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Larry McCarren's Training Camp Report / 8-29-11

<br>Penultimate Preseason Practice

Can we talk?  When you write about each and every training camp practice, there's a lingering fear that one day, there won't be anything worth mentioning.  Just a practice that was everyday ordinary in every way imaginable.   Apparently that fear is groundless, because here we are, with the second-to-last preseason practice, and it was chock full of news.

    Item #1:  Aaron Rodgers did not practice.  He's got a foot strain that's bothering him, nothing serious according to Mike McCarthy, and, as he likes to say, "We're just being smart with it."  The coach wouldn't or couldn't say whether Rodgers would play against the Chiefs Thursday night.  Label that yet to be determined.

    Item #2:  The offense was working behind the closed doors of the Hutson Center well into the team stretching drill that begins practice.  It's a pretty good bet it was jogging through some of the plays that will be part of the game plan for the Saints.  You never know who is sitting in stands at Ray Nitschke Field.  That may sound a bit paranoid, but that goes with the territory of coaching in the NFL. 

    Item #3:  Starters took plenty, if not most of the reps, with the respective offensive and defensive scout teams.  That's a good indicator that it'll be the non-starters who do the bulk of the playing against Kansas City, and that's nothing out of the ordinary in preseason game #4.  It's the final exam for the players fighting to make the roster and Ted Thompson is good about giving them ample opportunity to do so.

    Item #4:  As a sixth round pick, linebacker D.J. Smith qualifies as part of that group, but his body of work to date says he's going to make it.  He may be just 5'11", but he makes plays, and he made a couple more today in the passing game.  Smith also looks like a "core" special teams player.

    Item #5:   Morgan Burnett may have blown the assignment that allowed Reggie Wayne's 57 yard TD catch at Indy, but today he showed why he instantly reclaimed his starting safety job when camp began.  The second year man had 1 INT, and even more impressive was his ripping the ball away from D.J. Williams after a catch.  Burnett didn't just knock it loose, he took it and kept it.  That doesn't happen very often.

    Item #6:  The Packers do have to fill the void left by Cullen Jenkins and that case hasn't been closed as yet.  Mike Neal, the most talented of the possible replacements, still isn't practicing.  He says he'll be ready for the Saints but we're not talking about a veteran guy with a lot of reps under his belt.  Neal played in just 2 regular season games as a rookie and 1 preseason game this year.  That's not a lot of work and that's a little troubling.  Neal looked good early and perhaps he'll pick up right where he left off, but he's missed a lot time, both in practice and in games.  C.J. Wilson is also part of the mix at RDE and he returned to practice today after recovering from a concussion.

    Item #7:  Davon House, who didn't have the best of days yesterday, bounced back pretty well today.  Broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Greg Jennings and tipped a ball that led to a Desmond Bishop interception.  House did allow Jennings to get behind him for a big gainer courtesy the arm of Matt Flynn.

    Item #8:  Mike McCarthy ended practice about 25 minutes early because his team had "hit the wall."  

   
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