Packers tight end Jimmy Graham discusses Matt LaFleur's offense and the group of tight ends at training camp this year. Olivia Reiner, PackersNews
GREEN BAY – Jimmy Graham quietly slipped out of a team-only area off the Green Bay Packers locker room and sat quietly in his locker, a small smile crawling across his face. Graham, who will turn 33 in November, said heading into 10th season he feels as good physically as he has in years and that Matt LaFleur’s new offense has him primed for a big season.
“I’m super excited, obviously,” he said. “Everybody thinks I’m old and slow now, so we’ll see what happens.”
Last season, the tight end managed a knee issue that would keep him out of weekday practices, and he played with broken thumb late in the year. While LaFleur has been mindful of the workload of some key veterans since he arrived in Green Bay, Graham hasn’t missed any time on the field.
“Like today, I’m having to talk to my guys that I need some more reps tomorrow because I want to be ready for Week 1,” Graham said of Tuesday’s upcoming practice with Houston. “And I need all the reps I can get – especially with the pads on, especially against another defense. For me, I take every opportunity pretty serious. Especially after four years ago I had that big incident with the Steelers and my knee (injury in 2015), I don’t take any of this for granted. And I’m blessed each and every day out here to practice.”
Last year, in his first with the Packers, Graham caught 55 balls on 89 targets. Both were his lowest totals since an injury-shortened 2015 and the fewest looks he’s had since becoming a regular starter after his rookie season in 2010. His two touchdown receptions were also the fewest of his career when starting at least nine games. Though he has acknowledged those numbers were not where he, nor the Packers, would have liked, the experience playing with Aaron Rodgers should have some carry-over to 2019.
“It’s everything,” he said. “Obviously getting his trust but I have to go up and make those plays. When I get those opportunities, I have to show him that I’m the biggest, fastest thing out there. I have to go up and get those grabs for him.
“I’ve been focused and I’m ready to get this thing started, obviously. We have four more weeks here, but I’m about as fired up as I’ve ever been to go and shut a lot of people up.”
Rodgers unlikely to play in preseason opener
LaFleur wasn’t ready to put his chip down on Rodgers playing Thursday night against Houston at Lambeau Field in the preseason opener, but he left it hovering just above the table after Monday’s joint practice with the Texans.
“We haven’t made 100 percent commitment to that but, yeah, if we get enough good look I’d just as soon sit him and get him ready for Week 2,” LaFleur said after Monday’s practice.
Rodgers played seven snaps and led a touchdown drive in the second week of the preseason last year, which was his only appearance during the exhibition slate. He played 16 snaps in the second preseason game and 10 in the third in 2017.
Packers scouts also get extra work
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said his staff was looking forward to the joint practices with the Texans because it gave them a very up-close view of another team – along with an enhanced insight into their own players.
“It’s another stressful environment where you kind of see how players react, your own players,” Gutekunst said. “And then obviously from an evaluation standpoint seeing another team’s players up close for a couple of days is really helpful. You don’t get to do that very often. But I think for your own team it’s another situation where you can see how your players react, how they respond and can they handle that moment.”
Kevin King watched Monday’s practice from the sidelines with a hamstring injury, which LaFleur didn’t think was the related to the one the Packers cornerback suffered a year ago. General manager Brian Gutekunst echoed those thoughts Tuesday.
“It sounds like he’s going to be OK,” Gutekunst said. “It shouldn’t be a long-term thing. We’ll kind of wait and see. Those things, you usually know a little bit more in a few days here. When guys have continuous things it’s always bothersome. He was having a great camp so far. But hopefully, he’ll be out there pretty quickly.”
Wide receiver Jake Kumerow jammed his left pinky finger during one-on-one drills Friday and aggravated it during special teams work Monday. Seen in a splint in the locker room, he said it was not dislocated and shrugged it off.
“No, it’s fine,” Kumerow said. “Just jammed it up. It’s real stiff on me.”
Fellow wide receiver Trevor Davis left the practice field after returning a kickoff. He made a spin move and then was hit high. LaFleur said more information will be known Thursday. The fourth-year receiver has been a standout through the early part of camp. Davis began and ended the 2018 season on injured reserve with hamstring injuries.
NFL officials must 'embrace technology'
Just like the players, NFL officials must get ready for the regular season and that means more than just working exhibition games.
This week, for instance, referee Brad Rogers and his crew are in town to work both of the joint practices involving the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans before the two teams’ exhibition opener Thursday night.
Rogers and two other members of his crew met with reporters before practice to go over rules changes and points of emphasis this season. Naturally, the focal point was the new instant replay review on pass interference. It stems from the no-call in the New Orleans-Los Angeles NFC Championship game that probably cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl. Rogers said there had been previous discussion of replay for interference, “but that probably propelled the discussion more.”
Coaches can use any of their two challenges (three if they’re successful on the first two) to either dispute a pass interference call on his defense or claim pass interference on the opposing defense. “The rule in itself hasn’t changed, it’s just the fact on how it can be challenged,” Rogers said. At the 2-minute warning and beyond, the replay official will determine whether a play needs to be reviewed. Rogers said the rule states there must be clear and obvious interference, so all reviews will be held to that standard. “One thing as officials, you have to embrace technology,” Rogers said. “If it gets it right, that’s what’s important.”
Texans defensive end and Pewaukee native J.J. Watt shares his thoughts on returning to his home state for joint practices with the Packers. Olivia Reiner, PackersNews