Rookies Will Sink or Swim in Crash Course

Rather than three months to get ready for the start of camp, the new arrivals will have had only about three days to get a feel for the playbook. Their first exam will come with tonight's first practice of training camp.

Typically, the Green Bay Packers' rookies would have had their noses in their playbooks for about three months. Because of the lockout, they've been in them for about three days.

"Dang! It's bigger than my Bible," fourth-round pick Davon House, a cornerback from New Mexico State, said of his first impression of the defensive playbook.

"It looked like a dictionary to me," third-round pick Alex Green, a running back from Hawaii, said of his first impression of the offensive playbook. "I was like, wow, what is this? But I opened it, went through it and it's nothing big. It's all football. Different terminology but it's all football. You only have so many plays for a running back going through the hole."

Rather than a rookie minicamp, four weeks of organized team activities and a minicamp, the 10 draft picks and 17 undrafted rookies will be running through plays for the first time during Saturday night's first practice of training camp.

That's a massive mental chasm to overcome.

"We've spent the last three days getting as many one-on-one meetings as we possibly can," coach Mike McCarthy said on Saturday morning. "Our assistant coaches have done a great job. From the time that the young players have arrived here in Green Bay, they've pretty much been meeting around the clock. We feel good about the prep work that we were able to get."

McCarthy installs the entire playbook over a nine-practice period he calls installations, each of which cover a particular phase of the game. How much the rookies can contribute to the team this season — or whether they even make the team — will be based in large part on how quickly they can digest what's being thrown at them in rapid-fire fashion.

McCarthy, however, didn't say the playbook will have to be curtailed to cater to his new arrivals, though they might be asked to contribute in special packages rather than across the entire spectrum of situations.

"I don't think it's that cut and dried," McCarthy said. "I think it's like anything you do in the game of football, it's what you ask of each player in his role. This, training camp is a big-picture time. It's time for everybody to learn the offense, learn the foundation of what's asked of them at their position. You may have to get more role-specific situations with your newer players quicker than you have in the past, obviously not having the spring. But they'll be pretty much asked to learn like they normally have. Just probably have to have a little more patience with them."

McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson have carefully crafted a roster that puts team above individual. So, the veterans on the team say they'll willingly answer the rookies' questions because it's for the good of the team.

"It's got to be tough" to be in their shoes, third-year offensive lineman T.J. Lang said. "The rookies, I know they've been meeting a lot. Going back to my rookie year, I remember how tough it was to grasp everything. We had OTAs and the whole offseason to do so. Those guys missed some valuable time. We have a lot of veterans who are going to help the young guys out. It's going to be a challenge for them. They're going to have to work hard, study hard, watch a lot of film, but I don't think it's a task that they can't handle."

Added running back Ryan Grant: "I'm willing to help whoever in whatever role we need to, because at the end of the day, Alex has to help this team win. We're one unit and we're going to do whatever it takes."

First-round pick Derek Sherrod got his diploma in 3.5 years and spent his senior season at Mississippi State working toward his master's. He's been meeting daily with offensive line coach James Campen and said he wasn't sure which position he'd be playing but he'd be ready when called upon.

"Yeah, it is a challenge going into something new, but that's why you have teammates and coaches to help you," Sherrod said. "It is my job to learn it as fast as possible. That's my intentions."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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