The Green Bay Packers will spend the rest of training camp playing cards.
Not literally, of course, but practically every series at practice from now until the end of the football season will be against a scout team that will run a play diagrammed on a card being held by an assistant coach.
When the Packers reconvene at Ray Nitschke Field on Tuesday afternoon, they’ll get a one-day crash course on Thursday’s opponent, the San Diego Chargers. When the Packers practice on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday next week, the emphasis will be on the Cleveland Browns.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily game-planning, it’s the game-plan structure of the schedule,” coach Mike McCarthy explained after Monday’s practice. “It’s getting the players familiar. Practicing for an in-season game is different than an installation practice; it’s different than the offseason. We usually transfer into that week going into the third week. Now, we’re going to get into that next week going into Cleveland. I think it really helps you. When you train a football team, it’s about putting the body clock on a regimen, creating regularity in everything you do.”
On Monday, McCarthy and his staff completed the nine installations of the playbook. For the players fighting for roster spots, the games become the most critical part of the player evaluation process. Not that evaluations won’t be made at practice, but what a player does against the Chargers on Thursday will carry more weight than what the same player does running one of the Chargers’ plays for the scout team on Tuesday.
“We now have to shift gears,” McCarthy said. “We have to start getting ready to play games. That’s the challenge of putting in your whole offense, defense and special teams in nine days, because it’s a sprint. But with that, it gets you into game-planning earlier in training camp than my past experiences, particularly my early days in the league, where you’re not really prepared for preseason games.”
New injuries: WR Dale Moss (undisclosed); RB Brandon Saine (hamstring); CB Sam Shields (elbow); TE Ryan Taylor (concussion); WR Tori Gurley (groin).
Shields went down in a noncontact screens and deceptive plays period early in practice. It appeared running back Alex Green, who was on the receiving end of a screen, collided with Shields. Shields was down for about 5 minutes before being led back to the stadium for treatment.
Gurley was back on the sideline after returning on Sunday night.
“Well, he was ambitious,” McCarthy said. “Last night he wanted to try it; the trainers were cautious about it. He went through the drills, and once he got to the team stuff it was evident he wasn’t ready.”
Old injuries: RB Duane Bennett (knee); FB Jon Hoese (hamstring); TE Eric Lair (knee); T Mike McCabe (hip); G Ray Dominguez (ankle); T Marshall Newhouse (concussion); DT Mike Daniels (knee and groin); TE D.J. Williams (back); WR Greg Jennings (concussion).
Returned: OLB Brad Jones (knee).
Active PUP list: OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring), DL Johnny Jones (knee), G Jaymes Brooks (hamstring), T Derek Sherrod (leg) and TE Andrew Quarless (knee).
With so many injuries, practice got done about 45 minutes earlier than normal.
Out for Thursday
McCarthy has ruled out Bennett, Dominguez, Gurley, Hoese, Jennings, Lair, McCabe and Taylor for Thursday’s game. Newhouse has a chance to play if he’s cleared for Tuesday’s practice.
The week ahead
The Packers will practice on Tuesday at at 3:30 p.m. There is no practice on Wednesday as the team flies to San Diego for the preseason opener at 7 p.m. on Thursday. After a day off on Friday, the team practices at 7 p.m. on Saturday and 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The start times on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday are all changes from the original schedule.
— In his second full-pads practice, Desmond Bishop had an interception and a sack. “Desmond is definitely an individual who has big-play ability,” McCarthy said. “He’s clearly classified as one of our better pressure players, so you definitely feel the impact when he’s on the field. It’s great to have him back. He’s one of our veteran guys, he has a complete understanding of the defense, he’s an excellent base and sub player. It’s definitely a little different with Desmond on the field, no doubt.”
— Playing together for the first time in camp, Bishop and A.J. Hawk were the inside linebackers in the No. 1 nickel package. During Bishop’s absence, Hawk and D.J. Smith lined up together in nickel. Interestingly, Smith worked ahead of Hawk as the lone inside linebacker in dime when Bishop was out.
— Rookie tight end Brandon Bostick drew praise from, among others, Aaron Rodgers after the Family Night scrimmage. On Monday, however, the former college receiver dropped four passes.
— During a red zone period, Donald Driver dropped an easy catch as he broke free on a crossing route. On the next play, he hauled in a touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone against Morgan Burnett.
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.