More Than Money Lures Packers to OTAs

Organized team activities are voluntary but the Packers had as perfect-as-possible attendance last week. Don't expect anything different this week. "This is a fun time of the year when the team starts to take shape and the chemistry starts to come together," Rodgers said.

Photo by Benny Sieu/USA TODAY

The Green Bay Packers begin their second week of organized team activities starting on Tuesday.

More than likely, attendance will be as close as possible to 100 percent, even though these are voluntary practices.

Last week, in the one practice open to reporters, only four of the 89 players on the roster were not present at Clarke Hinkle Field: veteran outside linebacker Julius Peppers and rookies Brett Hundley, Ty Montgomery and James Vaughters. Peppers was ill and Hundley and Montgomery were at the NFLPA-sponsored Rookie Premiere. Vaughters (like Montgomery) were student-athletes at Stanford and, by NFL rule, are not allowed to participate because school remains in session. (They will not practice until the three-day minicamp, which begins on June 16.)

“It’s a big part of our program, it’s a big part of our success,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re a draft-and-develop program. This is something that we’ve been doing for a number of years. I go back to my first year (2006), when I think we were at about 80 percent attendance (with veterans).

“The offseason program is very important. The players know how important it is and, I think moreso on an individual basis, I’d like to think that if you’ve asked the players, they know when they come back here that they’re going to get better — just the way we train, the facilities are phenomenal. This is a place where they can get better individually but also commit to the 2015 Green Bay Packers.”

Of course, there is a financial motive in play, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers and guard T.J. Lang pointed out with a smile and laugh.

“Well, a lot of us have bonuses in our contract,” Rodgers said.

In some cases, the bonuses are for big, big bucks. Rodgers is among five players who have $500,000 workout bonuses. For perspective, the league minimum base salary for this season is $435,000. A total of 16 players have workout bonuses of at least $100,000.

That’s strong financial motivation. Then again, Rodgers pocketed a $35 million signing bonus in his 2013 renegotiation. What’s another $500,000?

“Well, I say that a little tongue in cheek,” Rodgers said. “But as long as Mike’s been here, we’ve been a team that’s had a great participation in the offseason. Over the years, there’s only been a couple of guys annually that haven’t spent the majority of the time in Green Bay in the offseason. This is a fun time of the year when the team starts to take shape and the chemistry starts to come together and you see the young guys and what they can potentially add to the team, and you’re working through stuff. This is why I need to be here because there’s a couple of offenses — there’s one that’s on paper and there’s one that’s run in the game. You’re always trying to build a bridge between the two and that’s when you do it is right now.”

Lang also pointed to “workout bonuses” with a big laugh. But attending these voluntary practices is a no-brainer, he said. Players just go. There’s no debating among the veterans or trying to persuade the younger players. As a player, it’s about getting better. As a leader, it’s about setting an example for the next generation to follow.

“Honestly, I don’t think anybody would rather be anywhere else,” Lang said. “It’s a team game. You want to be part of the team. Even as an older guy, you always want to strive to become a better player, better leader in the locker room. Being anywhere else besides this locker room, that’s not a good way to achieve those goals. It’s two months out of the summer. Everybody’s up here working hard. It’s also a way to put last year behind you. You get on the field, you’re practicing with a new group of guys and you start looking forward to this coming season. It’s just part of being a good teammate and developing as a player and a leader.”

With a chance to get a better grasp on the inside linebacker position, it was important for Clay Matthews to show up. But that all of the key players are in Green Bay speaks volumes to what McCarthy and the team’s leaders have built.

“I think it's really important that we're here kicking off the season in the right way, especially being veteran leaders on this team and showing that we buy in and we're about improving and succeeding,” Matthews said. “Every year, you don't ever see complacency step in. You look at everyone's game — myself, Aaron, Randall (Cobb), the leaders of this team — and it continues to evolve. And it starts with this time right here. Rookies can look up to us and see how we handle our business and yet, at the same time, get a head-start going into training camp, as Mike always preaches.”

Bill Huber is publisher of 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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