Green & Gold


Rookies Clark, Martinez may be ready for starting roles

The Green Bay Packers have five exhibition games and about 20 practices before their regular-season opener, so nothing is set in stone.

Yet there is a growing possibility the Packers will step out of character and start two rookies in their defensive front seven at Jacksonville on Sept. 11.

Nose tackle Kenny Clark, the Packers’ first-round draft pick, and inside linebacker Blake Martinez, taken in the fourth round, have been heavily involved in everything the defense has done through the first eight days of training camp. Running mostly with the starters, Clark has been used as a nose tackle in the base defense and an interior rusher in passing situations. Martinez has been on the field with the first unit in the base, nickel and dime defenses.


Opportunity knocks for young receivers

The Green Bay Packers continue to wait for standout wide receiver Jordy Nelson to start practicing in training camp.

“Status quo. I really have no updates,” coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday.

That’s OK with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Minus Nelson, the team’s prolific pass catcher who is on the physically unable to perform list, Rodgers is taking advantage of throwing more passes to a promising group of young receivers.

And the two-time NFL MVP likes what he’s seen early in camp.

“There’s going to be a lot of great competition,” Rodgers said. “That’s exciting as a quarterback.”

The competition has been compelling already with Nelson sidelined because of a knee injury he sustained while working out before camp started last week. Nelson called the injury to his left knee “a hiccup.”

When asked how he is progressing, Nelson responded, “Great,” as he quickly passed through the locker room before practice Wednesday night.


Crockett searching for niche in backfield

There are certain players for the Green Bay Packers whose off-field demeanors mirror their disposition in pads and a jersey. They carry themselves between the sidelines the same way they act in real life.

Consider defensive end Mike Daniels, whose booming voice and unyielding desire run wild from dawn till dusk. Consider cornerback Damarious Randall, whose confidence knows no bounds. Consider tailback James Starks, whose boyish smile is ever-present.

The newest member of their crew is second-year running back John Crockett, who was promoted to the active roster in Week 13 last season. Crockett, who first signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent from North Dakota State, is third on the depth chart but large in personality: He talks fast and his feet are faster; they pitter-patter through cracks along the line of scrimmage.


Green Bay needs Clark to get ready quickly

Not long after they were drafted this spring by the Green Bay Packers, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry got a call from the fiery leader of the defensive line.

Mike Daniels was on the phone, and he needed them to get ready quickly.

The Packers will be down a veteran up front early in the season because of the four-game suspension of Mike Pennel, so Clark and Lowry must be ready to play right away. That means there is no time to waste in training camp for the rookies.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Daniels said. “We need them ready like yesterday.”

After Daniels and Letroy Guion, the Packers will be short on experience up front to start the season.


Slimmer Lacy looks for bounce-back season

A fit and slimmer Eddie Lacy is pounding away at the defense in Green Bay Packers training camp.

The results of a new offseason training regimen are evident after the running back was called out by coach Mike McCarthy following last season for playing at too heavy a weight.

“Do I look like I lost a few pounds over the summer?” Lacy responded to a question from a reporter. “You can go with that.”

The Packers’ current roster sheet lists Lacy at 5-foot-11, 234 pounds, the same weight at which he was listed last season. Coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t going to divulge a number, either, though he seemed happy with how Lacy responded and pronounced him ready to go.

“Eddie looks like Eddie, man,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He’s a big back, and we’re just glad he’s on our team.”

The Packers would love to get Lacy back to 2013-14 levels of production.


Nelson has ‘hiccup’ in knee recovery

Jordy Nelson called it a “hiccup.” How long Packers fans have to hold their breath remains to be seen.

As his teammates opened practice Tuesday, Green Bay’s talented receiver said a minor issue with his left knee contributed to a delay in his long-awaited return. He will have to wait a little longer to return to practice after having missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

That knee, Nelson stressed, feels great.

“Through training this summer, I had an incident with the other knee. Nothing serious. Just something minor. A little hiccup in it,” said Nelson, who was forced to watch his teammates run through drills.

“Our end goal is the same,” Nelson said. “We’ll be ready for the regular season.”

Coach Mike McCarthy said he had no long-term concerns about Nelson, either. The Packers had talked about proceeding cautiously with Nelson, anyway.


Green Bay opens training camp Tuesday

Receiver Jordy Nelson is coming back from a knee injury. Running back Eddie Lacy slimmed down. Linebacker Clay Matthews is returning to a more familiar role.

As for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, he dropped the cheese from his diet.

It’s what amounts to offseason drama for the Green Bay Packers, who enter training camp Tuesday looking to reclaim the NFC North title and win a second Super Bowl with Rodgers under center.

The clock’s ticking. Rodgers turns 33 in December. He’s in the prime of his career, and he’s also thinking about the future.

So after undergoing minor surgery following the playoffs to clean up a knee he hurt in high school, Rodgers adjusted his diet, including cutting out dairy. He said in June that he was at his lowest weight since about his second year in the league in 2007.


Packers apply to host NFL Draft

The Green Bay Packers would like to host the NFL Draft in the league’s smallest market.

Team President Mark Murphy told stockholders at their annual meeting Thursday that the Packers have applied to host the draft in 2019, 2020 or 2021. The last two drafts have been held in Chicago after years of being held in New York City.

Murphy said hotel rooms could be an issue, though many fans attending Packers games typically stay within an hour’s drive of Lambeau Field, or even more than two hours away in Milwaukee. The Packers had also applied to host next year’s draft, Murphy told reporters after the meeting, though he indicated that Green Bay wasn’t a contender.

Players report for training camp on Monday, but the league is always planning ahead. The NFL plans to play a season-opening game in China in 2018, though it appears that the Packers aren’t interested in taking part.


Rodgers expected to return to form

Aaron Rodgers will embark upon his 12th season with one Super Bowl appearance on his resumé and coming off his worst year at the helm of the Green Bay Packers.

For all his marvelous regular-season performances and statistical achievements, Rodgers bears his share of responsibility for the five-year championship drought in the NFL’s smallest city.

Rodgers is the face of the franchise, one with a stable front office and coaching staff unified in providing him with everything needed to sustain a prolific offense and win titles.

Again, the Packers are one of the Super Bowl favorites. This will be the eighth straight season they’ve had the wherewithal to win it all, and the mere presence of Rodgers is a major reason why.

Clearly, however, it would require the return of Rodgers to his form of 2008 through 2014, when his passer rating never ranked lower than sixth, and not of 2015, when his career-low mark of 92.7 ranked an unsightly 15th.


Matthews, Peppers to be questioned by NFL

Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and James Harrison will be interviewed next month by NFL officials in connection to a media report that linked them to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

A letter from NFL executive Adolpho Birch that was obtained Friday by The Associated Press says Green Bay linebackers Matthews and Peppers and Pittsburgh linebacker Harrison will be interviewed when training camps open. The Packers begin practicing on July 26, the Steelers on July 29.

The letter also mentions defensive lineman Mike Neal, a free agent who will be interviewed. It does not mention the now-retired Peyton Manning, who also was cited in Al-Jazeera’s doping report in December.

But USA Today, citing an unnamed source, reported that an investigation into Manning’s possible involvement also is progressing.


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