low "hit" with a helmet or shoulder.

Injury/participation update

Linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Jeremy Thompson (groin) and defensive end Justin Harrell all went through the opening jog-through portion of practice but rested thereafter. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Matthews is very close to returning but because the injury is the same one he dealt with during OTAs, the staff is being extra cautious. McCarthy said there's a chance Thompson and Harrell could both participate in Saturday's Family Night scrimmage.

Tight end Tory Humphrey had successful surgery on his fractured forearm, but there's been no timetable established for his potential return. McCarthy indicated it was not a season-ending injury.

Cornerback Al Harris and receivers coach Jimmy Robinson both missed Friday's practice to attend former Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's funeral. Johnson passed away last week after a battle with cancer. Harris had played for Johnson from 1999-2002 when the two were together with the Eagles, while Robinson and Johnson coached together with the Indianapolis Colts from 1994-97.

Remaining out of practice were cornerback Pat Lee (back), safety Anthony Smith (groin), running back Brandon Jackson (shoulder), Martin (groin), receiver Patrick Williams (hamstring), defensive end Johnny Jolly (ankle), linebackers Nick Barnett (knee, PUP) and Brad Jones (back, PUP), and nose tackle B.J. Raji (unsigned).

Cornerback Trevor Ford was added to the injury list and missed practice, but his injury was not specified.

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