The Word: Training Camp Day 4

From artificial noise to historic field; Lee making most of opportunity; Harrell is sluggish

The last time the Green Bay Packers practiced at City Stadium, John F. Kennedy was president, Roger Maris was chasing Babe Ruth's 34-year old home run record, and Reggie White's birth was four months away.

Tuesday night, the Pack was back at City Stadium where they won six titles from 1925-56. Green Bay hadn't practiced at Curly Lambeau's domain since August 5, 1961 when Vince Lombardi held an intra-squad scrimmage.

McCarthy called Tuesday night's practice ‘spirited' and a ‘great atmosphere' to play in, with an estimated crowd of 3,500.

But the offense sure was rusty at times.

In the team's first two minute drill, the offensive line had multiple false starts, all three offensive units failed to put points on the board, and there were two bobbled snaps. No doubt. Brett Favre and his 36 career game-winning comebacks were sorely missed at this low point of training camp.

The offense has looked sharp in several other unique drills that directly affect the team.

Tuesday morning McCarthy blasted crowd noise on speakers from the sideline. The volume increased by down, simulating hostile environments Green Bay will face this season.

"It's just a game-situation emphasis," McCarthy said. "These are the things that you practice in the last week of training camp or early in the season. We have a number of games on the road this year in loud stadiums, especially in back-to-back situations. Six of our eight away games are back-to-back games. We're at Denver and then turn right around and go to Kansas City. We're in the dome in Detroit and then we have to go to Dallas. We're just making sure that our silent count is getting more reps than they did last year and adjusting as early as possible."

Another offensive-oriented drill the team has implemented sets a solid mental foundation for the young crop of receivers.

With the ball at the 20-yard line and no defense present, wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson stands in deep center and yells what type of coverage the secondary is in, whether it is "press," "cover 2," etc… The receivers run their route accordingly and Aaron Rodgers and co. are expected to hit their target in stride.

This establishes a valuable principle of the West Coast offense. Route adjustments are a natural on-the-line reaction, requiring no wasted time of checking with the quarterback. Favre thrives in this no-audible form of play-changing. It's particularly important late in games, when the offense is lucky to have any time to run an official play.

The offense's overall instincts are surprisingly high for such a green unit. Drills like these should translate success in practice to game day.

Here are some more notes from Green Bay's memorable night at City Stadium:

Offensive Play of the Day
Aaron Rodgers admits he scans the line for Ruvell Martin whenever a passing play is called and Martin agrees whole-heartedly that the two have maintained great chemistry the past three seasons. At City Stadium, they were at it again. On a ‘go' route, Rodgers didn't loft the ball up-for-grabs, as most quarterbacks would. He took an extra step in his dropback, fired the bomb 30 yards on a bee-line, Martin chased the ball down and snagged it at it's a highest point over defensive back Patrick Dendy.

After four days, James Jones has unquestionably been the most pleasant surprise at WR, but Martin isn't trailing by much in the race for the No. 3 spot behind Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Under the lights Tuesday, Martin hauled down three jump balls and muscled away a 10-yard grab even as Patrick Dendy hanged on him in his best Ahmad Carroll impression.

Defensive Play of the Day
During 11-on-11 on 3rd-and-five, Rodgers hit running back P.J. Pope on a swing pass to the left side.

Pope went nowhere.

A.J. Hawk has had a field day anticipating and tipping passes each day of camp. But it was his running mate, Nick Barnett, who stormed across the line of scrimmage to pop Pope. In a full-contact scenario, Pope would have looked a lot like San Francisco's Adam Walker circa 1995. Only Barnett had an even faster head-of-steam than Wayne Simmons did on that game-changing divisional playoff play.

Stock is Up
Bubba Franks was the universal whipping boy at tight end all last season and throughout the off-season. But his competition in 2007, Donald Lee wasn't far behind in the drops department. Lee only caught 10 passes for 150 yards in 15 games and two starts last year, never doing enough to play ahead of David Martin or Franks.

But it's a new season. Lee he has played like the starting tight end job is his to lose in camp. He has a considerable athletic edge over Franks and has shown improved concentration in every passing drill.

Still, Lee doesn't see this summer as a ‘me vs. him' battle. The tight end battle will be won in the preseason.

"I just see this training camp as a chance to get better," said Lee. "I just want to keep working hard and do the best I can. My knowledge of the offense is a lot better than it was at this point last year."

Stock is Down
The expectations are high.

The production has been slim.

First round pick Justin Harrell is still struggling to get into football shape. He has mostly worked with the second team defense and has done hardly anything to distinguish himself. It's difficult for any defensive tackle to shine in training camp. Contact is discouraged, bottling up the talent of guys like Harrell.

But Harrell's problems have been obvious. Tonight, as practice dragged on for 2 and 1/2 hours and the team began two-minute drill work, Harrell's fatigue worsened. After guard Travis Leffew manhandled him on the first play, the 16th overall pick went to the sideline immediately for a breather. Harrell admits he still isn't in ‘football shape.'

Two days ago, Harrell also appeared sluggish in a sled pop drill. He attacked the pad too high and was more apt to fall into it rather than explode through it.

Quite possibly, Harrell relied on athleticism and raw talent at Tennessee to dominate games. At the NFL-level he still has a distinct size advantage at 6-4, 310 lbs. But it will take a lot more coaching (and conditioning) than initially expected for Harrell to be a starter on Green Bay's defense. Thankfully, there is a lot of summer left and Harrell is in camp, not holding out.

He Said It
"Oh yeah, definitely. I came into this camp the same way I went into Chicago. I just have to try to do my job and not worry about what the coaches are thinking. I have to just go out and stay focused on what I need to do. Hopefully by the end of camp, I will have put myself in a good position."
- Running back P.J. Pope on if he believes Green Bay is a better opportunity for him than his last team, Chicago.


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