Thursday, June 04, 2009

Packers OTAs notes

The news coming out of Green Bay during the first part of the Packers organized team activities (OTAs) has been a bit sparse. I guess no news is good news. No major injuries. No big contract hassles (at least, yet). So we have to get our bits and pieces where we can.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette is often a good source for the latest goings on when other sources seem a bit too quiet.

So, here's a quick review in case you need a little Packers fix as we begin the month of June.

Jeremy Thompson or Clay Matthews?
While the assumption has been that rookie Clay Matthews will be the starter at right outside LB, second-year player Jeremy Thompson is excited by the change to the 3-4 defense and the opportunity it is giving him to make the change from defensive end to linebacker. As the Press-Gazette article points out, until Matthews Thompson was the only player Packers GM Ted Thompson had traded up to draft: "Ted Thompson sent a fifth-round pick to the New York Jets in order to move up 11 spots in the fourth round to take the defensive end from Wake Forest." But more importantly, especially for Thompson (that would be Jeremy, not Ted), "Instead of backing up left outside linebacker Aaron Kampman, Thompson worked as the starter on the right side during organized team activities that began last week." Granted, Matthews currently has a hamstring injury, but Thompson "was working ahead of Matthews even before the rookie pulled his hamstring near the end of the first practice last Wednesday." Anyway, read more about this linebacking competition here.

Harrell, Harrell, wherefore art thou, Harrell?
Actually, third-year player and injury magnet Justin Harrell has been present and accounted for all during OTAs and, apparently, doing well. Quoting defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, the Press-Gazette reports, “He’s been very focused. He has a look about him that he wants to succeed. He’s working extremely hard.” According to Harrell, he's feeling the best he has been since being in GB. Given his injury history, however, that might be a hard thing to judge. In addition, the young man -- whom all reports from the get-go have said is the type of guy you really want to root for -- is battling a weight issue currently. Still, Harrell realizes this is a do-or-die year for him with the Packers. As the #16 pick overall three seasons ago, Harrell has been a bust. But Trgovac and the new coaching staff also is giving him a fresh start. "He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. I know he’s had injuries in the past, but we haven’t seen them,” Trgovac is quoted as saying. Read more about Harrell here. At this point, if Harrell is able to get through the season uninjured and make contributions at all it will be a bonus that not many -- at least not many fans -- expected. If he can't stay healthy, Harrell will be out of chances and will remain the albatross around Ted Thompson's neck.

And what about Mr. Kampman?
One of the big mysteries of the offseason was and is how DE Aaron Kampman felt about making the switch to outside linebacker. Ordinarily, Kampman was very open with the media. But he hasn't been talking about this switch, which has led some to assume that he is not a happy Packer. Well, he spoke yesterday with the media in the locker room. Still didn't say much. And what he did say is hard to get a read on.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel provides the necessary quotes from Kampan: "New techniques. New terminology. All in all, it's learning the new system. It's all new." And . . ."I'm one of 11 in this defense. . . . This is a big transition for everyone. For whatever reason a lot of people want to know what I think." And . . ."I'm learning it. I don't have a whole lot else to say. I'm learning it." he happy? You decide. Kampan's a pro, a Pro Bowler to be exact. He was the best pass rusher the Packers have had over the last few seasons. Can he make the move? Coach McCarthy told the press that Kampman has been working very hard at learning the new position and scheme, as you'd expect of him. He's been working closely with new linebackers coach, Kevin Greene. And, as radio voice of the Packers, Wayne Larrivee, said on 620WTMJ radio this morning, if anyone can assure Kampman of the possibility of making the switch effectively, it's Greene who himself had been a successful defensive end before being asking to also make the switch to linebacker...where he achieved perhaps even greater success later in his career. Good point. They are two different players, granted. But it has to be encouraging for Kampman to be able to tap into someone like Greene who can assure him that it can be done because he did too.

You can read another take on the Kampman situation -- as well as the non-story about Donald Driver's supposed desire for a new contract -- here.

And how's Mr. Rodgers doin'?
According to reports, QB Aaron Rodgers is looking just fine, thank you. He's looked very sharp in the OTA practices. And perhaps just importantly, he -- and his teammates -- know clearly that this is his team. After racking up the numbers he did last year, Rodgers clearly established himself as one of the best QBs (at least for his first season as a starter) in the league. The number of wins didn't reflect that performance, although that was more a result of the defensive collapses than Rodgers ability or lack thereof. If you want a quick update on Rodgers, check out this article. this enough to help you get your fix for the moment? If not, keep checking back here at There will be regular readers (that's you, isn't it???) know very well.