GREEN BAY – In a more ideal world, Darnell Savage’s wisdom tooth would have started stinging a month earlier.
But the Green Bay Packers rookie couldn’t control that. No, Savage’s wisdom tooth started hurting in July, just before the start of his first NFL training camp. So Savage, a projected Week 1 starter who needs all the practice reps he can get, decided to take care of it despite less-than-ideal timing.
He had the tooth removed.
“It’s just bad timing,” Savage said. “I’m not going to sit here and dwell on it and say, ‘I should have got it.’ It wasn’t bothering me then, you know what I’m saying? It kind of just snuck up on me, and we got an opinion on it and we thought it was the best idea to get it out and get it over with.”
Savage’s delay to start camp ended Wednesday when he was removed from the non-football illness list and stepped onto Ray Nitschke Field. Savage was limited in team reps as the Packers ease him back into action, but he took first-team reps in the early walkthrough aside veteran Adrian Amos. That meant Raven Greene, the Packers’ third safety, dropped into the box as a hybrid linebacker in nickel.
“We’re not going to throw him back in there,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “We’re just going to incrementally load him up as we go. Today, he did individual. He’ll be a part of our walkthroughs, which are very minimal intensity. But, yeah, he’ll get a little bit more each and every day.”
Savage doesn’t think it’ll take much time for him to get up to speed. While he’s been out, he said, the playbook has always been by his side. He’s spent the extra time away from training to further learn defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s system.
On Wednesday, the rookie was just pleased to finally get his chance to practice.
“The first time putting on the pads in a Packer uniform,” Savage said. “It’s kind of a surreal moment. I put my pads on, and I kind of sat in the locker room and was like, ‘Wow.’
“At the end of the day, it’s still football. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I tried not to make the moment too big.”
Packers boost depth on defensive line
The Packers claimed linebacker Markus Jones off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens, the team announced.
Jones originally signed with the Ravens in May as an undrafted free agent out of Angelo State. He was voted Division II national defensive player of the year last season and finished sixth in voting for the Harlon Hill Award, the Division II equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. In his career, Jones set a school record with 37 sacks and added 77.5 tackles for loss.
The Packers waived injured undrafted rookie cornerback Javien Hamilton (hamstring).
Aaron Jones misses practice
Starting running back Aaron Jones experienced tightness in a hamstring late in Tuesday’s practice, which caused the third-year player to watch Wednesday’s session from the sidelines.
“It was definitely precautionary with him,” LaFleur said. “He’s going to be an important part of our football team, so we need him to be fresh and healthy and so we were a little cautious with him (Wednesday).”
Jones has missed four games in each of his first two seasons with knee injuries.
On Wednesday, Jones joined Jamaal Williams – who also has been nursing a hamstring issue – on the sidelines. With the regular-season opener just five weeks away the Packers may be cautious now, but the head coach believes they will need to get snaps in during the preseason.
“I think all the backs, they need to get in there and get some game action, and just feel, it feels like it’s been months since he’s taken a hit,” LaFleur said. “And they need to feel a little of that prior to Week 1.”
Running back depth tested early
Back on June 14 the Packers released veteran running back Kapri Bibbs, leaving them with just Jones, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams and Tra Carson as running backs on the roster heading into the summer break. That is how the depth chart remained until July 26, when the Packers signed free-agent running back Corey Grant, a fifth-year veteran who played in Jacksonville.
It was that day when Jamaal Williams felt tightness in his hamstring, and he has been sidelined since.
On July 27, the club added another running back in undrafted rookie Darrin Hall off waivers from Cincinnati. The timing was fortuitous, as Jones felt his hamstring tighten July 30.
That has left Dexter Williams, the team’s sixth-round pick out of Notre Dame, and Carson, who entered the league in 2016 with the Bengals, as the two most experienced players in LaFleur’s system. Each has gotten first-team reps with the absences of Jones and Jamaal Williams. Grant’s workload is increasing daily as well.
LaFleur says the scripted practices has helped the newer running backs participate more quickly, but “There’s a lot of coaching going on,” he added. “Coach (Ben) Sirmans does such a great job with those guys. I can’t say enough about him as a coach. He’s one of the best running back coaches I’ve been around. He does a great job preparing those guys each and every day.”
Carson, who rushed for 1,165 yards as a senior at Texas A&M in 2015, has appeared in only six regular-season games. He was on the Packers’ practice squad most of last year and played in four games before he was put on injured reserve in December.
“It’s a new coaching staff and they’ve never seen me play in a live game so it’s important for me to get out there and show them I know where I’m going and I’m capable of performing in this offense,” Carson said. “Everyone is getting pretty much a fair chance to showcase what you can do. Whether you get in first or you get in last everyone is getting reps. I feel like it’s been fair enough to showcase.”
MVS learning from a legend
For the second straight year, Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling learned from one of the greatest receivers in the game’s history.
Valdes-Scantling spent about a month training with Randy Moss this offseason, he said. It was substantially more time than last year, when he spent only a week with Moss. The two were introduced a year ago by a quarterbacks coach in the Tampa, Fla., area who trains Valdes-Scantling.
“I just got a solid four or five days a week with him,” Valdes-Scantling said, “and just being yourself. That’s kind of the focus that he always said, ‘Don’t try to go out and be me or emulate me. I can teach you some things that I did, but you can be yourself.’ So that’s the thing he always preached.”