Green Bay Packers
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The Packers completed their offseason workouts in much the same fashion they did last spring.
Head coach Mike McCarthy excused quarterback Aaron Rodgers, wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, linebacker Clay Matthews and 12 other veteran players for the team's entire minicamp.
By giving an early start to their summer break to players with five or more years of NFL experience, McCarthy is looking to hasten the development for the younger guys during the minicamp. The three days on the practice field are a review of the eight installation periods done in the recent organized team activities.
McCarthy also held the older players out of Green Bay's last OTA on Friday.
"These four practices, in my view, are the most important practices of the offseason program," McCarthy said. "We've had a lot of good things come out of these practices in the past, really gearing them toward the young players. You're looking for your second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-year players to step up. They have more opportunities and a chance for leadership."
Though his fifth-year status as a pro meant he had to stick around for another week, Pro-Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari welcomed the extra work in a less-crowded practice environment.
"Oh, it's big, especially with the older guys gone," Bakhtiari said. "A lot more reps get to be distributed, especially (for) the young guys, and a lot more one-on-one (time with the coaches). So, I think it's really big for them. It was big for me when I was a rookie, and they have to take advantage of it. If I have to preach one thing to them, it's these reps matter.
"You're not going to get this much one-on-one with the coaches, one-on-one with the veterans that are still here, so maximize it. Because come (training) camp, it's a lot more competition. If you're not caught up (by then), you're going to be left behind."
McCarthy also excused 15 veteran players - among them Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, Matthews and kicker Mason Crosby - for the duration of minicamp last year. This year's long list includes Packers newcomers such as tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, guard Jahri Evans and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois.
Those seasoned players will report back with the rest of the team when training camp starts July 26. The first camp practice is July 27.
"Face it, 20 percent of your football team (during the season) is going to be first-year players. That's what history will tell you," McCarthy said. "(This is) all in accordance with our plan to get these young guys playing. I'm hoping to see some guys take a jump this week, which is only natural. They will because they'll have more opportunities to do that."
Brandon Jackson last played an NFL game that counted in 2012, when he was with the Cleveland Browns.
That didn't keep longtime Packers team doctor Pat McKenzie from doing a double-take when the former running back rejoined the team this spring as a coaching intern.
"I know when (Jackson) walked into the training room, Pat McKenzie wanted to give him a physical (because) he thought he came back to play," head coach Mike McCarthy shared Wednesday, the second day of the Packers' minicamp.
Jackson has been back on the field for Green Bay's offseason workouts, just not in a helmet and wearing the No. 32 jersey he donned with the Packers for four seasons.
"It's a blessing and it's a benefit just to have Brandon back here," McCarthy said. "On a personal note, it's nice to help your former players in the coaching profession. He still looks like he can play."
Jackson, a second-round draft pick by the Packers out of Nebraska in 2007, rushed for 1,329 yards and seven touchdowns in his abbreviated tenure with Green Bay. Jackson produced career bests of 703 rushing yards, 43 catches and 342 receiving yards as he started 13 games in 2010, but his role diminished in favor of James Starks by the end of the season during the Packers' big run to winning Super Bowl XLV.
He signed with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent in 2011, but missed that season with a toe injury. Jackson played only two games with the Browns in 2012, and they cut him at the end of the 2013 preseason.
As an intern with the Green Bay coaching staff, Jackson has been helping assistant Ben Sirmans with the team's predominantly young group of running backs. Converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery is the lead halfback at a position that includes three draft picks this year: Jamaal Williams (fourth round), Aaron Jones (fifth) and Devante Mays (seventh).
One of Jackson's strengths as a player - pass blocking, particularly on third down - is being put to use with Green Bay's revamped backfield, which no longer has experienced pros such as Starks, Eddie Lacy and Christine Michael.
"There's no vets in that (position) room, there's no guys with an extended amount of playing time, so I told (Jackson), 'Pass that along to these young guys,'" Sirmans said. "And, I told the young guys to make sure they take advantage of that.
