This camp was a little different because the coaches took the gloves off a little more. In the first camp the coaches were introducing ideas and concepts and were slowly allowing all the players to grasp it. They were allowing for mistakes. They understood even the veterans would have some problems making the adjustments, especially when it came to the implement of the new version of the West Coast offense, the zone blocking scheme as well as the new flexibility the quarterbacks will have in the offense.
So, in the first mini-camp missed reads by the quarterbacks were allowed or at least tolerated. McCarthy or Tom Clements, the quarterbacks coach, didn't expect Ingle Martin to understand the offense and not make bad reads or throws. Also some penalties again were tolerated such as jumping offsides by the defense, or illegal motion by the offense, but not the recent camp. The coaching staff threw more at the players, even though it was a voluntary camp, and it was nice to see guys there that didn't have to be there, like William Henderson, Donald Driver, Bubba Franks and Nick Barnett. I believe it was important for them to be there because they are the leaders and can help implement McCarthy's message. It was good for guys like Abdul Hodge to learn how to practice like a professional from a proven professional like Ben Taylor. Just as it was important for Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton to be able to get a feel of what Mike McCarthy expects from his offensive line. Aaron Rodgers seems to have a good grasp on the offense which means all of the time he has spent here this off-season so far has paid off.
Like I said, this mini-camp had a different tone. To a fan watching practice it would look the same as before, but things were certainly different. I say it with guarded optimism because I do know that everyone looks good in shorts, but I saw some guys that just might help the team. Trust me, that word "IF" is a scary word. As an ex-coach you never want to put too much pressure on any player, especially ones that are so young and unproven at the big boy level. This isn't college anymore. In every game they will be going up against the best players in the world and we will then see if they can pass the test of training camp, but for right now some people have caught my eye for different reasons:
-- Aaron Rodgers has because of his work effort and his eagerness to take control of this offense and this team. He conducts himself as if this is his team and he is the leader. He is preparing as if Brett Favre is gone. The way he is educating the receivers and running backs as they communicated about routes and audibles is awesome.
-- Another player that I found myself watching with interest was wide receiver Leo Bookman from Kansas. He has size, weight and speed. He ran bye defenders with ease. It was reported he ran a 40 clocked at 4.2 seconds which is flying. He stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 212 pounds. He looks like he can play, but again time will tell if he can play with the big boys when the bullets are real.
-- As I say this, someone else got my attention and that was Will Blackmon. Did he do anything that was super outstanding, no, but he just looks like he can be a player.
-- Roy Manning I believe will be a player for the Packers this year he was a rookie free agent last year and for some reason disappeared, but he might be really ready to be in the mix this year.
-- Hodge he might just be the steal of the draft. His aggressiveness and willingness to hit might just be what we have been waiting for.
-- A.J. Hawk of course wasn't at camp due to how Ohio State is set up with academics, but throw him into the mix with all the young linebackers and this unit might have gone from the weak link of the defense to perhaps the strongest.
-- Then there is Scott Wells he has taken the job of center and grabbed it by the throat.
As much as Mike McCarthy might have wanted some of the other veterans to show up, such as Al Harris or Charles Woodson, and he might have even wanted Kabeer to be there, but he can live with them not showing up because he knows what they can do. They are proven players in the NFL. He knows what they can do. If this team is going to turn things around it's not going to be because of how the proven players play, it's going to be determined by all of the "IF" players and how they do at MAKING STRIDES!!!!!!!!
Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. If you have a question for Harry, e-mail it to PackerReport.com managing editor Todd Korth at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will forward it to him.