The one and only evening practice of training camp on Ray Nitschke Field brought out the largest flock of railbirds so far. Packer fans filled the east sideline bleachers and ringed the fences on Potts Avenue and Armed Forces Drive three deep to watch an entertaining and important two hour workout in advance of Saturday night's Family Night Scrimmage at Lambeau Field. It was the fourth straight padded practice but there wasn't a whole lot of 11 on 11 periods. Plenty of individual and group fundamental work however. The defensive line with assistant coach Mike Trgovac are always fun to watch. Trgovac is an animated and colorful teacher. He had the big boys lifting each other up and tumbling onto a large mat in a tackling drill:
And he also played a little limbo. Using a rope, the linemen had to squat to punch a simulated offensive lineman, the idea is to keep the pad level low.
The defensive big fellas responded during group work with big plays. Jordan Miller clotheslined Alex Greene forcing a fumble and Johnny Jolly knocked the ball out of Green's hands, causing what's believed to be the first running back fumble in 11 on 11 work this summer. There were some pretty good offensive plays too, perhaps none prettier than Graham Harrell's deep ball to free agent receiver Alex Gillett of Eastern Michigan. Gillett outpositioned the defensive back and made an over the shoulder catch during the 7 on 7 drill. After the defense dominated the team blitz drill as they should, the offense got the last laugh. The final period of the practice was another two minute drill. Aaron Rodgers and the number one offense had the ball at their own 35, needing a touchdown to win and only :56 on the clock. Rodgers needed only 40 seconds. He hit Jeremy Ross on a hitch for 10 yards, a sideline route to the left to Ross covered 15 more and he got out of bounds with :31 to go. Rodgers then found James Jones alone up the right sideline for 25 yards and on the next snap, he drilled a seam route to Jermichael Finley for the touchdown. The crowd roared and Mike McCarthy said it capped a practice that pleased him:
A couple of new injuries to report. Jordy Nelson banged his knee a couple of days ago and it was acting up so he was withheld and remains under evaluation. Brad Jones had to leave with a finger injury and Andrew Quarless has a quad injury that could keep him out a couple of days. A toal of 16 players sat out the practice.
Finally, it was back to school over rules for both the players and the media. NFL referee Bill Vinovich and several members of his crew are spending three days officiating the Packers camp. They also presented a seminar on the rule changes for 2013 and points of emphasis for the season. The biggest rule change is geared toward player safety. A ball carrier or a tackler can not use the crown of his helmet to initiate forcible contact. There are parameters to the rule. The box formed by the two offensive tackles from three yards beyond the line of scrimmage to behind the offensive forrmation are not included. The violation will be flagged if the following things occur: the player lines up his opponent, lowers his head and delivers a forcible blow with the crown of his helmet. Other "safety" related rules include making the peel back block below the waist illegal inside that same tackle box. Defensive players can no longer block low at the snap during a scrimmage kick. The long snapper is now designated a defenseless player when centering for field goals and PAT's. Protected in recent years by not having a man line up directly over him, the rule now prohibits teams from barrelling over the center at the snap. Safety points of emphasis will include piling on or after the whistle hits and offensive face mask calls will be enforced. A stiff arm, still legal, sometimes results in a runner grabbing a defender's mask. It will be flagged if the offensive player grabs, twists and control the tackler's mask. To make equipment rules uniform at every level of football, the NFL will now require thigh and knee pads. For many receivers and defensive backs, that will take some getting used to because a few, like Charles Woodson, disdained the pads claiming they restricted movement. And coaches will no longer be flagged for inappropiately challenging plays. If a coach challenges a play that is automatically reviewed, like a touchdown, interception or play inside the two minute warning, it will cost his team a time out, but no penalty. Lastly, it was ten years in the changing, Tom Brady will be thrilled, the tuck rule has been eliminated. As it should be, a quarterback who tries to pull the ball back to his chest and loses control, has now fumbled. For Sir Charles, a small amount of satisfaction for a bad call that knocked the Raiders out of the playoffs in 2001.