The Packers have four new wide receivers in the mix for a roster spot. Five, if you count Brett Swain.
Swain, of course, isn't new, in the literal sense. He was a seventh-round draft pick last year who spent the entire season on the practice squad.
But Swain is new in a physical sense. Swain arrived in Green Bay as an unimposing 6 foot and 194 pounds. He's a couple pounds heavier now, but his body has undergone a transformation. A couple of them, actually.
"Last year, I fluctuated. I came in light and put on pounds during the season," Swain told Packer Report on Wednesday. "But I felt like I was just a little bit too heavy on the field — sluggish, not quick enough running in and out of my breaks. So, I kind of wanted to meet in the middle of being too light and being too heavy. I dropped a couple of pounds but tried to chisel up a little bit more and be more of a physical presence on the field."
After not being able to handle the Packers' aggressive press coverage during minicamps last year, Swain decided he needed to get bigger. He reported to training camp at about 204 pounds. But his speed suffered as he lugged around the extra 10 pounds. So, Swain spent this offseason working with the team's new strength and conditioning staff to slim down but get stronger while regaining the quickness that caught the Packers' attention after catching 105 passes during his junior and senior seasons at San Diego State.
"I've been working hard in the offseason on certain things," he said. "Upper-body strength was a big deal for me because I was having trouble getting off the press against guys like Al Harris and Charles Woodson. They're tough competitors on the line. In this league, you've got to be able to get off the line of scrimmage before you can do anything. Overall, just working more on core strength; just being able to get down the field faster."
Along with his new body is a new mental outlook. Not surprisingly given his draft status while joining a team with established receivers Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Ruvell Martin and top draft pick Jordy Nelson, Swain admits he tried too hard at times to impress the coaches. That led to mental and physical errors, and he never got close to pushing Martin for the fifth receiver spot.
Swain admits to "kind of getting flustered" during last year's training camp. But with a deeper knowledge of the offense, a year of experience, months of work against Harris and Woodson and a new body, Swain says he's more relaxed and confident.
It showed on the field during last week's open practice. While he wasn't perfect — he appeared to line up in the wrong spot on one play — he caught everything thrown his way.
"I don't want to say how much better I am because I see how physical ability gets different when you come in as a rookie than it is when you're a 12-year veteran. It's just all experience," he said. "You learn more things. You learn the offense better and become more confident on the field. That's all this league is: playing with confidence. The confidence is coming from me. It's still an uphill battle but I'm taking it day by day and working on the little things. That's what's going to make me more confident on the field."
That the Packers didn't draft a receiver for the first time since 2004 and only the second time since 1998 speaks to the confidence they have in Swain and the veterans. That the Packers added four undrafted rookies after the draft shows they're not satisfied.
So, while Swain knows he's in position to battle Martin to be the fifth receiver, he also knows the four rookies as well as practice-squad holdovers Jake Allen and Lorne Sam could leave Swain looking for work.
"Everybody's got a chance to make the roster," he said. "If you're here, they're going to give you a chance. You've got to take that chance and run with it. The opportunities are unlimited around this league. You never know when your number's going to be called, so you've got to be out there ready to play and ready to go."
Swain says all of this while sitting in the Packers' auxiliary locker room. About 45 feet away are the lockers of the Packers' established receivers.
"I definitely want to be out there real bad," Swain said. "Sitting in here, I get the view of it. It's tough being in here. I was out there last year for the beginning of the year. They booted me back here, and it kind of put things in perspective. Things come and they go go, and you've got to take things when they're here and run with it."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.