GREEN BAY - Darnell Savage Jr. said he wasn’t thinking of pop culture explicitly when he woke up Sunday morning and decided to change his jersey number. Of course, the pop-cultural ramifications were impossible to ignore entirely.
Savage will no longer wear jersey No. 26. Now, the 21st overall pick in this spring’s draft will don No. 21. That parallel, Savage said, “is kinda cool.”
There’s something else many rap fans find cooler. Savage’s back now reads his last name, and the number 21. It mirrors 21 Savage, the popular rapper who has produced hits such as “Bank Account” and “FaceTime.”
“Of course it went through my head,” Savage said, “but it’s not like, ‘Oh, yeah, I want to be 21 Savage.’ … I just wanted to make a switch. I wasn’t really feeling 26.”
The last Packers player to wear Savage’s new jersey number was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was also the last safety the Packers drafted in the first round. Clinton-Dix was traded to Washington last season and now plays for the Chicago Bears. Safety Natrell Jamerson wore No. 21 for the Packers this offseason, but he was released Saturday, making the number available.
Savage, a 21 Savage fan who counts ‘A Lot’ and ‘Can’t Leave Without It’ among his favorite songs, said he’s comfortable in his new number.
“It’s got a nice ring to it, for sure,” Savage said.
Kevin King, Jimmy Graham return to practice
Packers cornerback Kevin King returned to the field for the first time since he participated in the night practice at Lambeau Field on Aug. 2. King had been dealing with a hamstring injury, though the team had said it was unrelated to the hamstring injury that ended his season prematurely last year.
“It felt good running around out there,” the third-year corner said. “Just getting back out there, it felt good.”
King said he is playing Thursday in Chicago.
Tight end Jimmy Graham also returned to practice and was catching passes smoothly in individual drills. Graham injured a finger Aug. 18 and did not require surgery. Also returning to practice was offensive lineman Cole Madison.
Linebacker James Crawford, who left Thursday night’s preseason finale early with an injury, and rookie corner Ka’Dar Hollman participated while wearing red, no-contact jerseys.
Not participating for the Packers were linebacker Oren Burks (pectoral), rookie tight end Jace Sternberger (ankle), rookie wide receiver Darrius Shepherd (hamstring) and defensive end Fadol Brown.
The club is not required to publish an official injury report until Monday.
Unscouted looks abound
The Packers will unveil their new offense with quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the first time this week, an element of surprise that theoretically gives them some advantage against the Chicago Bears.
Of course, head coach Matt LaFleur isn’t about to admit to having any edge this week, at least not publicly. And while LaFleur’s explanation for why the Packers don’t have an advantage with unscouted looks was unsurprising, it’s also valid.
“We’re sitting there saying the same thing with (them) having a different defensive coordinator,” LaFleur said. “So we’re kind of both in the same boat. Obviously, their offensive coordinator is back, and I know Matt (Nagy’s) calling plays, and (Mike) Pettine’s back. So I think it’s pretty much a wash.”
When the Packers' defense lines up against quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Bears' offense, coordinator Mike Pettine will be calling plays against Chicago head coach Matt Nagy for the third time. There is already some familiarity between the two in scheme, and though the Packers’ defensive personnel has changed this season, some of that is offset by the fact new safety Adrian Amos came from Chicago.
More unknown is what the Packers' offense will do against the vaunted Bears defense, but the mystery isn’t one sided. The Bears' defense is operating in first-year coordinator Chuck Pagano’s new system. Pagano, the former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, hasn’t been a coordinator since 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens.
“The biggest challenge,” Nagy said, “will just be adapting to what you don’t know.”
Pagano replaced Vic Fangio, who was hired as the Denver Broncos’ head coach this offseason. He was among the candidates who interviewed for the Packers’ head-coaching vacancy. So Pagano should have some familiarity with the personnel.
LaFleur said the key isn't who gets more unscouted looks against the opponent, but how each team handles the unscouted looks they get.
"Anytime there's a little bit of changeover or the beginning of the season," LaFleur said, "there's going to be unscouted looks. And so really, it comes back to you trusting your training, you trusting your rules, and that's why rules are in place – for those type of situations.
"And there's going to be stuff I'm sure they're going to get us on, and I hope there's stuff we're going to get them on. It's just, how do you handle that, and how do you that adversity."