GREEN BAY - Just about the time the Green Bay Packers were starting to integrate Sean Richardson into their defense as a third safety, the former Vanderbilt undrafted free agent injured a cervical disc for the second time and was put on injured reserve.
It was 2015 and defensive coordinator Dom Capers was using the 6-2, 216-pound Richardson in a hybrid linebacker/safety position, a precursor to the role Morgan Burnett would play two seasons later.
In drafting Vanderbilt inside linebacker Oren Burks in the third round this year, the Packers may be envisioning a bigger, quicker version of Richardson. The 6-3, 233-pound Burks played safety at Vanderbilt through his sophomore season and comes to the Packers with athletic traits similar to Richardson's.
“Definitely versatility, my movement skills and just knowing the game from a lot of different perspectives,” Burks said of his skill set during a break at rookie orientation camp. “So that versatility, coming to linebacker, that's a very big asset for me."
What separates Burks from Richardson, besides 17 pounds, is lateral quickness. His times in the 20-yard shuttle and the three-cone drill at the combine were far better than Richardson’s despite the weight difference.
Burks started out playing both inside linebacker positions during rookie orientation and will likely stay there on the depth chart. But in reality, he’s probably going to be a bigger version of that hybrid player Capers was starting to employ.
New coordinator Mike Pettine is likely to find a place for Burks in nickel and dime situations if he isn’t a full-time starter.
“I really felt comfortable being around the ball and being able to be in on all the plays, with the pass and run defense as well,” Burks said of his senior year. “I really feel like my game got taken to the next level. My production went up.
“I was able to show how I played and run sideline to sideline, and also make plays.”
Training day: Rookie wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown’s father is a two-time Mr. Universe, so it stands to reason that his son probably has learned a lot about weight training over the years.
On draft day, St. Brown said he played last season at Notre Dame at 203 pounds but had since put on 15 pounds and felt his 6-5 frame could carry even more.
St. Brown said that despite his father John’s experience, he did not intend to ask the Packers if he could follow his own strength and conditioning plan.
“I followed Notre Dame’s program,” St. Brown said. “No, I’ll do whatever they tell me to do.”
Freelancer: Don’t be surprised if Washington State rookie offensive lineman Cole Madison has some trouble with the playbook early on.
He didn’t really have one in coach Mike Leach’s spread offense in college.
“For offensive line, it’s simple: We’ve got a couple pass protections, a couple run plays, a couple screens and call it a day,” Madison said. “Real simple.”
Even with run plays?
“It’s either ‘run right’ or ‘run left.’”
Madison will have a lot more to learn in coach Mike McCarthy’s offense. From blitz pickups to double teams to combo blocks, Madison is going to have a full menu of details to learn.
“I feel like I’m picking it up pretty fast and the guys in the group, they’re really good about reaching out to you and what-not, the offensive line, all these rookies,” Madison said. “The coaching staff is fantastic.”