Notebook: Camp Practice No. 16-17

The Packers remain optimistic about Justin Harrell, despite the former first-round pick's concerns about his future after his latest back problem.

Tuesday night highlights

— Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was about as sharp as he had been for all of training camp during the first half of practice. During a team red-zone drill, he hit 3-of-3 passes, including a touchdown to Jordy Nelson with a beautiful touch pass. In a third-down blitz period, he also went 3-for-3, with completions to Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and Ruvell Martin.

In two-minute, however, he hit on a 30-yard completion to Driver, though Nick Collins would have blasted Driver had this been a live drill. Rodgers then mishandled a shotgun snap from Scott Wells, leading to a big loss. On fourth down, he made a bad read and wasn't even in the ballpark on a pass to Driver.

On his last pass of the night, he had Martin open in the back of the end zone but threw too high.

The No. 2 offense's two-minute drill ended when Brian Brohm overthrew the receiver and was intercepted by Charlie Peprah.

— While the linemen were battling, punter Jeremy Kapinos was being taught how to hold for field goals and extra points by kicker Mason Crosby and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum.

— Kregg Lumpkin exited practice early after being unable to fight through the pain of a sprained shoulder sustained on Saturday against Cleveland. Receiver JaRon Harris is out with a groin sprain.

No other fresh faces on the injured list: Cornerback Pat Lee (back), outside linebackers Clay Matthews III (hamstring) and Jeremy Thompson (groin/stingers), defensive ends Justin Harrell (back) and Johnny Jolly (ankle), and receiver James Jones (hamstring).

— The play of the day was more like the odd sight of the day, with big nose tackle Ryan Pickett scrambling into the flat to cover tight end Evan Moore. Matt Flynn's pass was incomplete, in part because Aaron Kampman's rush made for an incredibly tough throw.

Morning practice: Optimistic about Harrell

While Justin Harrell wonders if his career might be over, the Packers remain publicly optimistic that they might get something out of the disappointing 2007 first-round draft pick.

"No, I don't think anybody's talking in those terms," general manager Ted Thompson said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "That's not what our guys say on the medical end. I'm sure it's very frustrating for him. That's the kind of thing, I've never really had a bad back, but people tell me when you have one it's kind of debilitating, everything hurts, that sort of thing. But no, our medical people aren't talking in those terms."

Thompson said he couldn't offer any specifics regarding Harrell's troublesome back, but was optimistic the team's training staff and experts in the field could find a solution.

In his first two seasons, Harrell played in a total of 13 games. He was limited to six games last season, missing the first seven because of two surgeries on his back and the last three because of a hip problem related to the back.

He played well through the first week of training camp but he hasn't been a full participant at practice since the morning session on Aug. 6 and hasn't been on the field at all in about a week. Coach Mike McCarthy called the latest problem "back spasms," but Harrell said it's similar to the herniated disc he sustained in March 2008.

"Justin is definitely going through a tough spot right now," McCarthy said. "I think it's really too early to make that claim (that his career might be over). I know it's very frustrating, especially low-back injuries to come from. We're just gathering all of the information and trying to get him the best treatment possible and trying to get him healthy. But he's definitely going through a tough stretch here."

Matthews, Thompson still out

Speaking of nagging injuries, outside linebackers Clay Matthews III and Jeremy Thompson spent another day watching rather than competing.

McCarthy said the team is being cautious with Matthews (hamstring) and Thompson (stingers/groin) because of the recurring nature of their injuries. Asked if Matthews, a rookie, is behind because he missed a significant chunk of the offseason workouts too, McCarthy said: "He's not ahead."

"I know he is frustrated about it and I'm sure our coaches would like to see him out there, but we have confidence that he is a good football player," Ted Thompson said of Matthews.

Also out for the morning session were safety Atari Bigby (one-a-day schedule), cornerback Pat Lee (back), linebacker Brad Jones (one-a-day; back), center Scott Wells (one-a-day), left tackle Chad Clifton (one-a-day), defensive end Cullen Jenkins (one-a-day), nose tackle Ryan Pickett (one-a-day), receivers JaRon Harris (unknown) and James Jones (hamstring), defensive end Johnny Jolly (ankle). Nick Barnett took part in individual drills but again was held out of 11-on-11. All of the one-a-day players are expected to practice on Tuesday night.

Extra points

— The morning practice was a shorts-and-helmets affair. Even the "live" portions were done at less than full speed. At one point, Greg Jennings ran a deep route with Aaron Kampman easily in pursuit.

— McCarthy said the starters will play about 20 to 25 snaps against Buffalo on Saturday night.

Cornerback Al Harris, who with Charles Woodson was held out of the Cleveland game, isn't sure if he'll get to play against Buffalo, which features Terrell Owens and Lee Evans.

"He may hold us, he may release the hounds," Harris said. "You never know. You've got to ask Coach. I'm a pawn in the chess match."

Allen Barbre took the first reps during each phase of practice, even though he and Breno Giacomini are essentially co-starters at right tackle. Barbre got into a shoving match with Aaron Kampman after Barbre continued to block Kampman until well after the whistle.

— Kicker Mason Crosby remains on a roll. During a run-on field-goal drill meant to simulate the end of a half or game, he hit 3-of-3 into a stiff wind that was in his face and side-to-side.

Schedule

The Packers are off on Wednesday, then have their final two-a-day workouts on Thursday, at 8:45 a.m. in shells and 6:30 p.m. in pads. That's it for the week, then, with Friday's practice closed to fans and reporters, the second preseason game at home on Saturday against Buffalo and no practice on Sunday.


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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