Rookie Duo Stands Out Along Defensive Line

After Friday's practice, Jerel Worthy's praises were being sung. After Saturday's practice, Mike Daniels got some attention. Head coach Mike McCarthy likes what he sees thus far in two rookies in an effort to put some "juice" back in the Packers' defensive line.

Nobody may have been more excited for the first padded practice of Green Bay Packers training camp than rookie fourth-round draft pick Mike Daniels.

On Saturday morning at Ray Nitschke practice field, he got his chance to go all out and it showed.

"It's football, baby. There's nothing else to say," said Daniels. "It's definitely a different level, a different speed, something I've been doing since I was a little kid. I just have to continue to work on getting better every day."

After missing all of the off-season practices recovering from a shoulder injury, Daniels was impressive in one-on-ones in just the third practice of training camp. On one play, he got leverage right off the snap against offensive lineman Mike McCabe and overpowered the rookie free agent, who injured himself on the play and had to be carted off with what coach Mike McCarthy called a hip injury.

When asked about the play, Daniels took a serious tone for his fallen teammate.

"I'm still sick about that," said Daniels. "I hope the best for him. I'm praying for him. I'm going to church tomorrow and I'm definitely going to shoot out a prayer for him. I really hope he can make a full recovery. He's an awesome dude and a tough kid and deserves to be there."

The Packers are preparing for the suspensions of Anthony Hargrove (eight games for the Saints' bounty program) and Mike Neal (four games for performance-enhancing drugs) by giving more reps in camp to their other defensive lineman. General manager Ted Thompson signed three unrestricted free agents this offseason (Hargrove, Daniel Muir and Phillip Merling), but thus far Daniels and second-round draft pick Jerel Worthy have stood out.

"I definitely felt Worthy and Daniels today," said McCarthy after Saturday morning's practice. "I thought the two young guys, they bring juice, not only in their personality and their attitude, but just the way they push and the activity they have in the trenches. I'm looking forward to watching the tape."

Last season, the Packers barely got any pass rush from their interior linemen. A Packer Report postdraft magazine story detailed this deficiency with the alarming numbers: just six sacks from six defensive linemen in 1,474 pass rushing opportunities.

The Packers no doubt will be looking to ease the snap count of nose tackle B.J. Raji, who, for the past two seasons, has basically been a three-down player whether the Packers run their base 3-4 defense or their nickel defense.

That gives Daniels and Worthy, two players similar in style but not in size (Daniels is 6-0, 294, and Worthy is 6-2, 304), a great opportunity. Daniels had 15.5 sacks in four years at Iowa and Worthy 12 in three seasons at Michigan State.

With lockers side-by-side in Green Bay, they seem to be feeding off each other.

"He definitely loves the game of football," said Daniels of Worthy. "He loves to bring energy. He's here and he's glad he's here. And he wants everyone to know he's glad he's here. And he's trying to bring that level of excitement. He definitely has a sense of urgency about him. I love being around him. I love being on the field with him. It helps me elevate my game personally.

"(I'm) not as vocal right now, but he's definitely covering up for it, though, and all that stuff will come. He's been doing this stuff and is a couple months ahead of me right now. He's out there and he loves it. That's awesome. That's someone I love to have on my team and be in the huddle with. Outside of all the talking he does, he's definitely focused. He comes in, he's in here early, he's always watching film and stuff, he's always in his playbook. He's given himself the right to be a little vocal for the work that he puts in."

Daniels gave no indication that his shoulder is an issue or that he is necessarily playing catch-up with the playbook because of missing practice time during the OTA's and minicamp. Instead, he is doing what he has always done, which showed on Saturday during one-on-ones.

"Every time I put my hand back down in the dirt, it just feels like - I've played defensive line as long as I can remember - so just having that feel for being out there, it just comes back to you," he said.

"The win will come. That's just with the hustle and the effort. Whenever you give great effort, whenever you hustle, it doesn't guarantee something good is going to happen, which in this case would be winning the one-on-one, but it increases the chance for it happening."

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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at

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