Mike McCarthy wanted a more physical training camp. Coach, you've got your wish.
The most spirited practice around here in years included three fights on Tuesday night, the last of which was triggered when linebacker Brady Poppinga flattened Kregg Lumpkin just after Lumpkin caught a pass in the flat.
Rookie offensive linemen T.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith took offense and rushed toward Poppinga, with the fight going past the sideline and toward the bleachers, where the fans cheered wildly. When the dust settled, outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene exhorted the crowd to cheer some more and coach Mike McCarthy had the players take a break after a long and testy scrimmage period.
Afterward, McCarthy sounded mostly pleased with what transpired.
"I'll say this — and I probably shouldn't even say it — but we were 6-10 last year and we didn't have a damned fight all of training camp," he said with a smile. "So, I guess we're off to a hell of a start."
The first fight of the night started innocently enough, with Lumpkin getting stripped of the ball. The second came moments later after a pass, with Lang emerging without a helmet and one of the players getting shoved into McCarthy. The coach, minus his hat, huddled the players together and chewed them out. The players — maybe only the defensive players — broke from the huddle laughing. Linebacker Desmond Bishop, who has meted out his fair share of punishment, appeared to be part of both fights.
The laughing didn't last long. About 20 minutes later, Poppinga popped Lumpkin and all heck broke loose.
"I didn't see Brady's hit but it's unnecessary," McCarthy said. "We talk about it all the time. It's part of our practice ethic. When you have a teammate in a compromised position, we don't want to hurt anybody. Frankly, personally, I didn't see it. I was told what happened and had a chance to talk to Brady about it, but we're not looking for that. I'm not looking for a player to get hurt when it's unnecessary. That's not what we're teaching."
The common thread was the defense taking it to the offense for most of the live work. The quarterbacks spent a lot of the time running out of the pocket. The running backs spent a lot of time on the ground at or behind the line of scrimmage. On one play, Aaron Rodgers was chased out of the pocket immediately when Ryan Pickett split a double team. A frustrated Rodgers threw a fastball toward the sideline, where it almost hit a couple of his teammates.
"I'm not going to sit here and evaluate the emotion of 80 men," McCarthy said. "It's training camp. They're sore. It's an installation phase. Sometimes, the offense has a good play called. Sometimes, the defense has a better defense called. The frustration level gets high. They're competing, they're fighting for jobs, the team's coming together. That's why we're at training camp. I think it's normal."
The practice was the Packers' sixth of their physical camp and the second two-a-day. With a day off on Wednesday, McCarthy was pleased with the energy and passion.
"I thought it was a good practice,"he said. "This practice usually has a lot of energy in it, if you remember last year the night before they were off. You're going against each other every day. I think the energy level, the spirit, was normal. I'm fine with the activity, as long as it's during the play. I didn't appreciate some of the stuff that was going on after the plays were over. We cleaned it up and a hell of a practice. I thought the defense had a heck of a night tonight."
— New players sitting out were receiver Patrick Williams (hamstring) and lineman Duke Preston (back). Left guard Daryn Colledge got the night off, too, after injuring his thigh on Monday. Several players who rested during the morning, such as Pickett, Chad Clifton, Atari Bigby and Scott Wells, were back. Rookie cornerback Brandon Underwood, who missed a couple of practices, was back. McCarthy said Johnny Jolly's ankle is improving. "He showed up for the fight," McCarthy joked.
— The No. 1 offense ran a 2-minute drill to end practice. Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley, who beat Aaron Kampman, for about 25 yards and James Jones for 17 more, but on fourth-and-2 from the 10, Ruvell Martin dropped a slant in the end zone.
— The Packers will not practice on Wednesday. ESPN's Mike Tirico will be the guest speaker. They practice at 8:45 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. Both are full pads.
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