"He's working with Ty a little bit, and we've worked through the pass game, and one of the things I understand (Jackson) was really good at (as a player) was pass protection. So, make sure he explains to Ty how important that is."
As the coaches continued Wednesday to get Kevin King up to speed on the practice field, longtime cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt withheld an early assessment on the team's top draft pick this year.
King, who was taken first in the second round (No. 33 overall), returned to the team for the minicamp this week after he had to miss the previous three weeks of organized team activities. Per a controversial NFL rule, the former Washington cornerback had to stay away from the Packers until spring classes at the university were completed, even though King had dropped out of school earlier in the year.
"He's a real smart kid, but he hasn't done much in practice. So, there's not really much to talk about with him," Whitt said Wednesday. "I just haven't seen him line up against an NFL receiver yet."
Packers players who succumb to significant lower-leg injuries won't have to go far for treatment.
Robert Anderson, regarded as the foremost foot and ankle doctor in the sports world, will be moving from his longtime home base in Charlotte, N.C., to join the new Bellin Health Titletown Sports Medicine and Orthopedics in Green Bay.
Bellin Health made the announcement Wednesday. The Green Bay-based healthcare system is opening the 52,000-square-foot facility in late July, right across from Lambeau Field.
Anderson, a Wisconsin native, has treated hundreds of elite athletes in the four major sports leagues, including baseball's Derek Jeter, basketball's Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and football's Cam Newton, along with a number of Packers.
The new sports medicine center will be open to the public and also serve as a care location for Packers players.
"We are very excited to have Dr. Anderson join the team at Titletown Sports Medicine and Orthopedics," Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement from Bellin Health. "Bringing in a physician of Dr. Anderson's caliber will help Bellin Health get off to a great start."
This week's absence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers from minicamp means prime exposure for Brett Hundley. The third-year pro is leading the first-team offense in practice.
"Extra reps, you can't beat it," Hundley said. "I'm happy to be able to run the show, and I'm enjoying it."
Hundley has been craving meaningful action for almost a full year.
After flourishing in preseason games as a rookie in 2015, Hundley played in only one of the team's four exhibition games last August because of an ankle injury. He then made cameo appearances in relief of Rodgers in just five games during the season, including the playoffs.
"You get to play a series during the season at the end of the game and stuff, but you don't get into a rhythm," said Hundley, the team's fifth-round draft pick in 2015. "That's what I really want to get this preseason - and, honestly, just take a hit. I haven't felt what live running from a 300-pound (defensive player) feels like in a while. Your heart starts racing, and that's the feeling you want to get."
McCarthy is emphasizing third-down and move-the-ball situations with the offense during minicamp.
Backing up Hundley this week are returning second-year player Joe Callahan and Taysom Hill, an undrafted rookie from BYU.
Kevin King, the Packers' top pick in this year's draft, rejoined the team for the culmination of the spring workouts.
The cornerback from Washington had been barred from participating in the OTAs the previous three weeks because classes still were in session at his former college.
Green Bay cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt made sure King stayed on top of the playbook and installations while he was away from the team by having frequent video-conferencing sessions with him.
"Joe Whitt and then my girlfriend a little bit and Mom and Dad and then Joe Whitt," King quipped about who contacted him the most on his phone during his extended absence from the Packers.
Expectations are high for King to contend for a starting job in Green Bay's revamped secondary, which struggled greatly last season. The Packers selected King with the first pick in the second round (No. 33 overall) after they traded out of the opening round of the draft.
Still, the coaches aren't in a rush to get him ready. They limited King to individual drills Tuesday.
"We're going to bring him along at a pace and see how he does," McCarthy said. "I don't think it's smart, regardless of who the player is, to throw him right out there and think he's going to pick up where he left off."
King is OK with his tempered return to football.
"I think coach (Whitt) did a good job of keeping me up to speed," King said. "So, whenever they choose to unleash me, I'll be ready.
"Other guys have been here, and other guys have been working for the same opportunities," he added. "I haven't shown anything yet for me to come in here and be a Day 1 starter just like that. I'm going to compete, and come Game 1 (of the season), whoever's out there is going to get the job done."