Back surgery, 2½ months in a cast and baby steps at the start of a long rehabilitation have left wide receiver Johnny Knox looking like a sliver of his former self, but he's doing his best to stay positive.
Last offseason the 6-0 Knox bulked up to a ripped 185 pounds. But he lost at least 30 pounds in the months after last December's injury, and he's gained back only about 10 pounds.
He doesn't appear to be anywhere close to playing football, and he might not be back this season at all.
"It could happen," he admits, "but I'm staying optimistic. My main focus is in that weight room. I'm not in a rush. This is my spine, the core of my body that I'm dealing with, so I'm taking my time on this."
Knox has purposely not watched replays of the collision that bent him backwards and could have left him paralyzed were he not in elite physical condition. Knox is no longer in pain, but he can't do much more than jog or lift light weights.
"Since Day One my mindset has been real positive, no letdowns, no setbacks," he said. "I'm surrounded by a great group of people, a great organization – friends, family, they're keeping me positive, and I'm staying positive moving forward.
"I want to get back out there at the beginning of the season, but who knows? We'll see how it turns out."
"Devin Hester is probably having the best camp of all the receivers," quarterback Jay Cutler said Wednesday after just the second of 10 scheduled OTA practices. "We've got a lot of weapons. I think management is going to have a tough job figuring out what four, five or six guys we want to keep (at wide receiver)."
Contrary to others, Cutler doesn't believe Hester will be more effective with less playing time.
"I don't think less plays is the answer for him," Cutler said. "I think we're just going to put Devin in position to be successful every time he's out there. He's getting more and more comfortable with me, and I think this offense suits his abilities a lot better."
"Right now it's hard to tell," Cutler said. "We don't have any contact out here. We can't really get a good look at those guys, and I don't think it would be fair to any of those guys competing to say where they're at until we get into camp and we get the pads on and see what we've got."
Chris Williams took the first snap with the first team at left tackle on Wednesday, but last year's starter, J'Marcus Webb, also worked with the ones. Webb started all 16 games last season with mediocre results but said he still considers himself the starter.
Williams, who was drafted in the first round (14th overall) in 2008 as the left tackle of the future, missed the first half of his rookie season after suffering a back injury early in training camp and played sparingly the second half of the season but did not start any games.
He started all 16 games in '09, 11 at right tackle and five at left tackle. After two starts at left tackle in '10, he started 11 games at left guard, where he opened the season last year. After nine starts, he suffered a dislocated left wrist.
Now Williams is back where he began and eventually failed.
But the competition between the two may not be decided until late in training camp.
"I feel good about it," said Webb, a seventh-round pick who started 12 games at right tackle in 2010 as a rookie. "I'm working hard on my footwork and my hands (placement), and I definitely feel that a competitive side of it will come in training camp, and I'm happy to be back out here."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If off-the-field isn't right, then nine times out of 10, it's going to be real hard to perform on the field." – WR Brandon Marshall.
Linebacker Stephen Tulloch is not likely to win this battle. He would love to be back on the field when the Lions start mandatory minicamp in June but from the sound of it, the coaching staff is going to keep him out until training camp.
"I feel good," said Tulloch, who is nursing tendinitis in his left knee. "I will miss a couple of OTAs but I will be ready. I've never missed a game in my career. I know what it takes to take care of my body. I know what I need to do to get right and be able to give 100 percent."
The Lions made a five-year, $25.5 million commitment to Tulloch in March, so they want to make sure his streak of 96 straight games played continues. Coach Jim Schwartz estimated on Monday that Tulloch could be out three to four weeks.
"I would like to be there," Tulloch said. "It's hard for me not to be out there with the guys. There is nothing like being out there. I am trying to push to it. They (the coaches) are trying to slow me down and I am trying to speed up."
"There will be guys who miss for a variety of reasons," Schwartz said. "The one thing you don't want to do at this time of year is push through an injury situation. There comes a time when you have to push through, during the season and even in training camp. Now the really important thing is getting right and getting healthy."
"Right now, it's just going through the rough spots and trying to get the rust off," he said. "I haven't defined anything yet that I want to work on, nothing that I saw last year that I was lacking in."
Suh followed up a 66-tackle, 10-sack rookie season with 36 tackles and four sacks. He got more notoriety for his personal fouls and two-game suspension than he did for his work on the field. He was asked, in light of what happened last year, if this was an important season for him.
"It is a very important year for myself," he said. "Every year I want to out-do the previous year. My rookie year was good. Last year was indifferent. This year we have an opportunity to have an outstanding year. But, again, it doesn't really matter because it's a team game. I want to win. That's all I want to do."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't want to speak for the guys who got busted but it's just too easy to be immature. It's always been that way. You are young and it's the NFL and it's the big time and you got money – it's just too easy to be stupid." – Kicker Jason Hanson on the offseason drug arrests of three second-year players.
Green Bay Packers
Clay Matthews is indeed back to playing right-side outside linebacker.
After a glimpse into defensive coordinator Dom Capers' future plans came to light by having first-round draft pick Nick Perry line up at left-side 'backer during the rookie orientation camp, the new alignment was unveiled. Perry stayed on the left side, and Matthews played opposite the rookie with the first-string unit on the opening day of organized team activities May 22.
"To me, this is a learning phase and an information phase," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We're looking at a number of different things. In Nick's specific case, yes, we want to look at (him on) the left side.
"Clay has played both sides now. We want to make sure we create targeting problems with Clay Matthews. But, just like any young player, you do want to have a starting point, and right now, we want to look and see how comfortable Nick is on the left side."
