Training camp set to begin in Green Bay

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A day circled on the calendar of every sports fan – the official beginning of the NFL season – will arrive this Thursday when the Green Bay Packers kick off the 2019 campaign at Ray Nitschke Field.

  • A tradition first started under Curly Lambeau in 1946, training camp in Green Bay remains one of the most intimate settings in all of professional sports. 2019 marks the 11th summer at Nitschke Field, just a short bike ride away from the team facility.
  • Nitschke Field has seating for 1,500 fans with unobstructed views.
  • Just as it does at Lambeau Field, new traditions blend with historic ones at Packers training camp, as players continue to ride children’s bicycles to practice, a tradition first started under the legendary Vince Lombardi. Players continue to stay in the dorms at St. Norbert College, the NFL’s longest training-camp relationship between a team and school.
  • As part of the 100 Seasons celebration, the beginning of this year’s training camp includes the Packers Experience, a free, three-day festival (July 25-27) with activities and entertainment for fans of all ages. The team also is preparing to celebrate its 100th birthday on Aug. 11. Fans are invited to save the date to join the team in the Lambeau Field Atrium for a free public event between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., with a special giveaway to the first 5,000 fans at the Atrium.
  • According to the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau and a 2010 study by AECOM, training camp, along with Packers Family Night, will attract approximately 90,000 visitors from across the nation and as many as 20 foreign countries, with an economic impact estimated at $9 million.
  • Media and fans can visit www.packers.com for the most up-to-date information regarding the practice schedule, events, dining and accommodation options, activities and more throughout training camp.

SAVE THE DATE

Important dates to remember (all times CDT):

  • Thursday, July 25 – First practice, 10:15 a.m., Nitschke Field
  • Friday, Aug. 2 – Packers Family Night, Presented by Bellin Health, Lambeau Field, 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 8 – Preseason game vs. Houston Texans, 7 p.m., Lambeau Field (Midwest Shrine Game)
  • Thursday, Aug. 15 – Preseason game at Baltimore Ravens, 6:30 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium
  • Monday, Aug. 19 – Final practice open to public, 1:30 p.m., Nitschke Field
  • Thursday, Aug. 22 – Preseason game vs. Oakland Raiders, 7 p.m., IG Field, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • Thursday, Aug. 29 – Preseason game Kansas City Chiefs, 7 p.m., Lambeau Field (Bishop’s Charities Game)
  • Saturday, Aug. 31 – Roster reduction to a maximum of 53 players by 3 p.m.

THE MONTH AHEAD

Green Bay’s training camp schedule features 16 open practices, including Family Night, and four preseason games. All practices that are open to the public are currently scheduled to take place at 10:15 a.m., except for practices on Aug. 18-19 which will begin at 1:30 p.m.

  • Training camp kicks off with a practice on Thursday, July 25. It will be the first of four straight practices as part of the opening week.
  • The Packers will hold three practices (July 30-31 and August 1), before Family Night takes place at Lambeau Field on Friday, Aug. 2.
  • On Sunday, August 4, the team will hold an open practice before welcoming the Houston Texans for two joint practices on August 5-6 prior to facing them in the preseason opener at home on Aug. 8.
  • Green Bay will hold three open practices (Aug. 10, Aug. 11 and Aug. 13), before going on the road to face the Baltimore Ravens on Aug. 15.
  • The Packers will have the final two open practices of training camp on Aug. 18-19, leading into a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders in Winnipeg on Aug. 22.
  • The team’s final preseason contest will take place at Lambeau Field on Aug. 29 against Kansas City Chiefs.

NEW LEADER

The Green Bay Packers named Matt LaFleur (la-flew-er) the 15th head coach in franchise history on Jan. 8, 2019.

  • He is entering his 11th season in the NFL in 2019, having served as an offensive coordinator for two seasons (Los Angeles Rams, 2017; Tennessee Titans, 2018), a quarterbacks coach for six seasons (Washington Redskins, 2010-13; Atlanta Falcons, 2015-16) and an offensive assistant for two seasons (Houston Texans, 2008-09).
  • During his first 10 seasons in the NFL, LaFleur was a part of offensive staffs that helped their teams rank in the top 10 in the league in total yards seven times (2008-09, 2012-13, 2015-17). In three of his last six seasons in the NFL, he was on a staff that helped its offense finish in the top five in the league in scoring, highlighted by No. 1 rankings in 2016 with the Falcons and in 2017 with the Rams.
  • The former quarterback began his coaching career in 2003 at his alma mater, Saginaw Valley State. LaFleur has six seasons of coaching experience at the collegiate level, having also worked at Central Michigan (2004-05), Northern Michigan (2006), Ashland University (2007) and Notre Dame (2014).

