Jones Off and Running with Defensive Playbook

Jones (Benny Sieu / USA Today Sports)

The Packers' rookies — 11 draft picks, nine undrafted free agents and 27 on tryouts — hit the Don Hutson Center practice field for the first time on Friday. One of those draft picks, Eddie Lacy, called Green Bay "the perfect place to be."

Datone Jones liked what he saw when he got his Green Bay Packers' playbook.

The first-round draft pick from UCLA took part in the team's rookie camp, though he was one of the team's two unsigned draft picks. Green Bay has signed nine of its draft picks and has nine undrafted free agents.

The team also had 27 players taking part on a tryout basis, a longshot route that has led to contracts for several players over the past few years.

Both Jones, a defensive end, and second-round pick Eddie Lacy, a running back from Alabama who is also unsigned, were able to participate in the practices.

Jones went in with a distinct advantage over his fellow rookies: The defense he played in at UCLA under coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Lou Spanos was strikingly similar to the Packers' scheme.

"Coach Spanos took a lot of Dom Capers' defenses. So today, when I'm looking at the playbook, I see pretty much all our installs from when I went to UCLA to here," Jones said. "Coming here, it's now like, 'Let me go to install four and five because I know the first three installs off the top of my head. Let me start learning what other guys do on the field and play faster."

Most of Jones' new teammates didn't have that luxury.

Lacy got his first look at the Packers' offensive playbook when he arrived in town Thursday and called it "the biggest playbook I've ever had in my life."

Then again, coach Mike McCarthy estimated that the camp is "40 to 50 percent about culture/orientation" and "50 to 60 percent about football," with the more football-focused organized team activity practices and the mandatory full-squad minicamp looming in the next six weeks.

Lacy said he wasn't bothered by recent news that both the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers had passed on him in the draft because of health concerns, including toe fusion surgery he had before his final season at Alabama.

Lacy played in all 14 of the Crimson Tide's games last season, rushing 204 times for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns while also catching 22 passes for 189 yards last year as a junior.

"I just feel like everything happens for a reason and even though I didn't get picked where I was supposed to, I fell to Green Bay and even though it was the second round, I feel like it's the perfect place to be," Lacy said. "I'm not knocking (those teams) for feeling like that, but I feel like I'm in a great situation and I'm just going to move on from there."

Lacy does enter the NFL with low college mileage — he only had 355 career carries at Alabama while playing behind past first-round picks Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson — and he may not be an every-down back with the Packers. The team drafted UCLA's Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round last month, and the staff also remains high on DuJuan Harris, the lead running back at the end of last season.

But Lacy is aiming to be the starter, knowing that the Packers desperately need more production from the run game to prevent defenses from focusing solely on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the passing game.

"We're all going to see when the season comes around. I still have to go through practice and the playbook and a whole lot of stuff before I even think about that," Lacy said of starting. "The defense won't be able to stack the box up because we have a great quarterback and we have great weapons on the outside. It leaves a lot of room for the running back to be able to run through the middle."

In the short term, though, Lacy and his fellow rookies will focus on getting acclimated to NFL life.

For the first time since McCarthy took over as coach, the rookie orientation camp coincided with the veteran players' work during Phase II of the offseason program, meaning the rookies and veterans crossed paths during the course of the day. Rodgers was in the equipment room as rookies came in after meetings; four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Clay Matthews came through as rookie outside linebacker Nate Palmer, the team's sixth-round pick was leaving for another meeting.

"I walked past him but I don't think he knew who I was. I didn't want to seem like a fan," Palmer said of Matthews. "I'll let time mellow before I go over and introduce myself when I see him again."


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