Packers still learning as season nears
GREEN BAY – Mike Trgovac backed up between the tackling dummies as B.J. Raji dropped into a three point stance.
"Take those first steps like you're on air," shouted Trgovac as his defensive linemen worked through the group individual drills.
Mike Daniels, a rookie out of Iowa, followed Raji. He worked around the dummy with a burst, a flurry of hands and grass clippings flying up from his cleats. As Daniels pulled up following the drill, Trgovac jumped in.
He got in front of the dummy, and mimicked the move – only telling Daniels his footwork for that particular play call was incorrect.
Daniels re-ran it, to his defensive line coach's delight.
"It was more teaching – there more teaching drills than the full-speed team drills of (Sunday)," head coach Mike McCarthy said of Monday's practice, one of the Packers' final days of training camp. "We slowed it down. Our numbers are thin, so we slowed it down for more teaching drills."
Quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers – one of many veterans who clearly didn't need any refresher courses – spent much of the afternoon leisurely throwing passes to the second or third receivers on the route trees or playing scout team defense.
"I love doing those reps. It takes me back to the old days," Rodgers said with a smile. "You gotta start looking toward (Week 1), to be honest with you. This week is really for the young guys. We've got 75 guys and we're going to have to cut 22 to get down to our beginning of the season roster. A lot of jobs are up for grabs with those guys."
With one preseason game and two regular season games in the next 16 days, it might seem like the team for teaching is over – but that is not the case when there are 27 first or second-year players still on the roster.
"It's a lot more meticulous than you originally thought," Daniels said of the learning process. "When I first came into college the game was completely different to me, too. The objective is to get to the guy with the ball, beat the guy across from you, but at the same time there are so many technical things I had to learn. I felt I came here with a bit of an edge, and then I realized how much I didn't know when I got here. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to seeing how much more we all can improve just from learning from everything 'Tergo' (Trgovac ) teaches us. He's a heck of a coach. He really is."
Such was the scene across Ray Nitschke field, with players working on form and technique. The defensive backs practiced tackling, driving each other into giant pads.
They were implored to keep their heads up, to keep their pads level.
The linebackers were put just yards away from the JUGS machine, footballs being fired at their heads and over their shoulder in rapid succession to work on their reaction time and hands.
It may seem routine, but that is not always the case.
"The bad thing about it is the people that's here, sometimes it's not a teaching day – they're just advancing on what they already know," rookie linebacker Terrell Manning said.
"So, at the same time, you've got to have your teaching day be full blast whether you mess it up or not. That's something I had to adjust. I was out there trying to learn and everyone is going full blast and that doesn't look good at all. That's the adjustment you have to make when you're a rookie in the NFL."
The teaching may never truly end – especially for the younger players that do make the Packers final 53-man opening week roster – but the emphasis on their development by not only the coaches, but their teammates, is paying off.
"I really feel as though I've picked up a lot of different little things, especially in terms of my pass rush. I really, really attribute a lot of that to 'Tergo' and things he's taught us. The veterans, the things they've shared with us, even some of the o-linemen. They'll come and say 'Hey, you might be doing a little bit more of this, maybe you should try this' or 'You're really good at this, here's how to improve that' or 'This might not work the best for you, you may not want to rely on it.' Things like that. You learn a lot. You ask for a lot of feedback and you get a lot of positive feedback. We're all in this to help each other because at the end of the day we all want to win."
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