THE NEW STAFF

LaFleur explored various avenues to compile his coaching staff, bringing in new coaches and retaining some from the 2018 staff.

  • Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett brings 10 years of NFL experience to Green Bay, including five as an offensive coordinator (Buffalo, 2013-14; Jacksonville, 2016-18). In 2017, he guided the Jaguars to a No. 1 league ranking in rushing (141.4 ypg) for the first time in team history on their way to an appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
  • Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was retained after a 2018 season that featured 16 different players with at least a half-sack, the second most in team history (since 1982) behind only the 1987 campaign (strike season) that saw 17 players register a half-sack or more. The defense finished 2018 tied for No. 8 in the league in sacks (44), the most by Green Bay since 2013, and No. 12 in the NFL in pass defense (234.5 ypg) after finishing No. 23 in the category in 2017.
  • Special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga (MEN-in-guh) begins his eighth season in the NFL and returns to the league after leading the special teams at Vanderbilt last season. From 2011-17, he served as the special teams assistant for the Cleveland Browns, assisting Chris Tabor as the team ranked No. 7 in the league over that span in both punt return average (9.9) and opponent kickoff return average (21.8).
  • Chris Gizzi, who served as a strength and conditioning assistant from 2014-18, was promoted to strength and conditioning coordinator. As a player, he appeared in 23 games for the Packers as a linebacker in 2000-01, ranking No. 5 on the team with eight tackles on special teams in 2000. Gizzi will lead a staff that consists of Mark Lovat, Thadeus Jackson and Grant Thorne.
  • Quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy returns to the Packers after spending last season as the offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach for Mississippi State. Over his last two seasons in Green Bay (2016-17), Getsy worked as the wide receivers coach after originally joining the Packers in 2014 as the offensive quality control coach.
  • Defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery is entering his fifth season with the Packers and second as defensive line coach. He worked as the defensive front assistant for Green Bay from 2015-17. Montgomery has helped with the development of DL Kenny Clark, who recorded 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons, the most among Packers defensive linemen and second most on the team over that span.
  • Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti (ah-luh-vuh-DOT-ee) joins the Packers after coaching for the Washington Redskins for 16 seasons. He is one of 11 members of the Redskins’ assistant coach honor roll, which recognizes coaches with at least 10 seasons of service as an assistant in Washington. During his time with the Redskins, Washington ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in overall defense eight times.
  • Tight ends coach Justin Outten (OW-ten) was the offensive assistant for the Atlanta Falcons the past two seasons (2017-18). He began with the Falcons as an offensive intern in 2016. Over the last three seasons, Atlanta averaged 27.2 points per game (No. 4 in the NFL over that span) and 389.9 yards per game (No. 3 in the league over that span).
  • Defensive backs coach Jason Simmons is entering his ninth season with the Packers having worked in various roles (secondary in 2018, assistant special teams coach from 2015-17, defensive/special teams assistant in 2014 and a coaching administrator from 2011-13). Before coaching, he played for 10 years in the NFL as a defensive back and was a standout on special teams during his career.
  • Running backs coach Ben Sirmans is entering his fourth season as running backs coach for the Packers. From 2016-18, Green Bay led the NFL with an average of 4.66 yards per carry, including an average of 5.01 yards per carry in 2018 (No. 2 in the NFL) that was the second-best single-season mark in team history. He joined the Packers after spending the previous four seasons (2012-15) as the running backs coach for the St. Louis Rams.
  • Outside linebackers coach Mike Smith joins the Packers after spending the last three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, first as the assistant defensive line coach in 2016-17 and then coaching outside linebackers last season. In 2018, Smith coached Dee Ford, who was selected to his first Pro Bowl after tying for the NFL lead with seven forced fumbles and tying for No. 2 among NFL linebackers with a career-high 13 sacks.
  • Offensive line coach Adam Stenavich (STEN-uh-vitch) comes to the Packers after serving as the assistant offensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers the last two seasons. He helped coach a line that cleared the way for RB Matt Breida to average 4.96 yards per carry in 2016-17, ranking No. 5 in the NFL over that span (min. 200 att.). The Marshfield, Wis., native played left tackle at Michigan (2002-05) and was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2004-05. Following his collegiate career, Stenavich spent time with a few NFL teams, including a stint on the Packers’ practice squad in 2006.
  • Wide receivers coach Alvis Whitted (WHITT-id), who played wide receiver for nine seasons in the NFL, worked for the last seven years as the wide receivers coach at Colorado State. During his tenure at CSU, Whitted mentored three All-America wide receivers, including two consensus first-team All-Americans who also were finalists for the Biletnikoff Award (Michael Gallup in 2017 and Rashard Higgins in 2014).
  • Assistant offensive line coach Luke Butkus comes to Green Bay after serving as the offensive line coach for the University of Illinois for the past three seasons (2016-18), a position he also held for the Fighting Illini in 2012. Between the two stints at his alma mater, he was the assistant offensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-15).
  • Assistant defensive backs coach Ryan Downard begins his second season in Green Bay after serving as the defensive quality control coach last year. He came to Green Bay after working at Bowling Green for two seasons, serving as the safeties coach in 2017 and the director of football operations in 2016.
  • Assistant special teams coach Maurice Drayton was retained and is entering his fourth season coaching in the NFL. He worked as the assistant special teams coach for each of the past three seasons (Green Bay in 2018 and the Indianapolis Colts in 2016-17).
  • Offensive assistant Jason Vrable enters his seventh season as an assistant coach in the NFL, previously working for the New York Jets (2017-18) and Buffalo Bills (2013-16).
  • The staff also consists of four quality control coaches: Wendel Davis (defense), Kevin Koger (offense), Christian Parker (defense) and Rayna Stewart (special teams).

