The usual suspects were nowhere to be seen in the first of four opportunities that the public was given Thursday to watch the Green Bay Packers conduct an Organized Team Activities practice at Ray Nitschke Field. The Packers began the first of 12 voluntary OTA workouts on Wednesday.
Like last year, cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Al Harris, and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett were not present. It is unclear whether either of the three will attend any of the OTA practices, but don't hold your breath. Woodson, like last year, is training in Houston and doing well, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Harris is in Florida and training, though, unlike last year, content with his current contract.
Pickett, who skipped the OTA's last year, appears to be taking the same approach this year by training at his off-season home in St. Louis.
The good news: Woodson, Harris and Pickett all played well last season for Green Bay, despite missing the OTAs. While it would be good for them to be in Green Bay around their teammates, it is better that they report to training camp in top shape and the right frame of mind.
Even better news: many of the team's veterans have plans to attend as many of the practices as possible, including Brett Favre. With an offense surrounded by questions, it is imperative that Favre be on hand.
Favre will be participating in 9 of the 12 practices, according to McCarthy, which can only help the Packers' offense. Unless some veteran free agents are signed soon, the Packers will enter this season with a very young offense around Favre. Though he sat out of team drills during the team's mandatory minicamp less than two weeks ago, Favre began participating in team drills this week.
McCarthy has been impressed with Favre's overall physical condition as well as his commitment to the team.
"He's full go," said McCarthy. "He's in excellent shape for this time of year. We have the body scan that we do on every player, and in talking to the trainers during practice, they haven't read the full report but they felt this is the best one they've seen on him yet. So, I think that illustrates what he's been doing and his preparation physically to get ready."
Favre's presence also will help players around him understand his tendencies, whether it is part of the play or not, in a setting that is not as cut-throat as training camp. Wide receiver Ruvell Martin provided an example of a ‘Brett-ism.'
"Brett came out there today and started doing some of his little Brett things that he does, making different checks at the line, where nobody else would make that check," Martin explained. "Not that Aaron (Rodgers) can't make the check, it's just coach might say something to him if he does it, rather than if Brett does it. But it's realistic. It's not that he's making up stuff that we're not doing. It's stuff that's in, but we may not have gotten to it yet. It's just review. When Brett comes in, you're right up to speed and you're right where you left off."
The Packers will try to improve an offense that struggled to score points in the red zone last year, so with Favre and veteran wide receiver Donald Driver and the entire offensive line attending the voluntary practices, it's a step in the right direction.
"The most important thing for Brett is to get the individual timing with the players that he has played with, and the newer players, and to go through the adjustments we've made schematically and just get the little details cleaned up," McCarthy said. "The other thing that's going on with Brett is, I've done this process every year with the quarterback that was the starter in every offense that I've coordinated, you go through this time of year, and if there's anything you absolutely don't feel you need, it's time to throw it out. As I've walked through this business, reducing is a constant. The more you can reduce I think it gives your players the opportunity of doing less and being more comfortable, so we'll go through that whole process and that's why it's important for him the nine of the 12 days, we're going to go through all nine installations with him and get it cleaned up and tightened up, ready for training camp."