The Word: Training Camp Day 30

Mike McCarthy (Mark A. Wallenfang photo)

Packers begin ‘in-season' schedule; Favre to play against Titans; Crosby edges Rayner

Though training camp is still in session, the Green Bay Packers began a practice schedule today as if it were the regular season. While the Packers are preparing for their preseason finale against Tennessee on Thursday, their practices this week are in accordance with their regular season practice schedule.

The Packers returned to Clarke Hinkle Field this morning after receiving Friday and Saturday off. The team will practice once on Monday and Tuesday before traveling to Nashville on Wednesday prior to Thursday night's preseason finale against the Titans. In Packers time, today was similar to a Wednesday practice during the regular season. Monday's practice will be similar to a Thursday practice.

"They acted like it was Sunday, but it was an in-season Wednesday," said coach Mike McCarthy of his team.

McCarthy said some of the veterans are already preparing for the regular season opener against Philadelphia with their position coaches. In the meantime, the coach plans to use this week and the game on Thursday to see as much as possible players who are on the bubble, as well as some of the starters on the first-team offense and defense. McCarthy hinted last week that he might keep Brett Favre out of the final preseason game, but said today that he needs the veteran to continue to develop chemistry with some of the younger players on the offense.

"We're in a little different situation right now," McCarthy said. "We have a lot of jobs that are still up in the air. Our quarterback (Favre) needs to play with players that he hasn't had a lot of reps with. All those things factor in. You also want to be smart, be cautious. At the end of the day, we're going to do what we feel is best for the offense, defense and special teams. That's where I'm at."

Favre will be followed by Aaron Rodgers against the Titans. Rookie quarterback Paul Thompson is expected to play the majority of the third and fourth quarters.

The Packers have to reduce their roster to the NFL mandated 53 players by 3 p.m. (CDT) on Saturday, Sept. 1.

"Big week for a lot of people," McCarthy said. "I'll just say that. Friday morning's conversation (with his staff and general manager Ted Thompson) will be longer than some of the ones I've been a part of in the past."

Play of the Day
Wide receiver Ruvell Martin made an impressive one-handed catch while leaping over cornerback Will Blackmon to catch a pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a 45-yard gain during an 11-on-11 scrimmage.

Martin, who will be battling for playing time with James Jones this season, ran a fly pattern along the right sideline. He jumped up over Blackmon to catch the ball, and cradled it with one arm while falling to the ground to cheers of the nearby ‘railbirds' perched along Oneida Street.

Stock is up
Chalk one up for Mason Crosby. The rookie edged incumbent Dave Rayner by making all six of his field goal attempts from various distances today in practice while Rayner made 5 of 6 attempts.

Rayner's miss came from 44 yards when his boot sailed wide left. Rayner followed by making a 50-yard attempt, though, Crosby also made his 50-yard attempt that sailed much farther past the portable field goal posts.

At this point, it appears that Crosby has the slight edge over Rayner in the competition for the place-kicking duties on the team. Crosby has made a few more of his attempts in practices, and his kickoffs have been a little deeper overall than Rayner's kickoffs. McCarthy said that the decision on which kicker the team will keep won't come until after the team's final preseason game.

Stock is down
Neither Spencer Havner nor Abdul Hodge helped themselves in the battle for the sixth linebacker spot today. Both did not practice due to injuries. Havner has a strained back and Hodge's knee tendonitis, which has bothered him all off-season, "flared up," according to McCarthy.

It is uncertain if both will return for Monday's practice, but playing on Thursday against the Titans would be to their advantage.

Outside linebacker Tracy White and middle linebacker Desmond Bishop seem to be locks as backups behind starters Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and Brady Poppinga. The versatile Havner has been playing with the second team defense throughout training camp, and Hodge has been with the third team.

He said it
"I'm just trying to go one day at a time and trying to get out there as soon as possible. I'm a competitive guy. I want to be out there sweating and bleeding and fighting with my teammates. It pains me not to be out there."
-- running back Vernand Morency on when he thinks he'll return

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