Maybe the confusion and mysterious nature of these "practice" sessions is one of the reason that so many Packer veterans and free agents are absent from them.
Cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson are no shows. Ryan Pickett, the off-season's big free agent signing is another. Cornerback Ahmad Carroll, quarterback Brett Favre and fullback William Henderson have missed workouts. Rod Gardner and Mark Roman have also missed some days.
These practices are voluntary and technically players do not have to be there, so what is the big deal, right? It could be nothing. There is a new coaching staff that may have a different schedule than normal and the players in question could have legitimate conflicts that interfere. Maybe the veterans made plans based upon what Mike Sherman used to do and when the coaches changed, they could not get out of it. It is possible. That excuse, of course, does not apply to Woodson and Pickett, but maybe they made plans as best they could, based upon the uncertainty of their individual situations.
Ultimately, I do not buy any of it. When I was working in the NFL, I never made plans to do anything until the third week of June. I knew that there would be practices at some time after the draft all the way through Labor Day and into June. Why be disappointed by having to cancel my plans when inevitably there would be a conflict.
I did a little Internet search and the Cowboys, Eagles, Bears, Patriots and Saints are all practicing this week. That took two minutes. I am sure there are more teams with scheduled OTA's this month. It is not unknown to have workouts scheduled for this time of year. Conflicts are hard to accept knowing that this is the time of year when workouts happen. No one would accept this kind of excuse in late July.
It is imperative that with a new coaching staff and a new scheme, that everyone attend these workouts. The NFL realizes this. They give the teams with new coaches extra days to practice in the off season, knowing that there will be extra work needed.
I am not advocating that these workouts be mandatory or that there should be some penalty for missing them. I just worry about the state of the team when so many important players are absent for reasons unknown or mysterious. I am not forecasting doom or a season of doubt and pain because some important players missed some voluntary workouts. What would be nice and beneficial to the team would be that every player saw the importance of being present and did everything in their power to insure that they did not miss anything.
What I want is for Pickett to realize that he has underachieved in his NFL career and that it is important for him to be present. Same with Woodson. Roman should pout less and get to practice and work as hard as he can to keep his starting job. The last thing Carroll should be doing is missing camp. If you ask me he should have to impress some people to even keep his spot on the team. Harris is trying to send a message about his contract, but I think this team has proven that it has deaf ears when it comes to complaining cornerbacks.
Will this be foreshadowing of the type of team the Packers field this season? Will players do what is necessary to win? Will the effort be there across the board? I have my concerns given the number of the folks who have missed time. What kind of commitment do these guys have? What level of dedication can Mike McCarthy demand or expect from this team? What will he do to players who are obviously slacking or taking advantage of the situation? Height, weight, speed and God-given talent are the chief ingredients when forming a winning football team, but do not forget about the intangibles when cuts are made. It is a team.
Some of these guys may have legitimate reasons and if that is the case, I take it all back, but if they are just taking care of business or attending to personal matters that can wait, then it is inexcusable for them to be absent. These sessions may be voluntary, but intent and purpose show me a lot. And lastly, it is essential that this is where peer pressure comes in. Why do Aaron Kampman and Donald Driver have to be in town when these other guys are lounging around the pool?
The upside to all this is that there is more than enough time for this team to come together and consequently this could all be forgotten come August. But if this is indicative of how things will go, then call me nervous.
Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.