The three-day orientation camp a great idea by McCarthy and his staff. It makes for an easier transition for younger players to the upcoming Organized Team Activities practices and mandatory June minicamp (June 17-19) in which the entire team will prepare for the 2008 training camp.
"It falls under the area of time management," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "In my experience, when you go through all the administrative things you need to, it's usually the first night of training camp and 90 percent of your football team has already been here. What happens is the pace of all the little things that are important is rapid and the guys who don't get it are the new guys. That's why we call (this) orientation. We spend the day today doing all the administrative aspects of a professional football player and the adjustments these guys need to make coming from college football.
"We're fortunate enough to get this group back May 16 and then we have plenty of time to get them ready for training camp (July 28). It's the ability to take all the administrative responsibilities, spend the time that's needed and get these guys adjusted to a new city and other things that is expected from them, then when we come back for training camp with our veterans, we get right into football."
The rookies on Friday had a chance to get a feel for the way the Packers practice - the various drills and pace. As usual, the team practiced in shorts and no pads, which makes it difficult to evaluate. Nonetheless, here are a few of my observations from the sideline of the Packers' draft class of 2008, plus a few others:
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson
Keep an eye on the team's first pick of the recent draft. He provided a snapshot of what is to come, and it's all good.
Nelson showed an ability to leap high into the air to catch a few passes in 7-on-7 and team drills as well as fight off a defensive back to catch a deep pass from Brian Brohm. Nelson catches the ball with his hands, which is a sign of a disciplined receiver. He is big, fast and tough and has great hands. The Packers put him in the slot position a few times during team drills, so he will be a big target over the middle. It's easy to see why general manager Ted Thompson selected him with the team's first overall pick.
Quarterback Brian Brohm
Brohm made some good intermediate throws, but didn't show great arm strength on deep passes. Some of his passes were wobbly, but he also threw some tight spirals on others. Still, he is very accurate with his passes. He seemed fairly comfortable, though, he has a lot to learn with the offense, which will make it tough for him to look real sharp in practices because of all the information he'll have to process with each play.
Defensive back Pat Lee
The first thing I noticed is that the Packers listed him as Pat Lee on the roster, not Patrick Lee. Other than that tidbit, he appears to have pretty good quickness and coverage ability. The true test for him will be in training camp when the pads go on. Then we'll see how he tackles and 'presses' receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Tight end Jermichael Finley
When Finley, who wears No. 88, has his back turned to you and helmet hanging off the back of his head, you'd swear he is a thinner version of Bubba Franks, who wore No. 88 for the Packers and often wore the helmet off the back of his head during breaks. The difference between the two? Finley should be able to do something after he catches the ball. He's pretty quick at turning upfield after catching a pass. However, it appears that he will have to put on more weight and get a stronger in order to block NFL-sized defensive ends and tackles. If he doesn't, he will have a tough time blocking and the Packers offense will suffer.
He has good quickness and is the same kind of build as Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Thompson should be able to give Gbaja-Biamila a push for the pass-rushing role, but we'll know more in training camp. Will Thompson develop some effective moves to get past offensive tackles and sack the quarterback? We'll see. He has the size and quickness, but now it's a matter of seeing if he can beat bonafide tackles like Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher rather than no-name rookie tackles.
Offensive lineman Josh Sitton
This guy is a load at 6-foot-3, 319 pounds. The Packers placed him at right guard during the team drills segment, so he may be competing for a spot there while Jason Spitz and Daryn Colledge duke it out for the right to start at left guard. How Sitton blocks in training camp with the pads on will, of course, be the determining factor. But Sitton certainly has good size and it appears he has decent quickness for the zone blocking scheme.
Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini
Like Sitton, Giacomini also has good size. At 6-foot-7, he is one of the taller lineman. It appears from watching him in blocking drills that he has good knee bend and can get low enough to make a cut-block. But blocking a dummy compared to a defensive lineman are two different things. Like Sitton, the jury will be out n Giamcomini till training camp. The Packers started him out at right tackle next to Sitton during team drills.
Quarterback Matt Flynn
Like he did at LSU, Flynn showed an ability to run with the ball out of the pocket. He has decent accuracy on short to intermediate passes. His arm strength on deep outs and fly patterns is questionable. As the preseason progresses, the Packers will know more if he's a keeper or not.
Wide receiver Brett Swain
He seemed a little jittery and dropped a few catchable passes. A longshot to make the roster, Swain will have to be nearly perfect in the upcoming minicamps and training camp to make the roster or the practice squad. Unfortunately, he wasn't after his very first practice with the Packers.
-- Division III standout running back Justin Beaver is getting a tryout this weekend with the Packers. He is "quick as a hiccup," as Mike McCarthy says, but his size will work against him. Beaver seems a little too small for the NFL at this point. If he can bulk up a little more, maybe he'll have a better chance of signing on with a team but right now it will be surprising if the Packers elect to sign him to a free agent contract after this weekend.
-- Talk about a tall target! Rookie Joey Haynos out of Maryland is 6-8, 264 pounds.