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS

Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst and his staff made numerous moves to strengthen the roster this offseason including signing:

  • S Adrian Amos (A-miss), who joined the Packers after four seasons with the Chicago Bears. He appeared in 60 games with 56 starts, recording 305 tackles (244 solo), three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions (one he returned for a touchdown), 13 tackles for a loss and seven special teams tackles. Amos has started at least 10 games each season, including 14 or more three times. Amos was named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie team in 2015 after becoming the first Bears rookie to lead the team in tackles (based on coaches review) since LB Brian Urlacher in 2000.
  • LB Preston Smith came to Green Bay after playing for the Washington Redskins for the past four years. He has never missed a game in the NFL, appearing in 64 regular-season contests with 50 starts. Smith has recorded 163 tackles (103 solo), 24.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four interceptions, 13 passes defensed and three fumble recoveries, including one returned for a TD. According to Sportradar, he ranked No. 5 among linebackers with 59 QB hits from 2015-18. Smith has played in one postseason contest, the 2015 Wild Card game vs. Green Bay in which he tallied three tackles (two solo) and a sack that resulted in a safety.
  • LB Za’Darius (zuh-DARE-ee-us) Smith played in 58 regular-season games with 16 starts in four seasons for the Baltimore Ravens, recording 119 tackles (71 solo), 18.5 sacks, five passes defensed and three forced fumbles. In 2018, he set career highs in tackles (45), solo tackles (26) and sacks (team-high 8.5). According to Sportradar, Smith ranked No. 2 among NFL linebackers in 2018 in QB hits (25) and tied for No. 6 in total pressures (sacks + hurries + knockdowns) with 35.
  • T/G Billy Turner spent time with the Miami Dolphins (2014-16), Baltimore Ravens (2016) and Denver Broncos (2016-18) over five seasons. He has played in 40 games with 25 starts in his career, opening contests at right guard (19 games), right tackle (four games), left tackle (one game) and left guard (one game). Turner’s father, Maurice, played running back in the NFL for Minnesota (1984-85), Green Bay (1985) and the New York Jets (1987).

MEET THE DRAFT PICKS

Training-camp storylines always hover around new players and just how they figure into the depth chart. The Packers added to an already talented roster with a eight-man draft class.

