Saturday, May 20, 2006

Minicamp Meanderings

The first day of the second post-draft minicamps ran its course yesterday. Apparently a bit sloppy in the morning and a bit tighter in the afternoon. According to Coach McCarthy, 12 players did not attend or practice because of medical reasons and another 10 were absent because of personal matters. Typical early minicamp, in other words.

With QB Brett Favre actually told by Coach McCarthy to skip this camp, backup Aaron Rodgers got a lot of work. In doing so, he apparently is not only trying to hone his game but establish himself as a leader as well. After a lackluster performance by his offensive unit in the morning practice, Rodgers apparently got on his offensive teammates for their lack of intensity. Players responded in the afternoon with a more efficient and intense practice, according to reports. Good for you, kid!

Other news is that the packers wide receiver spots are probably the most competitive on the roster. Supposedly, we're talking the fourth and fifth spots as Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson and Rod Gardner are penciled in for the first three spots. But it also sounds as if, with the exception of Driver, all spots might be up for grabs. The Packers have receivers with different attributes to look at over the coming weeks and months: tall receivers to go up for passes, fast receivers to stretch the field, and quick receivers who can go over the middle and then make people miss in the open field. Nice problem to have. QB Rodgers, as quoted in today's online Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, has been impressed with rookie Greg Jennings as the possible fourth receiver: "...the most impressive thing about him is he's fast, but a lot of times fast guys aren't very quick out of their break. He's extremely quick out of his breaks. The first time I saw him on a route, he looked like a veteran, as far as getting out of his break, not telegraphing routes or anything." According to the Journal-Sentinel, Jennings caught a pass from Rodgers over the top of the linebackers at midfield and "spun and twirled around would-be tacklers in the way a running back would. He could be a slot receiver who has the potential to rack up yards after the catch." That sounds goooooooooood.

Other receivers who are or will be trying to catch the coaches' attention (some after returning from NFL-Europe or injury) and claim a spot on the roster include: Cory Rodgers, Ruvell Martin, Marc Boerigter, Chad Lucas, Vince Butler, Leo Bookman, Chris Francies and Calvin Russell. Looks as if Brett will have some folks to throw to this season and who, more importantly, will be able to make plays and help move the offense.

As for other news, supposedly pouting strong safety Mark Roman was at camp, not saying anything about demanding a trade or being unhappy that he might likely be displaced in his starting role by free agent signee Marquand Manuel. Manuel, who is still recovering from the groin injury he suffered in the Super Bowl, did individual drills but did not practice with the team. According to TV reports, Coach McCarthy and Roman met and cleared the air. Afterward, Roman said he was there to play football. No talk about being unhappy. Good thing: would probably make the coach unhappy and players do not want an unhappy coach. The light eventually comes on even for the dimmest to speak.

Speaking of dim bulbs, perennial lump on the log Donnell Washington has actually figured out his free ride in Green Bay might be coming to an end if he doesn't get his act After being held out of practice during the first minicamp because he showed up out of shape, Washington has, according to Coach McCarthy, worked at hitting his conditioning targets. Still, this former third-round draft choice has never been active for any of the 33 games for which he was eligible to play. Let's say that again...he has been inactive for ALL 33 games for which he could have played. I know what you're saying: "Hey, I could be inactive too...and I'd do it for half the money he's getting!" I know, I know. As one of the biggest and strongest players on the team, to say Washington has been a bust in his first two years is an understatement. OK, perhaps not quite the disappointment first-rounder Jamal Reynolds was -- although Reynolds did actually play in a few games -- but with the size and power that Washington could bring to the defensive line, it is a shame that he is not a professional in his approach to the game. With fellow veteran defensive tackles Ryan Pickett, Colin Cole, Corey Williams, Cullen Jenkins and Kenderick Allen clearly ahead of him, and rookie Johnny Jolly also now in the mix, Washington's days in Green Bay seem numbered. 6'6" and roughly 330 lbs (give or take), and with the ability to bench press 500 pounds, Washington is clearly someone with the physical attributes to make a contribution. But football, like all sport, takes heart. That, apparently, is the missing piece in Mr. Washington's game.