36-Day NFL Warning: Eight Observations From Packers Training Camp
What’s that? You were wondering exactly how many days until the start of the NFL season? Well, you’re in luck! We here at the Triangle are set to spend the next month providing a daily reason to get excited about pro football’s return.
- During camp, the Packers still practice at their facility across the street from Lambeau Field, but the players stay at nearby St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. Lambeau and its practice fields are technically in Green Bay, but I’d like to see a detailed map outlining the perimeter of the surrounding towns, because about 100 yards down Oneida Street is a sign welcoming people to Ashwaubenon, which is in the running for the most Wisconsin-sounding town in existence (I ate dinner last night in Wauwatosa, also a strong contender). If anyone out there is experienced in cartography or urban planning, hit me up. I really, really want Lambeau Field to actually be in Ashwaubenon.
- As a Bears fan, it’s strange to see Aaron Rodgers at his day job. I always imagined he spent his time away from football living Tony Stark’s non–Iron Man life. It’s something to watch the instrument of my destruction walk around in his socks. There’s just something about Rodgers that dampens the aura that would typically come with being the best player in the most popular sport in America. And let me be clear — that’s a good thing. Somehow, it seems like Rodgers has been able to maintain chip-on-his-shoulder status, remain a notably laid-back guy, and turn into the best player in football, all in equal enough parts to demand respect from but not alienate his teammates. It has been and will continue to be easy to take his production as a given, but seeing him up close is a good reminder that it’s hard to imagine a better centerpiece of an organization.
- The jugs machine is the most endlessly fascinating part of any football practice. Early on, the tight ends did a short drill during which they caught two passes consecutively from short range. Jermichael Finley couldn’t have been more than three yards from the machine, and these balls had some pace on them. Earlier today, Adam Schefter reported that the NFL is changing the Pro Bowl to a fantasy-draft system. My vote is to replace it with a skills challenge directed by Justin Lin, hosted by the Rock, and featuring at least five different jugs-machine-based events. Everyone in America would watch that.
- For pro teams with an established starting quarterback, training camp is a time to get a long look at the guys down the depth chart, both during reps and in how they work alongside the team’s stars during drills. I hesitate to make any evaluations based on drill work, during one day of practice, from 30 yards away, but the biggest play of the day came when Graham Harrell hit James Jones on a big pass down the right sideline behind the coverage. Both Casey Hayward and Tramon Williams sat out practice for the Packers, but it’s still probably nice for the Packers coaching staff to see Jones making big plays. His touchdown total from last year (14) is totally unsustainable, but Jones’s 2013 will be more about replacing the overall production Greg Jennings put together in the past few seasons.
- Kevin Greene, Green Bay’s outside linebackers coach and former NFL sack master, could quit the Packers tomorrow and reprise his role in the WWE. The long-hair, insane-beard combination is remarkable. He looks like a movie villain.
- While we’re on long hair, apparently there’s a booming industry in Wisconsin that produces sexually suggestive Clay Matthews T-shirts aimed at women. The two winners were probably “Claymate,” a Playboy bunny logo with long blond hair, and “52 Shades of Clay.” Matthews remains Green Bay’s biggest (read: only, ever) sex symbol.
- Because the Packers are usually the smartest guy in the room, it’s not surprising that they made my favorite first-round draft pick in UCLA’s Datone Jones. Since moving to a 3-4 defense several years ago, the Packers have lacked a true difference maker at the head-up defensive end position, and Jones profiles as a long, quick body who can hold up in the running game and also make some plays getting to the quarterback. Up close, it’s clear just how bulky he is. He’s reportedly gained almost 20 pounds from his playing weight during his final season with the Bruins. Jones was lining up with the first-team defense often today, and if he can maintain his quickness and be that much harder to move with the extra bulk, it won’t be a surprise to see him make an impact very early.
- The other high-profile Packers rookies are understandably the running backs — Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. Despite yesterday’s fat scare, Lacy looked just fine, in his uniform and running between the tackles, and Franklin busted off a long run during team drills that caused a stir from the crowd. I’m still of the opinion that we’ll see plenty of each back in different situations, but it was already obvious how much pop Franklin can add whenever he’s in the game.