Matthews last played on the right side as a rookie in 2009, when he had 11 sacks (including the playoffs).
The All-Pro player is OK with the position switch because he anticipates he won't be relegated to one spot anyway as Capers tries to revive last season's listless pass rush.
"The misnomer about the position is that we're stuck to one side," Matthews said. "On paper, it's going to say 'left outside linebacker' or 'right outside linebacker.' Really, those positions are interchangeable. So, the faster we can get (Perry) up to speed, the faster we can have some fun moving him around, flying around and making some plays together."
Matthews had a career-low six sacks last season with no help to speak of on the opposite side in Green Bay's 3-4 scheme.
"It's all about mismatches and preferable lineups," he said. "Whenever we can take advantage of that by playing on the right side, left side, in the middle – wherever you want me to play – I think we're all about that. So, hopefully, that's the case."
Woodson made an appearance at the Milwaukee Brewers baseball game the next day, throwing a ceremonial first pitch at Miller Park. He met with reporters before the game and hinted that he won't be getting on the field until the team's mandatory minicamp, which will be June 12-14 after the OTAs end June 8.
The 15th-year veteran reiterated comments he's made the last few years about being receptive to making a position switch to safety. Such a move has been speculated since the Packers released Pro Bowl free safety Nick Collins before last month's draft after team officials were wary about Collins' trying to attempt a comeback from a severe neck injury sustained early last season.
"I've heard all the reports about moving to safety and all this, but I don't think there's any more I can do on the football field than I already do," Woodson said. "I think the only thing that would ever change is just the title – from being a corner to a safety. But, I'm a football player. I can do anything on that football field, and they can put me anywhere, and they know that.
"All the talk about 'Can he play safety?', I kind of already play safety. So, it wouldn't be that big of a jump."
Charlie Peprah, who started 15 games in Collins' absence, is penciled in as a returning starter. However, Peprah wasn't expected to be available for the three weeks of OTAs after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier in the offseason.
Capers paired Morgan Burnett, the other incumbent starter, with M.D. Jennings on the No. 1 defense in the first OTA practice. Jennings, who made the team in 2011 as an undrafted rookie and was a key contributor on special teams, intercepted a pass from Aaron Rodgers in the practice.
"It's been really nice to watch him mature with his time," McCarthy said of the 6-0, 187-pound Jennings. "I always watch those guys on the opponent squads obviously offensively when you're competing during the week, and he's an instinctive football player. Now, he's doing a lot better job of communicating. He has very good range. I like our young safeties."
The group also includes first-year player Anthony Levine and a pair of intriguing rookies – fourth-round draft pick Jerron McMillian and undrafted Sean Richardson, a three-year starter at Vanderbilt.
Hargrove was one of four players to be punished for their alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program.
The NFL Players Association has filed an appeal of the suspensions on the players' behalf, and a ruling is forthcoming.
Hargrove sidestepped a number of questions that were asked of him in the Packers' locker room regarding the suspension. He had this bizarre reply when asked whether he's confident about winning his appeal.
"I'm confident that I can win on third downs," Hargrove said. "We talk on the field. All I want to talk about is the way I play the game. So, you ask me if I can beat a guy one on one, yeah. You put two on me, we'll see what happens."
Hargrove did acknowledge what he had submitted as a declaration to the league during its investigation of the bounty scandal that he followed the orders of Saints assistant coaches Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt.
"In this business, you're always supposed to do what your coaches tell you to do," Hargrove said. "My response is what it was. Everything that I gave in that declaration outlines exactly what happened. My coaches ask me to do something, I'll do it.
"It's the same way I'm going to be here. If Coach Dom asks me to go out and get the quarterback, I'll get the quarterback. That's just my responsibility as a player."
Driver joined retired Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Hines Ward as football players who won a title on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" reality TV program. Driver and professional dance partner Peta Murgatroyd procured the mirror-ball trophy as the champions of this season May 22.
"I think people (in Green Bay) are excited to see him," Murphy said. "Obviously, I think all of his teammates will probably give him some good-natured ribbing. But, also, I know everybody's really pleased and happy for him."
That was the extent of what Murphy had to say when he was asked a day after Driver's dance victory about the future of the Packers' current longest-tenured player with the team. Speculation has swirled since the end of last season that Green Bay could part ways with Driver, 37, who is due to make $5 million in the final year of his contract.
The Packers have a deep cast of young and talented receivers, so Driver may be seen as expendable by team management despite his cache as Green Bay's all-time leading receiver and his popularity with fans.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared May 23 as "Donald Driver Day" in the state, honoring his accomplishment on the dance show.
Less than a week earlier while he was in Southern California preparing for his final dances, Driver curiously tweeted "I'm a packer for life. It will never change. Go Pack Go!!!!"
In an effort to douse a whirlwind of conjecture that Driver's time in Green Bay was up after 13 years, his agent, Jordan Woy, informed a few media outlets that he and the club would be working out the details of a deal structure after Driver finished the show.
Fellow receiver Jordy Nelson said Driver's uncertain future wouldn't be a distraction for the team the rest of the offseason.
"I think we've dealt with enough stuff," Nelson said. "I know the front office will take care of it when necessary and they're going to do the right thing for the organization."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have nine practices (during organized team activities) and three minicamp practices – 12 opportunities to learn your job. Frankly, if you don't know what's expected of you by June 14 (the last day of minicamp), your chances to make our football team drop drastically." – Head coach Mike McCarthy, on the importance of the final three weeks of the team's offseason program.