GREEN BAY, Wis. – There was an imposter on the field at Green Bay Packers training camp on Thursday.
But first, general manager Brian Gutekunst made a trade he didn’t want to make.
Gutekunst already took his shot at slot receiver by trading up in the third round for Clemson’s Amari Rodgers. With a quality receiver corps and a strained salary cap, the last thing he needed was a past-his-prime veteran. Wednesday’s trade for veteran Randall Cobb was made for/propelled by disgruntled quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“Obviously, without Aaron, I don’t think we would probably be pursuing that, but he’s still a really good player,” Gutekunst said on Thursday morning. “Seeing him last night just kind of reminded me of what kind of impact he’ll have in our locker room for our football team. This is a very important thing for Aaron and that’s why we did it.”
The Packers gave up a sixth-round pick in the move. The Texans will pay $3 million of Cobb’s salary to take away some of the sting, according to ESPN.com.
Regardless of who made the move, it’s up to coach Matt LaFleur to make it work and get Cobb involved in an offense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL in scoring last season.
“You can never have enough good players and, specifically, it’s always great when you bring in a veteran that’s been in some big-time moments,” LaFleur said before Thursday’s practice. “His football acumen is off the charts. It frees up to help maybe Amari develop in some other holes that we can use him in, as well. So, the more pieces you have, the more creative I think you can be as a coach. Obviously, it’s a long season and, if you happen to lose a guy, it allows you to pivot and go a different direction.”
In his Green Bay debut 2.0, Cobb looked like, well, Cobb. He was quick out of his breaks during individual drills, even while wearing someone else’s cleats. He’s got a lot to learn, obviously, though one of his best friends has a pretty decent grasp of the offense. For Rodgers’ career, only Davante Adams (498) and Jordy Nelson (469) have more receptions than Cobb (429). Cobb is fourth in yards (4,893) and touchdowns (39).
“Obviously, we talk a lot,” Cobb said. “He’s one of my closest friends, consider him family, he stood up in my wedding. We talk pretty often, and we always talked about having the opportunity to play together again. We didn’t know how that was going to be, how it was going to happen, but we always hoped that we would have the opportunity to get back together at some point.”
In airing his list of grievances on Wednesday, one point Rodgers focused on was how the team handled veterans ranging from Jordy Nelson and Charles Woodson to Julius Peppers and Brett Goode. Too many key players, Rodgers said, “weren’t offered a contract at all or were extremely low-balled or were in my opinion not given the respect on the way out that guys of their status and stature and high character deserved.”
With Gutekunst back on Thursday to talk about the additions of Cobb and offensive lineman Dennis Kelly, he also faced a second round of Rodgers questions – such as his response to Rodgers’ charges.
Gutekunst’s rebuttal were insightful.
“Obviously, this is a hard business. It’s a tough business,” Gutekunst said. “And when it comes to an end for any player, I don’t think it usually goes well. I don’t think you feel very good about it. We are always very sensitive to what those players have given the organization, and when we go through that, it’s always with class and dignity.
“But, again, it’s a hard business. And I think, obviously, sometimes the Packers take the brunt of what is the NFL business. I think while those decisions are hard, they have to be made for a team to grow. Keeping players longer maybe than we should, then all of a sudden maybe we’re not signing players we should down the road. It’s a little bit of a domino effect. It’s hard. It’s hard on players. Players should have those feelings. It’s hard. And when you play as long as Aaron has, you’re going to see a lot of that.”
Play of the Day
There were several to choose from, including the second snap of the day. Rodgers went deep to Juwann Winfree, who got behind safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Chandon Sullivan for a big play. It took a while for there to be a challenger but it was delivered at the hands of tight end Robert Tonyan. Literally. Tonyan caught a pass at the sideline for a gain of about 15 despite getting his hands raked by safety Darnell Savage.
Packers OT Nijman Put Athletic Gifts Together in Training Camp
Note: This feature was published on Aug. 24 and was updated on Sept. 24 with the possibility Yosh Nijman will start at left tackle for the Week 3 game against San Francisco on Sunday.
It was a reminder that Tonyan didn’t drop a pass last season.
“Just reps and having a pretty good quarterback isn't all that bad, either,” Tonyan said when asked about the catch. “Puts it right there and now it's my job is to catch it. Just visualizing and just keep getting reps mentally and physically. So, yeah, just keep doing my job.”
That didn’t stay atop the podium for long. Once again, the pass was from Rodgers. Adams got a step on Jaire Alexander, who covered Adams for most of the day. Savage came sprinting over from centerfield but the ball somehow evaded his fingers. Adams caught the ball in stride for a long touchdown. It was a splendid pass by Rodgers, superior use of “late hands” by Adams to not give the defenders a clue the ball was coming, and a sign of their brilliant connection.
Moment of the Day
All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari appeared to be making such a rapid recovery from his torn ACL during minicamp that it was hardly a surprise to see No. 69 on the practice field.
Instead, it wasn’t Bakhtiari. It was Kelly. Both have long hair, but Kelly’s got 4 inches on the affable and dominant left tackle. When Bakhtiari emerged from his rehab workout, they put on their real jerseys.
Packers Injury Report
Injured: None. Non-football Injury List: CB Kevin King, S Will Redmond, S Henry Black, OLB Za’Darius Smith, LB Isaiah McDuffie, DT Kingsley Keke. Physically unable to perform list: RB Patrick Taylor, TE Dominique Dafney, LT David Bakhtiari, TE Josiah Deguara.
Returned to Practice: None.
Some Quick Reads
Again, the “real” part of training camp doesn’t begin next week, so there’s no point in hyperventilating over anything happening on the field. With that said:
- JJ Molson took all eight kicks during a field goal drill. On kicks from 33 to 50 yards, he made 7-of-8. The miss was wide right from 48 and appeared to get stuck in the wind.
- Once again, it was Elgton Jenkins at left tackle (for David Bakhtiari), Jon Runyan and Ben Braden replacing Jenkins at left guard, and Eric Stokes at cornerback (for Kevin King). Braden also replaced Lucas Patrick for a few snaps at right guard.
- Speaking of Stokes, he had an impressive rep on an extended play. Rodgers escaped pressure and bolted to his right. He found Davante Adams streaking toward the sideline but Stokes’ coverage was good and the ball was incomplete.
- Jordan Love overshot running back Kylin Hill and was intercepted by Ty Summers.
- Rodgers might have thrown a no-look pass to Amari Rodgers. Rodgers was ready and made a leaping catch.
- Cornerback Jaire Alexander and outside linebacker Rashan Gary have been the most impactful defenders.
- No different than the offseason practices, Juwann Winfree is the receiver who has stood out from the group of, pardon the phrase, "other receivers." Undrafted rookie Bailey Gaither was tossed to the ground - a no-no - but held onto make a catch.
Packers Training Camp Schedule
The Packers will hold their third practice of training camp on Friday at the usual starting time of 10:10 a.m. For the one and only time of camp, they’ll practice again on Saturday. The team will be off the practice field on Sunday before putting on the pads for the first time on Monday. Each of these practices will be held at Ray Nitschke Field and be open to fans.