McCarthy, troops take field

First off-season mini-camp under way

The Green Bay Packers' franchise player for the last 14 years and their first-round draft pick met on the field Friday during the teams' first mini-camp practice in the Don Hutson Center. During team drills, quarterback Brett Favre rolled right, couldn't find an open receiver and turned it upfield where linebacker A.J. Hawk was waiting. Hawk had him squared up and, if it were a live game, could have drilled him.

Instead, Hawk flashed a smile and Favre smiled back.

There were a lot of smiles on the faces of Bob Harlan and Ted Thompson, who were on the field, as well as the players and coaches who were excited to get into the groove of the new regime headed by coach Mike McCarthy. Well, veteran receiver Donald Driver quipped he wasn't *that* excited to start the daily grind again, but even he and the other vets seemed reinvigorated by the new atmosphere.

McCarthy was upbeat during the crisp, fast-paced practice. Assistant coaches were constantly chattering.

"No walking, we're not going to do that here," said tight ends coach Ben McAdoo between reps of a tight ends drill. "Finish, finish," McCarthy said in an encouraging, positive, upbeat tone.

"I thought the tempo was good," McCarthy said after practice. "If we practice at that tempo, we're going to be fine. This weekend, we're going to offensively put in the first two installations. So pretty much the foundation of our first and second (downs). It will be repeated at the second mini camp and then we'll introduce third down."

Running backs Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport participated in warm-ups and ran agility drills side-to-side and straight ahead, but McCarthy said they won't be participating in mini-camp practices. That left Samkon Gado as the starter, and McCarthy was impressed with the second-year player's smarts and quickness.

"(Gado) has a complete understanding of what's asked of him," McCarthy said. "He knows the assignments, picked up the pre-snap shifting. He's very explosive. You saw that in some of the lead zone runs, he came through there pretty clean."

Favre looked sharp, tossing several laser-beam out passes and hitting several receivers deep in stride. In seven-on-seven drills, Favre hit Driver for a deep gain as Driver welcomed rookie Will Blackmon, a fourth-round draft pick from Boston College, to the NFL. Free agent wide receiver Ruvell Martin, a 6-foot-4 receiver with a ton of raw talent, made the catch of the day – diving for a deep ball from Favre and catching it over his head with outstretched arms.

Aaron Rogers was also sharp, and McCarthy praised him for his intelligence and grasp of the system after spending the off-season in Green Bay in the quarterbacks school. Rogers threw a quick check-down to William Henderson when linebacker Roy Manning came on a blitz and also hit wide receiver Rod Gardner deep.

Quarterback Tom Arth looks more like a skinny point guard than a beefy quarterback but also participated in the quarterback school and looked sharp on some plays. Rookie signal-caller Ingle Martin threw a pick and looked raw.

With left tackle Chad Clifton sitting out practice after recent right-knee surgery, the first offensive line unit was: Adrian Klemm, LT; Daryn Colledge, LG; Scott Wells, C; Junius Coston, RG; Mark Tausher, RT. Kevin Barry worked at RG and Will Whitticker at both tackle positions. But it's still early and the team is experimenting with different players at various positions.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings, a second-round pick, showed promise with speed and fluidity out of his breaks. McCarthy said he reminded him of Driver.

On defense, new cornerback Charles Woodson wore jersey number 2. He has applied for league clearance to wear the number as a cornerback. The former Oakland Raider looked fast and sharp in his first practice, with no ill effects from last year's broken leg, which he said is completely healed. He and fellow cornerback Al Harris made it tough on Favre and the other quarterbacks to find a receiver. On one play, Woodson broke on an out route, fell, but still managed to make the pick on his knees. He said he should have had another pick.

When asked who's the best corner in the league, the polite but confident Woodson responded, "Me." Receiver Robert Ferguson did beat him deep on a play, but the ball wasn't thrown their way. Woodson, whose interception totals have gone up and down through the years, says all he needs is for the ball to be thrown his way to make his total shoot back up this season.

Safety Marquand Manuel, signed from the Seattle Seahawks, did not practice as a precautionary measure due to a groin injury that he sustained last season. New defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, signed from the St. Louis Rams, looked svelte at 322 pounds, pursuing downfield 30 yards on a flare pass up the sideline.

At linebacker, the starters were: Hawk at weak; Nick Barnett at middle; Roy Manning at strong. Rookie Abdul Hodge backed up Barnett and looked fast and athletic on several plays, including a deep drop in switch he deflected a pass.

On special teams, B.J. Sander shanked his first punt but recovered to nearly bounce one off the peak of the roof of the Hutson Center. Newcomer Jon Ryan, who shined in the Canadian Football League last year, showed he could punt at least as far, if not farther, than Sander.

Woodson showed confidence and soft hands catching punts. Rookie wide receiver Cory Rogers, a fifth-round pick, dropped at least one ball and had trouble locating another.

Other players who didn't practice on defense because of injuries or off-season surgeries included: Linemen Donnell Washington, Tim McGill, Kenny Peterson and sixth-round pick Johnny Jolly; defensive backs Jason Horton and Jeremy Thornburg; linebackers Brady Poppinga and Kurt Campbell. On offense, running back Chaz Williams did not practice.

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