Say what you want to about OTAs (organized team activities) or training camp held at St. Norbert College in De Pere; the real start of the 2015 football season was last weekend when the Green Bay Packers held their rookie camp.
The two days were for the rookies who got drafted, the undrafted rookies who had been invited as free agents, some players who were around last year and occasional other stragglers.
Head coach Mike McCarthy, sporting a gray beard, was very pleased with what he saw during the two days of workouts.
"This is a great time of year," McCarthy said when the camp finished. "It’s one of my top days all year, when you get your prospects, the drafted players, the free agents in here. Guys fighting for a try.
"When we got into the meeting room, you can just feel the energy these young men bring. It picks things up another notch."
Not a lot of major decisions are made during the rookie camp, but it can be vitally important for every player on the field.
"They get a chance to tour Lambeau Field and get a feel for the way we do things here," McCarthy said. "And it’s a great chance for us and the personnel people to evaluate what we have. The goal is to get the best 90 players we can to be on our training camp roster."
McCarthy said he didn’t expect and didn’t see any major surprises during the rookie camp.
"Scouting is so different today than it was 25 years ago," he said. "Not many guys get missed. You don’t find that many players who have been overlooked as in the past. The whole world is different. There is so much more information now. More video, more access to video. The information revolution has hit us."
The top draft pick for the Packers, defensive back Damarious Russell, sat out the camp with a minor injury (an unfortunately common theme this year, as two other early round picks – Denver Broncos third round tight end Jeff Heuerman and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end and third overall draft pick Dante Fowler – both tore their ACLs in their respective rookie camps and are likely to miss the entire upcoming season). McCarthy was asked why the Packers, unlike almost every team in the league, didn’t bring their top pick in for that traditional picture with the Packer jersey.
"That’s just not the way we do things here," he said. "I think that’s a good thing. The expectations are very high on these young men. We bring them in as a group. That’s the way we want to do it. It’s served us well. That’s the way you want a young man to come in."
One player who did catch McCarthy’s eye was linebacker Jake Ryan, the fourth round pick from Michigan.
"I like what Jake’s done" McCarthy said. "He’s bigger than I thought he was. He picked it up clean, making the calls. He’s very assertive and is off to a good start. I think he has an opportunity to play. He’s an inside linebacker. He looks pretty natural inside."
The first OTA is scheduled for May 27 through May 29, when everybody will be on hand. The practice on Thursday, May 28 will be open to the public.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.