On Wednesday, those attitudes boiled over with punches thrown between players and words exchanged between coaches.
The half-line drill features a tackle, guard, center and guard, plus a mixture of backs and tight ends, battling a combination of defensive linemen, linebackers and safeties. Everybody knows what’s coming: A running play. The goal is simple: Beat the man in front of you.
About halfway through the drill, Jamari Lattimiore and Josh Sitton got into a fight that overflowed into a big scrum after another offensive lineman ran to Sitton’s defense. A few plays later, emotions boiled over again, this time as offensive line coach James Campen and linebackers coach Winston Moss – both former NFL players – got into a shouting match.
He talked about my beard. I talked about how small his T-shirt was. It kind of escalated from there," Moss said. "I don’t know what happened. It was high energy, high spirit; it was fun more than anything. I don’t know how well it will be any more in the future, but I thought it was great to see players get after it, coaches get after it.Finally, the clock ran out on the period. Coach Mike McCarthy, however, was in no hurry to see it end as there were two more plays. On the first, A.J. Hawk stopped running back Michael Hill deep in the backfield. On the last, quarterback Chase Rettig couldn’t handle the snap but nose tackle B.J. Raji drove his blocker at least 5 yards into the backfield to spark a small scuffle.
“Monday during our half-line drill, I think the offense did a lot of good things that day and I think the defense took a lot of those things personal,” guard T.J. Lang said. “I think today, they made it a point to come out and show that they weren’t going to back down.”
Outside linebacker Mike Neal disagreed with the notion that the defense had been challenged.
“If we’ve been challenged to step up and play, I think we did a good job,” Neal said.
Afterward, players said the bad tempers were left on the field and the fights were a way to make the team stronger, not weaker.
“It’s about protecting your guys,” Sitton said. “If I see someone finishing too hard on a running back, then I’m going to go talk to that guy and make sure it doesn’t happen. If your guys see you protecting your teammates, then they’re going to feel that much closer to you and that bond’s going to build even more.”
Fights are a staple of every training camp across the league. Relatively speaking, Green Bay’s training camp had been tame until Wednesday. The short war of words between Campen and Moss added a different dynamic.
“Let’s not make any more of what it was,” McCarthy said about the assistants’ involvement “It was a lot energy in the drill. There’s nothing wrong with what Winston Moss and James Campen did today. It wasn’t personal. It’s about getting our team better. Coaches compete no different than the players.”
Lang agreed with McCarthy’s assessment.
“Both of those guys, you look at Coach Moss and Coach Campen, I think they’re both very passionate about their jobs,” Lang said. “I know, just from being around Campy however many hours a day in the meeting rooms and practice and jog-through, he’s a guy that’s always shown that he’s very passionate about what he does and he just loves the game of football. It gets to a point that, hey, I know coaches probably get frustrated too. They wish they were out there with us and in spirit they really are. It’s good to see them get fired up and kind of after each other a little bit. It shows you that both of those guys are passionate about what they do.”
Wednesday’s practice might be the final day of unchecked tempers. The Packers don’t have a full practice before Saturday afternoon’s game at St. Louis, and there are short weeks leading to preseason games against Oakland on Friday, Aug. 22, and Kansas City on Thursday, Aug. 28, before the season kicks off at Seattle on Thursday, Sept. 4.
There’s always something to learn, and it’s no different with a fight. Emotions figure to run high in the opening game against the Seahawks, as well. It will be critical to control those emotions against the defending champions.
“That’s football,” McCarthy said. “I think emotion definitely got in the way in a few instances today and that’s something we’ve got to learn from.”
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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 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.