Thumbs up: While coach Mike McCarthy was unhappy with the energy level from his players early on in practice – which he had an inkling might be an issue as the Packers transitioned from morning sessions to nighttime ones – there is something special about nighttime practices. They were a good idea when McCarthy arrived in 2006, and they’re still a good idea now. The players aren’t huge fans – quarterback Aaron Rodgers and nose tackle B.J. Raji said so earlier in the day – but the atmosphere is neat, the stands are filled to capacity and there’s a Friday night high-school vibe. The Packers are only having six night practices (not including the Family Night scrimmage), and maybe they wouldn’t have had any if not for their odd early regular-season schedule. While McCarthy has joked about holding them now out of “Catholic guilt” for making the team buy field lights, they are worthwhile. Even after scaling back the number of night practices last year when players complained to him, having a handful is the right move.
Thumbs down: Defensive players far and wide did their best to blame the penalties on the NFL’s replacement officials working the practice, but McCarthy wasn’t going for it. During the final three 11-on-11 periods, members of the defense committed roughly a half-dozen pre-snap penalties – from lining up offsides to jumping off before the snap – and the coach was not amused. “Today was not our best practice,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got seven installs in, we’ve got two more, and we’ve got Family Night tomorrow night. We’ll be situation-focused there. We’ll have the day off Saturday, but we need to get Installs 8 and 9 in and it needs to be cleaner. You can talk whatever you want – install practice, game-plan practice – the number of pre-snap penalties is totally unacceptable.” The showing was somewhat out of character for the Packers, who tied for the fewest penalties in the NFL last year (76) and have committed the second fewest (151) league-wide over the past two seasons.
Play of the day: Even in pads, you don’t get a ton of collisions like the one between undrafted rookie free-agent linebacker Dezman Moses and second-year running back Brandon Saine. Late in practice during an 11-on-11 period of 4-minute – where the offense has the lead and is trying to run the ball to eat up remaining clock – Saine took a handoff on a run off left tackle, and waiting for him was an unblocked Moses, who flattened him. (We happened to be filming at the time, and you can get a great look at what happened in this great high-definition, super slo-mo video.)
Camp confidential: If you think Family Night is a dress rehearsal for the start of preseason games, you’re right – but not necessarily just in terms of putting on the pads and tackling people. Rather, McCarthy uses it to work on a variety of logistical things that tend to be taken for granted otherwise. “I view Family Night clearly as your first opportunity to get into the game environment,” McCarthy said. “Myself in particular, the things I watch on Family Night are really the operation, the mechanics of substitution and communication to the huddle, communication on the boundary. In all seriousness, the pregame is important. You’ve got people on your team that have never gone through pregame. And you have to warm up properly and know where to go, so it gives you a chance to rehearse all of that.”
Injury report: Five players dropped out of practice with injuries: G Ray Dominguez (ankle), S Sean Richardson (thumb), TE D.J. Williams (back), OLB Brad Jones (knee) and FB Jon Hoese (hamstring). DT Ryan Pickett (knee bruise) and WR Curenski Gilleylen (quadriceps) returned. ILB Desmond Bishop (calf) and FB John Kuhn (knee) practiced in shells, in accordance with NFL rules. (McCarthy intimated that they likely won’t suit up for Family Night.) WR Tori Gurley (groin), RB Marc Tyler (shoulder), DE Mike Daniels (knee/groin), TE Eric Lair (knee) and OT Mike McCabe (hip) remained sidelined. Five players still haven’t passed their physicals and remained sidelined: G Jaymes Brooks (hamstring), DE Johnny Jones (knee), TE Andrew Quarless (knee), OT Derek Sherrod (leg) and OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring).
Practice schedule: The Packers will hold their annual Family Night scrimmage at 6:30 p.m. at Lambeau Field. The players are off on Saturday and return to regular practice on Sunday night. They’ll be in full pads at 7 p.m. at Ray Nitschke Field, weather permitting.
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