The biggest battle of the Green Bay Packers’ training camp might be over before it started.
With the first snap of training camp on Saturday night, first-round pick Derek Sherrod lined up as the starting left guard. The rest of the line was the same as the unit that lined up together for most of last season and in the Super Bowl: left tackle Chad Clifton, center Scott Wells, right guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
“Really, the philosophy of creating competition and giving the offensive linemen a chance to compete to get the best five on the field,” coach Mike McCarthy explained after practice. “We thought we’d give him a chance. We’ll evaluate him and see how he did.”
If he did well during the helmets-only practice and shows growth through the next month, there’s little reason to believe he won’t be in the starting lineup against New Orleans on Sept. 8. As the top pick, the team would like to get him into the lineup for various reasons, including sheer physical talent, money and public relations — it wouldn’t look good for the top pick to be demoted.
Before practice, Sherrod said he had no idea where he’d be lining up. He stuck to the story, even when pointed out that it sounded preposterous that he was handed a playbook but not told which spots he should study. Sherrod, who needed just 3.5 years to get his degree and stayed in shape by working out with his former teammates at Mississippi State, didn’t seem daunted by the challenge of learning the playbook in short order and was confident he could make an impact from the get-go.
“I feel like that’s why they got me,” he said. “I’m glad to be here so that I can help in any way and go out there and help them repeat as world champs.”
Of the other presumed challengers to earn the job at left guard, T.J. Lang played with the No. 2 offense and got some reps with the No. 1 unit when Sherrod slid to left tackle to replace Clifton. Nick McDonald appeared to get all of his snaps at center. Marshall Newhouse got most, if not all, of his work at left tackle.
“We have a rotation set for the offensive line,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, performance will always be the indicator of how that will shape out as we move onto the next practice. We’ll evaluate it and see how he does. That’s really the biggest adjustment in reps.”
— There were no injuries to report following practice. Morgan Burnett, Jermichael Finley and Mike Neal participated in a limited fashion but did not compete during the live periods. Asked about Finley, McCarthy said he’d limit him at least through Monday. Tight end Andrew Quarless (hip flexor), linebacker Diyral Briggs and nose tackle Eli Joseph have not completed their physicals. Kicker Mason Crosby, receiver Brett Swain and tight end Spencer Havner can’t practice until Aug. 4 because they were free agents. Without Neal — the presumed replacement for the departed Cullen Jenkins — C.J. Wilson started at defensive end in base and nickel.
— Practicing without limitations was running back Ryan Grant, who got the first snap of the night. “I thought Ryan looked very well. He had a couple of runs that came out of there. He looked like his old self.”
— With Crosby unable to practice, punter Tim Masthay hit 3-of-4 field goals from 38 yards. Masthay is the holder for Crosby. Doing the holding was Masthay’s former Kentucky teammate, rookie Randall Cobb. “He trains with Mason throughout the year because he’s the No. 2 kicker,” McCarthy said of Masthay. “We put the reps in more for the protection unit and the rush unit, but also to give him some quality kicks.”
— Overall, the practice was ragged and the defense clearly got the better of things. McCarthy counted seven pre-snap penalties. “I thought there were some flashes of very good football but the reality of the rest of the practice was an example of a team coming together for the first night,” McCarthy said. “I was pleased with the amount of work that we got done today. It was a typical first day of training camp. Nothing special but, if anything, I would compliment the players for (looking) in very good shape. It’s a better practice than I thought it would be. The ball wasn’t on the ground very much. We didn’t have players on the ground very much. Those are the things that show up in sloppy practices when you’re not as coordinated as you’d like to be. I think we’re off to a solid start.”
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