» The fireworks started early in the first padded practice of training camp Saturday. On the fourth play of a red-zone drill that was the first team period, tight end Jimmy Graham and safety Josh Jones had to be separated before coming to blows after a pass to the end zone. Graham ran a fade route that Jones broke up, but Graham immediately complained to the referee that Jones had grabbed his facemask. Jones chimed in, and within a couple seconds Graham was going at Jones as they jawed back and forth, with Jones repeatedly shouting, “Shut up.” Joe Whitt, the Packers’ defensive passing game coordinator, immediately stepped between and kept them from tangling, but the extended jawing and near fight set a feisty tone for the practice.
“It’s a great sign,” Jones said. “You need that. It’s not going to go anywhere past the gates on the field, so it’s good. It’s showing passion for the game. … You don’t need a lot of (fighting) – I’d say that would distract everybody from what we’re out there for. But at the end of the day it’s going to happen. In all my years of playing football, ever since the collegiate level, there’s been a fight every camp. That’s just what it is.”
Graham said he saw the battle on the play and confrontation after as the kind of thing that has to happen to prepare the team for the demands of an NFL season.
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“That’s what this league is about: Who’s tougher? Who can last longer? Who has that?” Graham said. “The only way to work on it is in practice, and we’ll keep doing that each and every day. I’ll be getting after them each and every day. I’ll be saying some stuff, and he’ll be saying some stuff to me. And that’s how it is. So when it gets to the real game, we’re ready for it and we’re able to take care of our job.”
Jones wouldn’t cop to grabbing Graham’s facemask – “I don’t remember,” he said – but Graham insisted the second-year pro should have been penalized.
“He did,” Graham said. “We’ll go back to the slow-mo playback and see how that goes. But no, that’s how it is sometimes, you know? I know he’s competitive. We just have to take care of each other a little bit better.”
» Rookie receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling flashed the ability that convinced the Packers to draft him in the fifth round, but he also had a couple of drops in his first padded practice in the NFL.
He made an eye-catching touchdown catch in a red-zone period when he used his 6-foot-4 frame and leaping ability to rise over safety Raven Greene on a fade pattern from Brett Hundley for about a 15-yard score. Valdes-Scantling was near the sideline but managed to keep both feet down after colliding with Greene.
But earlier in team drills Valdes-Scantling dropped a pass on an out pattern from rookie quarterback TimBoyle. Then later in practice he showed his speed by getting behind the defense on a post pattern only to have the ball go through his hands as he tried to make the lunging catch on a good throw by DeShone Kizer.
“I could have come up with it,” Valdes-Scantling said. “It was a tough catch, but at this level I’ve got to make those plays.”
Earlier this week our Tom Silverstein wrote about Randall Cobb and Davante Adams having to fill the leadership void with Jordy Nelson gone, and we saw a glimpse of that Saturday. After undrafted rookie receiver Kyle Lewis failed to get his second foot down in-bounds in a quarterback-receiver drill, Cobb immediately reminded him to drag his back foot rather than step and try to get it down quickly.
You can make a good argument that Boyle, the undrafted rookie, had a better day in his limited work than the two quarterbacks fighting for the No. 2 job, Hundley and Kizer. Boyle stood tall in the pocket and delivered the ball while showing NFL strength on several throws. That included completing a slant to receiver Trevor Davis, hitting running back Devante Mays on one short touchdown pass and hitting rookie receiver J’Mon Moore on a back-shoulder throw for an eight-yard score. He put another back-shoulder throw on the money, but Moore dropped what would have been a five-yard touchdown.
Bits and pieces
» Kyler Fackrell, the third-year outside linebacker, had a big win in his first one-on-one pass rush of camp when he beat left tackle David Bakhtiari on an inside move. In his first two training camps combined, Fackrell unofficially won only one one-on-one rep.
» Mason Crosby went 7-for-8 in the first live kicking period of camp. His miss was wide right from 48 yards, and the makes ranged from 33 yards to 50 yards.
» Greer Martini, an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, clearly has made an impression on the Packers’ coaching staff. He’s on the first-team kickoff coverage and kickoff return units, and has been getting snaps with the No. 2 defense at inside linebacker.
The only player on the active roster who didn’t practice was running back Aaron Jones (hamstring tightness).
Jones, the second-year safety, on his jawing and scuffle with five-time Pro Bowl tight end Graham: “He’s a Pro Bowl tight end, a great tight end, one of the best in the game. I’d never disrespect a future Hall of Famer. It was just emotions.”
The players are off Sunday. Their next practice is at 11:15 a.m. Monday at Ray Nitschke Field.
Pete Dougherty and Ryan Wood analyze the feisty first practice in pads at Packers training camp. Stu Courtney, Packers News