On a cloudless, scorching day that had some reporters sweating more than the players, the Packers conducted their third padded practice of camp -- and their best one so far. The offense was sharp, the defense made big plays (as well as “way too many mental errors,” according to coach Mike McCarthy) and the tempo was crisp. “The practice is starting to look the way it's supposed to,” McCarthy said afterward. The Packers practice Wednesday morning at 8:15, the last morning session until mid-August. Here are some notes from Tuesday's action.
Finley returns, comfortable and confident: Tight end Jermichael Finley practiced in full pads for the first time Tuesday, having gone through the concussion protocol and sufficiently satisfied team doctors and trainers. Finley, who was injured last Friday, said he “really didn't feel sluggish at all” in his return to the field. He was fluid scoring on a slant route in a goal-line drill. Finley said during minicamp that he didn't play like himself in 2011 because he was apprehensive and cautious about getting reinjured. He seems to have overcome those concerns; he went over the middle to make a couple of tough catches in traffic. He looks comfortable and sure of himself. “I'm feeling good right now,” he said. “I know the plays inside and out, so I'm playing fast.”
Special teams the ticket: Aaron Rodgers said it last week and no doubt the young players striving to make the team also know it: The way onto this Packers roster is via special teams. Last season, guys like Ryan Taylor and M.D. Jennings made special teams their meal ticket. This year, too, there are several on-the-bubble players getting opportunities: tight end D.J. Williams, defensive end Lawrence Guy and outside linebacker Brad Jones all lined up with the No. 1 kick return unit on Tuesday. One surprise was seeing cornerback Sam Shields back returning kicks. Shields is probably the fastest player on the team, but he's never been clean fielding kickoffs. With his cornerback job in jeopardy, though, Shields would be wise to exploit any and all special teams chances.
House money: Cornerback Davon House continues to impress. For the second straight day, House won McCarthy's press-conference praise. After an excellent practice Monday, the second-year man out of New Mexico State worked outside with the No. 1 defense quite a bit Tuesday. House (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) is in a wide-open competition for the No. 2 cornerback job -- battling Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields and Casey Hayward -- and he has done the most with his looks. McCarthy said, “House is definitely an improved player since last year. … He's extremely physical. With his body structure, he should be a very good bump-and-run player, and he's playing to that strength. He's off to a good start.”
Gurley looking great: Second-year receiver Tori Gurley is making the Packers think long and hard about keeping six wideouts on the roster. Gurley (6-foot-4, 232 pounds), who went undrafted and spent last year on Green Bay's practice squad, brings singular size to the position. Last year, though, he seemed slow and tentative. This year, he has looked forceful and decisive and has been virtually unstoppable on end-zone fades and jump balls. And he had the highlight of the day on Tuesday. On the last play of practice, he was thrown a back-shoulder pass from Graham Harrell that deflected off cornerback Sam Shields and bounced into the air. Gurley dived for the ball and was laying on his back, but he maintained his concentration and juggled the rebound, ultimately securing it for a touchdown. That ended the day on a great note.
Injury update: There were three new injuries Tuesday. DE Ryan Pickett bruised his knee. He didn't leave the field but was seen icing the knee the remainder of practice. Rookie DE Mike Daniels suffered a knee/groin injury, and undrafted running back Marc Tyler hurt his shoulder. McCarthy did not have additional information or a timetable for the return of any of them. Tight end Eric Lair (knee), wide receiver Greg Jennings (elbow bruise) and offensive tackle Mike McCabe (hip) were sidelined. And the seven PUP players who haven't passed their physicals remained out -- ILB Desmond Bishop (calf), G Jaymes Brooks (hamstring), DE Johnny Jones (knee), FB John Kuhn (knee), TE Andrew Quarless (knee), OT Derek Sherrod (leg) and OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring). McCarthy said he expected Bishop and Kuhn to return by week's end.
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