Packers offense opens training camp with running start
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers got off to a running start at training camp.
Coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't have it any other way for the NFL's highest-scoring team last season.
''The tempo of practice was what I was looking for,'' McCarthy said Thursday.
There were typical first-day penalties and mistakes, ''but getting back to playing football at that type of speed I thought was very important.''
In the six-month long marathon to the Super Bowl, the Packers feel they have a head start. All 11 starters, plus most of the top reserves, are back, led by MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
There is no need for guys to worry about the depth chart. The main contributors can get right down to focusing on the task of making an offense that scored a league-high 30.4 points per game perform even better.
''When we're not having to spend time with what you classify as the (first teamers) right now going over the base plays, we're able to move forward, we're able to make adjustments on the base plays. You know, get out there and get going,'' receiver Jordy Nelson said about the roster continuity.
The familiarity can be comforting. Rodgers said that meetings are tailored more to older players this year, so younger guys are expected to keep up.
But the Packers remain hungry even with all the roster stability. The last time they played a meaningful game, after all, was the crushing loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC championship game.
''You can always improve. We didn't score on every possession. That's our No. 1 goal. It's being consistent and eliminating mistakes,'' Nelson said. ''It's the little things, and that's where you've got to pick yourself apart individually.''
There is a new wrinkle on offense this season with McCarthy giving up play-calling duties to devote more time to overseeing defense and special teams. Associate head coach Tom Clements will call plays, while Edgar Bennett is now the offensive coordinator.
It's all still McCarthy's offense. But new voices are leading meetings in what might be the biggest change on an otherwise stable unit.
''It doesn't feel like there needs to be a lot of change. We've got the team that we want,'' Rodgers said. ''But it's all about putting yourself in position, and winning the important games early sometimes, that can set you (up) for those games to be played at home because I think we all know ... how difficult (it) is becoming to play at Lambeau.
''So we'd love to have the championship game at Lambeau next year,'' Rodgers added.
It could happen if Rodgers and Nelson continue to be one of the top quarterback-receiver combinations in the NFL. They got right back to work on Thursday with Nelson participating fully in practice after being limited during the offseason following hip surgery.
The procedure, Nelson said, was to clean up what doctors called an ''impingement'' that had built up from years of playing sports. It was never a bother on game days, Nelson said.
Nelson had said during minicamp that he was just being cautious, with the ultimate goal being ready to go from the first day of training camp.
''Was he out there?'' Rodgers joked. ''Yeah, Jordy's a stud.''
NOTES: Andrew Quarless missed practice, and McCarthy said the tight end is dealing with a difficult family situation. ... LB Mike Neal was placed on the physically unable to perform list for a reported abdominal injury. McCarthy said he didn't think Neal, a key member of the pass-rush rotation, would be out long. ... CB Quinten Rollins, the team's second-round draft pick, is on the non-football injury list after hurting his right hamstring while doing conditioning work two weeks ago. Neal and Rollins can return once medically cleared. ... WR Jared Abbrederis, who missed his rookie season in 2014 with a knee injury, left practice after falling hard to the turf during an interception. McCarthy said that he didn't think it was a knee injury, and that trainers might have been looking at Abbrederis' back.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP