Notebook: Mental replaces physical

Training camp is toned down; Chillar replaces Hawk; injury update' and much more from Thursday's no-contact workout.

For players fighting for roster spots or playing time, they'll have to shine on game days.

Because the Packers had only two practices to get ready for Saturday night's game at San Francisco, and will have only three to get ready for the following game at Denver (on a Friday) and three for the preseason finale against Tennessee (on a Thursday), practice has been toned down quite a bit. The days of grueling two-plus-hour, high-intensity practices based on competition are over, having been replaced by a typical regular-season schedule focusing on mental over physical acumen.

"We'll have competitive periods," coach Mike McCarthy said after Thursday's no-contact practice, noting Wednesday night's two-minute drill. "We're in game-plan practice structure now."

McCarthy disputed the notion that the coaches are doing an "extensive" amount of game planning for the preseason games. Instead, the intensity has been scaled back because of the schedule and the youth of the team.

"I've been involved in more (game planning) and I've been involved in less," he said. "I know earlier in my career, we never game planned preseason games; not until the third game. The third game was the only game we got into a game plan. I know from my experience here, we got into game planning earlier because of the youth of our football team. There's a point in training camp where you have to transfer from an installation phase into a game-plan phase."

Injury update

— Out Thursday were receivers Greg Jennings (knee) and Brett Swain (quad), tight end Tory Humphrey (Achilles), running backs Ryan Grant (hamstring) and DeShawn Wynn (ankle), linebackers A.J. Hawk (chest) and Desmond Bishop (Achilles), offensive tackle Orrin Thompson (ankle), safety Charlie Peprah (hamstring) and defensive linemen Ryan Pickett (hamstring), Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee) and Justin Harrell (back). It's likely none of those players will face the 49ers.

Offensive line

The starting offensive line was the same as Wednesday: left tackle Chad Clifton, left guard Jason Spitz, center Scott Wells, right guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Mark Tauscher. The No. 2 line: left tackle Daryn Colledge, left guard Allen Barbre, center Junius Coston, right guard Tony Moll and right tackle Breno Giacomini.

At one point, Spitz was at left guard and Colledge at right guard. They opened camp starting in the opposite spots.

McCarthy said Sitton will start for the second straight preseason game.

"He needs to play," McCarthy said. "He needs to see all of the stunts and games and three-man games and the tendencies."

Getting defensive

— The No. 1 defense had a dominating red-zone session against the scout-team offense. Nick Collins and Charles Woodson almost intercepted Brian Brohm, and Woodson came back the next play to intercept Matt Flynn.

Woodson also picked off an ugly out pattern by Brohm. Woodson caught the ball in stride and would have scored in a game situation.

Replacing Hawk

With Hawk out for Saturday, Brandon Chillar will take over on the weak side. Hawk and middle linebacker Nick Barnett have been practically joined at the hip with the No. 1 defense since Hawk was drafted in the first round in 2006.

"A.J.'s A.J., but Brandon's doing a great job filling in for that role," Barnett said of Chillar, who came to Green Bay to challenge Brady Poppinga on the strong side. "He's a very athletic guy. We gel real good together. We're both Cali(fornia) boys. He's doing great. He's holding it down til A.J. gets back."

Quick hits

— McCarthy said his "target" is for the starters to play "30, 30-plus" snaps against the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers played 23 snaps against Cincinnati on Monday.

— The offense got ready for the road game by practicing with crowd noise throughout practice.

— Undrafted rookie Jake Allen was a long shot to make the team to begin with. Then, he missed a week with a groin injury. Since he's returned, the former Division III star has had a serious case of the drops. He dropped two passes on Thursday, including a crossing route against air. The second drop came after Aaron Rodgers looked off a defender, clearing the middle for Allen. It would have been a big gain.

Donald Driver also had a drop. He beat Scorpio Babers on a go route but had a pass from Rodgers go through his hands. Players like Driver can afford an occasional mental lapse because they have a stellar track record. Players like Allen, with no NFL track record and getting only minimal chances in preseason games, must shine at every opportunity.

— Rookie corner Pat Lee continues to impress after a slow start to camp. He made a leaping pass breakup of a corner route to Ruvell Martin.

— Rodgers, from nearby Chico, Calif., will be the offensive captain Saturday at San Francisco.

— Brohm again will follow Rodgers in the quarterback rotation, and Flynn will finish. Flynn is getting more snaps at practice since he and Brohm share the scout-team reps.

— During the last two days, scout-team players have worn a No. 85 to represent tight end Vernon Davis and No. 94 to represent defensive end Justin Smith.

Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at

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