The defensive transition begins

The start of the offseason program signaled the start of the Packers' transformation to the 3-4 defense.

School is in session for the players on Green Bay's defense.

The offseason program, which began on Monday, kicked into high gear the unit's transition to a 3-4 defense from a longstanding 4-3 scheme.

"They have to mentally, first of all, learn what to do, what you're going to ask them to do," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said at Fan Fest last weekend. "So, it's assignment first. Then, it becomes technique or how to do it second."

While strength and conditioning will be emphasized during the first couple months with the entire team, the defensive players will ease into the new system by working with their position coaches.

The learning curve will be ratcheted up when organized team activities are held May 26 to June 18, followed by the full-squad minicamp June 23-25.

"Once we got on the field, we'll know how it works. Right now, we're just taking small steps," Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins said while meeting with reporters at Fan Fest.

Equating the adjustment in scheme "to speaking a foreign language" because of the different terminology that will have to be digested and processed by the players, Capers stressed the importance of offseason attendance for the veterans.

Exceptions will be made for players such as defensive end Cullen Jenkins (pectoral), linebacker Nick Barnett (knee) and safety Atari Bigby (ankle) who are coming back from season-ending injuries and won't be at full strength in the spring.

"We'll have to make sure we do a good job of keeping them mentally up on what their assignments are," Capers said. "Anything that we can do with them from a walk-through standpoint or just maybe a teaching progression in terms of technique, to try to get them prepared so when they do go on the field that they'll be prepared to make progress at that point in time."

Collins doesn't foresee the big overhaul of the defense to be a daunting endeavor from a learning standpoint.

"It's football," he said. "If you can't play football on this level, you don't need to be in the league. You've just got to go out there and get the terminology down and just go from there."

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at

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