OTA notebook: QBs are under the gun

Blitz periods challenge quarterbacks; taking it easy on Clifton; role call; and more from Wednesday's OTA practice.

In one breath, Packers coach Mike McCarthy was praising rookie second-round quarterback Brian Brohm. In the next, he was dispensing criticism toward his young quarterbacks.

Such is life when the three quarterbacks on the roster have a combined zero professional starts.

Meeting with reporters at Lambeau Field on Wednesday afternoon, McCarthy delivered some surprisingly tough words to his offense considering it's only the first week of June.

"(Tuesday's) practice was not particularly good at all for the offense. It was probably as poor of a practice as we've had here in a while, just with a bunch of turnovers."

McCarthy said the heat is on his young passers, both literally and figuratively. Practices have been dedicated to challenging the quarterbacks with blitz-heavy and third-down periods.

"It really challenged the offense from a protection standpoint," McCarthy said. "The young quarterbacks have to really step up and fight through that because they are going to get some tough looks in these types of practices."

One moment that bothered McCarthy came when first-year starter Aaron Rodgers was knocked to the turf during an 11-on-11 period. The sight of Rodgers on the ground, however, didn't aggravated the coach nearly as much as the interception.

"You never want to see any of your quarterbacks on the ground," McCarthy said, "but based on what happened up front, there is a reason why he was. It was something that I didn't think was out of the realm of a practice environment. You still don't need to throw the ball late over the middle like that."

Some other quick hits not reported here on Wednesday afternoon:

‘Smart' with Clifton

McCarthy is taking it easy on standout left tackle Chad Clifton. Orrin Thompson worked with the No. 1 offense in place of the eighth-year pro for the second week in a row. McCarthy said he's "just being smart with Chad," which could be translated into saying Clifton likely won't do much at the three-day minicamp that begins June 17.

On the plus side, that means more opportunities for a number of young linemen fighting for playing time or roster spots.

"He's got some nicks and things, so it really gives other guys an opportunity, as you all know, with how young we are in the offensive line," McCarthy said. "I think there is going to be some big-time competition come training camp in that group. Chad has been very steady for us, so we're just being smart with him."

On the sideline

While Al Harris appeared at OTAs for the first time this offseason — meaning the Packers' starting secondary was intact — the starting defensive line was a mess, with only Aaron Kampman where he belonged.

Veteran Ryan Pickett was absent with family obligations. Added to injuries to Justin Harrell (back surgery), Johnny Jolly (shoulder) and Daniel Muir (pectoral), starting end Cullen Jenkins and first-year pro Alfred Malone manned the tackle spots with the No. 1 defense.

Other notable players on the sideline: defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee), cornerback Will Blackmon (foot), offensive lineman Tony Moll (knee), fullback John Kuhn (groin), running back Ryan Grant (unsigned) and undrafted tight end Joey Haynos (hamstring).

Extra points

— The agent for former Justin Beaver told PackerReport.com that the former UW-Whitewater star running back will work out for the Buffalo Bills on Monday.

— According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, offensive tackle Joe Toledo was released this week. Toledo, who spent last season on Miami's injured reserve with a knee injury, was signed in late February.

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com

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