  • LB Rashan Gary was selected by the Packers with the 12th overall selection in the first round out of the University of Michigan. He earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition from the league’s coaches as a sophomore and as a junior, while also earning second-team honors from The Associated Press in both of those seasons. Gary was part of Michigan defenses that ranked in the top five in the country in total defense in all three of his seasons with the Wolverines (No. 2 in 2018, No. 3 in 2017, No. 1 in 2016).
  • The Packers selected S Darnell Savage out of Maryland in the first round (No. 21 overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft, a pick acquired from Seattle in exchange for a first-round pick (No. 30 overall) and two fourth-round selections (No. 114, No. 118). He started all 36 games over his final three seasons at Maryland, earning All-Big Ten honors from media and coaches in each of his final two years (honorable mention in 2017 and second-team in 2018). Last season, Savage ranked No. 2 in the Big Ten, trailing only teammate LB Tre Watson (five), and No. 13 in the country with four interceptions.
  • G Elgton (EL-ton) Jenkins became the just the second Mississippi State offensive lineman since 2000 to be selected in the first two rounds of the draft (Packers T Derek Sherrod, first round, 2011) when Green Bay took him No. 44 overall. Jenkins played in 49 career contests with 34 starts at Mississippi State, opening games at four different positions on the offensive line (26 at center, five at left tackle, two at left guard, one at right tackle). He earned first-team All-America honors from The Athletic and fourth-team honors from Phil Steele’s College Football as a senior in 2018. He was also the recipient of the Kent Hull Trophy, awarded annually to the top offensive lineman in the state of Mississippi.
  • In the third round (No. 75 overall), the Packers selected TE Jace Sternberger out of Texas A&M, making him the highest-drafted tight end by Green Bay since Bubba Franks in 2000 (No. 14 overall). In 2018, he was named a consensus All-American after earning first team honors from AP, CBS Sports, Football Writers Association of America, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and Walter Camp and second-team recognition from USA Today. Sternberger finished No. 1 in the country among tight ends in receiving TDs and ranked No. 2 in receiving yards (832) and yards per catch (17.3 avg.) in 2018.
  • DL Kingsley Keke (KEE-KEE) was selected by Green Bay in the fifth round (No. 150 overall) out of Texas A&M. He played in all 52 games with 35 starts in his four seasons with the Aggies, recording 150 tackles (57 solo), 21 tackles for a loss, 12 sacks, seven passes defensed, three fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Keke started all 13 games for the Aggies as a senior in 2018 and led the team with a career-high seven sacks while ranking No. 2 on the team with a career-best 11 tackles for a loss.
  • CB Ka’dar Hollman (kuh-DARR HOLE-man) became the highest selection of a defensive player from the University of Toledo since DB Clarence Love was picked in the fourth round (No. 116 overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles when he was selected by the Packers (No. 185 overall) as the first of two sixth-round picks. As a senior in 2018, Hollman started all 13 games and set career highs in tackles (43), solo tackles (33) and passes defensed (13, tied for No. 1 in the Mid-American Conference).
  • RB Dexter WIlliams was chosen by Green Bay in the sixth round (No. 194 overall), becoming the first Notre Dame RB to be drafted by Green Bay since Ray Ratkowski in 1961 (20th round, No. 278 overall). He led Notre Dame in rushing as a senior in 2018 with a career-high 995 yards on 158 carries (6.3 avg.), an average of 110.6 rushing yards per game. Williams also paced the Fighting Irish in rushing touchdowns with 12 in just nine games, the most by a Notre Dame RB since Jonas Gray posted the same number in 11 games in 2011.
  • The Packers’ final selection in the draft was LB Ty Summers out of Texas Christian in the seventh round (No. 226 overall), marking the 11th consecutive year that a TCU defender had been drafted, a total of 18 players over that span. He played in 51 games with 32 starts for Texas Christian (2014-18) and recorded 319 tackles (168 solo), the second most by a Horned Frog in the first 18 seasons of the tenure of Head Coach Gary Patterson. Summers tallied 14 games with 10-plus tackles from 2015-18, ranking No. 3 in the Big 12 over that time span (Kansas LB Joe Dineen, 22 and TCU LB Travin Howard, 17), according to sportsreference.com.

ST. NORBERT AND THE PACKERS

Continuing a tradition started under Packers coach Scooter McLean in 1958, the Green Bay Packers will call St. Norbert College home for a 62nd consecutive training camp this summer. The relationship between the private college in De Pere, Wis., and the Packers marks the longest continual use of any training-camp facility by an NFL team.

  • Players will take up residence in Victor McCormick Hall, a 60-room coed dormitory used to house 225 students during the academic year.
  • St. Norbert, founded in 1898 by Abbot Bernard Pennings, borders the Fox River and enrolls around 2,000 students.
  • The Packers use their own practice and team-meeting facilities at Lambeau Field during training camp, with the college serving as housing headquarters.
  • Players return to St. Norbert via cars and vans every evening.
  • The 6.62-mile commute is estimated at 11 minutes each way.

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