Several starting defensive Green Bay Packers players unlikely to start in preseason opener

Aug. 11, 2011

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There’s no such thing as a perfect training camp schedule.

Each variation has its pluses and minuses.

Players liked the night practices because they were out of the mid-day sun, but it made for longer days. In the end, some of the ragged practices recently may have been due to the mental fatigue from long days of meetings prior to practice. In fact, some players privately grumbled about how long the days were.

So give coach Mike McCarthy credit for changing on the fly. He dumped the remaining three night practices scheduled for next week and instead decided to go with more of a regular-season schedule from here on out in camp. There will be extra meeting time, but with practices beginning in the 11 a.m. hour, it will make for shorter but hotter days.

Under the schedule that the Packers followed for the first two weeks, players would arrive at Lambeau Field as early as 7 a.m. and didn’t leave until as late as 10 p.m. after they showered following practice.

“There was a lot of good information that came out of it,” McCarthy said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve from a scheduling standpoint.”

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Don’t expect to see much of the No. 1 defense in Saturday’s preseason opener at Cleveland.

If Thursday’s practice was any indication, and considering it was the final one before the game there’s reason to believe it was a good indication, then several starters won’t play.

Those defensive starters who didn’t work with the ones in practice were: both starting cornerbacks, Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson; both starting inside linebackers, Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk; and starting safety Nick Collins. What’s more, starting nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) and nickel cornerback Sam Shields (hip) dropped out because of injuries.

Woodson usually skips the preseason opener just like he does the Family Night scrimmage.

The Packers are especially thin at both cornerback and inside linebacker. If their top three corners sit, that would leave only three available cornerbacks – Jarrett Bush, Pat Lee and Josh Gordy. Rookie Davon House (hamstring) hasn’t practiced all week and isn’t likely to play.

There’s not much proven depth behind Bishop and Hawk, so protecting them could be a reason not to play them although McCarthy said they would play even though Robert Francois and D.J. Smith took all of their reps on Thursday.

Did you notice?

Mason Crosby kicked for the first time since injuring his ankle in his second practice of camp. He did some kickoffs and made both of his field goals, from 36 and 42 yards.

Before he dropped out of practice, Raji nearly made an interception identical to the one he returned for a touchdown in the NFC Championship game at Chicago. He dropped a few yards into coverage and jumped for the ball, but this time he dropped it.

The defense won only five of the 25 one-on-one pass rushing snaps. Mike Neal won twice (beating T.J. Lang and Caleb Schlauderaff). The other winners were Jay Ross (against Nick McDonald), Frank Zombo (against Derek Sherrod) and Ryan Pickett (against Sampson Genus).

Blake Baratz, the agent for Bishop and Jermichael Finley, attended practice. He said last week that he hoped to begin negotiations on a new contract for Finley, but there was no indication those talks had begun.

All of the team periods were off cards, meaning when the No. 1 offense was on the field, it went against a scout-team defense that was running Cleveland’s plays, and vice versa.

The kickoff return team was almost completely different from the night before. Only three players – John Kuhn, Nick McDonald and Lee – were holdovers.

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