Notebook: Strange sights at practice

Also from Monday: Nelson joins No. 1 kickoff return unit; focus not on Vikings; and much more.

Undrafted rookie receiver Taj Smith split out wide to the left. Covering him was Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris.

Not an unusual sight most days, but the circumstances on Monday were markedly different. Smith was running with the first-team offense, while Harris was working with the scout-team defense.

Welcome to the final days of training camp.

Coach Mike McCarthy will rest the vast majority of his starters for most of Thursday's preseason finale against Tennessee. That includes quarterback Aaron Rodgers — with zero professional starts to his credit — who will play a series of two. With rookies Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn splitting the first-team reps, Rodgers didn't throw his first pass in a competitive drill until 11:52 a.m., or 67 minutes into practice.

To kill time, Rodgers worked as a defense back as part of an all-offense scout-team defense, and even ran down the field to give a look to the No. 1 kickoff return team.

"I'd rather actually take a few more reps," Rodgers said with a smile, "but I realize that the younger guys are going to get some more reps this week, so it's good for them to see a lot of different looks and get more reps in practice. I help out in any way I can."

Focus on Tennessee

Even though the starters will play sparingly — if at all — against the Titans, McCarthy says the focus is on Tennessee, not the Week 1 showdown with Minnesota.

"No, we're working on Tennessee," McCarthy said. "This has been our focus. The starters might not play much, but we haven't done any work on Minnesota. We've had a time in training camp where we had a chance to work on those guys, offseason studies and so forth. With us having a long week (leading to the Monday night opener), I am very confident that our team will have plenty of time to get ready for the Vikings."

Rodgers, too, said he's not looking ahead to the Vikings.

"No, I'm focused on Tennessee," he said. "I've watched a lot of film this week, even though I'm not play as much as Matt and Brian. I definitely want to play well in the time I get."

Nelson joins No. 1 kickoff return

A week after ripping off two big kickoff returns at San Francisco, rookie Jordy Nelson is going to get a shot with Will Blackmon on the No. 1 kickoff return on Thursday.

"I think that's the way it's going to be for this game. I don't think anything's set in stone, but it's a switch from last week to this week," the second-round pick said. "It'll be good to be back there, and hopefully we can get some big returns."

Including a 24-yard return against Denver last week, Nelson is averaging 46.0 yards on three returns this preseason.

Injury report

Absent Monday were defensive backs Atari Bigby (ankle), Charles Woodson (knee bruise) and Charlie Peprah (hamstring), defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (hamstring), linebackers A.J. Hawk (chest) and Brandon Chillar (back), center Scott Wells (back), guard Josh Sitton (knee sprain) and receiver James Jones (knee bruise).

Extra points

— In one-on-one pass-rush drills, rookie Breno Giacomini continued his progress, winning three times and getting at least a draw against Jason Hunter. Defensive tackle Daniel Muir had three decisive wins, including a big-time swim of Ryan Keenan and two routs of Junius Coston, including one in which Coston slipped and fell on his back. Starting tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher went 1-0. In an entertaining dual, newcomer Rodney Allen shoved Allen Barbre to the ground for a win that earned many kudos from his defensive teammates. They had a rematch on the next snap, with Barbre pushing Allen to the turf.

— Tight end Tory Humphrey had two passes go through his hands while running routes against air. One was a tough catch in the end zone, but the first was an easy one in the flat.

— Look out for rookie Brett Swain, who has really come on strong. He had perhaps his most productive practice of training camp, and with Jones injured, Swain might have a chance to be the No. 5 receiver on opening night.

— Cornerback Joe Porter made back-to-back strong plays, breaking up a pass to Ruvell Martin and almost intercepting Flynn.

— Undrafted receiver Jake Allen, who has dropped too many passes during camp, juggled a pass from Brohm and was drilled by Tyrone Culver for an incompletion.

Mason Crosby connected on all seven field-goal attempts, ranging from 22 to 38 yards.

— Safeties Aaron Rouse and Nick Collins dominated a red-zone drill. Rouse intercepted two passes by scout-team quarterbacks Brohm and Flynn, and Collins picked off Brohm will playing for the scout-team defense.

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and E-mail him at

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