The Word from Wednesday

Pickett is read to go, sympathizes with Harrell; defense attacks; rookie Thompson shows his stuff

Ryan Pickett feels for Justin Harrell.

The former is an eight-year veteran that's day-to-day with a hamstring injury.

The latter is a second-year player on the verge of bust-hood, currently at week-to-week status with a back injury. Harrell would've had a great chance to earn the starting defensive tackle spot next to Pickett, but is rendered to idly roaming the sideline in a ball cap.

Pickett has seen Harrell's frustration on a daily basis.

"He's frustrated, because he's a guy that can play," Pickett said. "That's all he wants to do. So, it's kind of frustrating because he has high hopes for himself. He's young and wants to prove himself. I told him just to take his time and get healthy."

Considering coach Mike McCarthy said Harrell would be ready for training camp back in June, such a blunt "week-to-week" forecast could translate to the Packers' 2006 first-rounder not being ready for Week 1 of the regular season.

"I know he is a little frustrated with his progress," McCarthy said. In the meantime, Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole have operated as the starting defensive tackles. Jolly remains entangled in legal troubles, but appears recovered from last year's season-ending rotator-cuff injury.

Pickett should be able to strap on the pads soon.

"My hammy's good," said Pickett, slapping his hamstring at his locker. "I'm working hard to get back on the field. It's a day-to-day thing, just to see how far I can push it each day. It's coming along pretty good. Whenever they clear me to go, I'll be ready. I've been staying in shape by running."

Pickett's recovery is vital for the Packers' defense. In his two seasons, the 6-foot-2, 330-pound tackle has done the dirty work inside to keep linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk clean. One of Ted Thompson's first big-money signings, Pickett has totaled 155 tackles in two seasons.



During his camp-opening news conference, McCarthy claimed the Packers' identity would be defense. This may have been a marketing move to divert some attention away from the Brett Favre saga that continues to take turns for the worse, but it certainly has merit.

Through the first three days of training camp, Green Bay's defense is ahead of its offense. On Tuesday, it rattled Aaron Rodgers with a series of blitzes and on Wednesday, Desmond Bishop had the play of the morning by intercepting a Brian Brohm pass and taking it back for a would-be touchdown.

Despite boasting arguably the best receiving corps in the league, the Packers' offense has turmoil under center, a messy contract holdout at running back and uncertainty at left guard. The defense, however, returns all 11 starters — although the strong-side linebacker and free safety spots are up for grabs.

McCarthy's claim that Green Bay will be a defense-first team fired up Pickett.

"You look at all championship teams, and they all have championship defenses, so Coach is starting in the right spot," Pickett said. "The defense loves to have all that on our back. We love to carry the load. We absolutely love that."


Thompson making strides

The emergence of a young defensive end would make things flexible along the line. Maybe, Cullen Jenkins would move back inside to defensive tackle, where his quickness would flourish. Maybe, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and his $6.6 million cap figure would become expendable. Maybe, the Packers would simply have another third-down weapon to give offensive coordinators fits.

Three days into training camp, rookie Jeremy Thompson has shown flashes of setting such scenarios in motion. He is the only draft pick Ted Thompson has traded up for in three seasons — that alone speaks volumes. At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, Thompson has the prototypical physique of a speed rusher, and as a senior at Wake Forest he got to the backfield (6.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles).

On Wednesday night during one-on-ones, Thompson left Tony Moll in the dust, not once, but twice. First on an outside rush, second on an inside move. More reps like these will warrant serious looks from the coaching staff. If Thompson parlays his performance into Family Night and the preseason, the defensive line could see a shakeup.

For now, though, Thompson will take center stage for another reason. His brother, offensive tackle Orrin Thompson, is vying for a roster spot and the duo frequently face each other on the line.

"I'll be honest with you, I think we all fall into that mode from a coaching and player standpoint," McCarthy said. "The only time I really think about it is when you guys ask me a question. But I think that's a very special, unique situation, having your brother in camp with you.

Tyler Dunne is a regular contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

Packer Report Top Stories