Packers showing patience as former CFL receiver Reggie Begelton struggles to adjust
GREEN BAY - Even after Reggie Begelton caught 102 passes in the Canadian Football League last year, the Green Bay Packers knew it was going to take him some time to get used to the NFL.
Nine practices into training camp, Begelton is still adjusting.
He hasn’t made any of the eye-opening plays that led him to average 14.2 yards per catch and score 10 touchdowns for the Calgary Stampeders.
Then again, he’s playing in a completely different offense and under different rules, most notably the freedom in the CFL to send multiple players running toward the line of scrimmage before the snap.
“They have three guys in motion, so there's some unique things when me and (coach) Matt (LaFleur) watched the tape in the offseason,” receivers coach Jason Vrable said. “It almost makes your head spin.”
Vrable said Begelton’s production in the CFL and in college at Lamar indicate that there’s ability there. He has the experience and intellect to handle the offense.
But he hasn’t put it all together.
"It's just about building his confidence in the NFL, that he can go against a No. 1 corner like ‘Jar’ (Jaire Alexander) or Kevin King and just trust himself to win his one-on-ones with the details that we coach,” Vrable said. “And not try to go out and do something that we don't really coach to do and try to do too much.
“Just do what you've done your whole life, just at a fast level. Just go out there and just trust yourself and not overthink things. And I think that'll come with just reps and just playing throughout the training camp.”
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Like any NFL newcomer this year, his chances of making the roster are suffering without exhibition games, where typically a player can gain confidence with a good outing. Somehow, he has to catch fire in the next week and a half, so he can separate himself from a crowded group of receivers behind starter Davante Adams.
“Every rep that we get, and the numbers are kind of getting smaller as we get closer to the game, we've got to just win our one-on-ones and take advantage of every second we got on the grass to just feel comfortable when we go in the game,” Vrable said. “And for ‘12’ (quarterback Aaron Rodgers) to trust those guys.”
The Packers are scheduled to practice at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. LaFleur is scheduled to address the media afterward, followed by players although none have been identified.
It’s possible the team could follow the lead of other teams in reacting to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. The Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers chose not to play games scheduled for Wednesday, and a day earlier the Detroit Lions canceled practice and quietly walked outside to the front of their headquarters in protest.
Jumping in with both feet
Admittedly rusty after spending all the training camp acclimation period recovering from COVID-19, tight end Jace Sternberger was one of the few front-line players who took part in the full-contact drill at the end of practice Tuesday.
The Packers need Sternberger to make big strides this season and he has not hesitated to take whatever snaps are necessary to make up for the time he lost.
“Any guy that wants an opp is gonna be given an opp,” tight ends coach Justin Outten said. “In those periods at the end, it's always good to knock the rust off and it's also good to see these guys compete even more than within practice.”
In the live-tackling drill, Sternberger played up to his status as a possible starter against the second and third teams. He caught a 28-yard pass along the left sideline from rookie quarterback Jordan Love and then a couple plays later turned a short catch into a 21-yard gain by breaking inside linebacker Krys Barnes’ open-field tackle.
“He did a great job of getting the ball on the sideline and breaking a tackle and just converting up the field,” Outten said. “It was a natural feel for him and he did it all throughout college, so it was not something that he learned here.”
“It was something, the ability to get the ball in his hands and get vertical as quickly as possible.”
In normal circumstances, offensive line coach Adam Stenavich would be rotating his rookie linemen so that they had exposure to multiple positions and could help anywhere in a pinch.
But that was when there were six weeks of practice and four exhibition games. There were enough snaps to shuffle linemen so that they could establish themselves at one position and show they could handle another.
But with the preseason wiped out because of COVID-19, Stenavich has taken a different approach, plugging draft picks Jon Runyan and Jake Hanson into one spot each.
“I just basically want to get them comfortable in a role as far as whatever position they can play,” Stenavich said of playing Runyan at left guard and Hanson at center. “I don’t want to throw too much at them too fast just because we didn’t have OTAs and camp has been shortened.
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“In order for them to be able to help us this year they need to find a spot and see if they can excel in that and then once they do that, we can move them around a little bit in different roles.”
General manager Brian Gutekunst took three interior linemen in the sixth round, the other being Simon Stepaniak, who is on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from ACL surgery in January. It’s possible he’ll be put on injured reserve before the cutdown to 53, meaning he would not play this season.
Runyan and Hanson, however, will most likely make the team and have to be ready to play.
Quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy said there’s one thing in particular that has led to Tim Boyle’s strong showing in camp this year.
“I think it’s just the confidence in the offense,” Getsy said. “When you know what to do you’re going to be more prepared and able be to execute at a higher level. I think that’s what we’re seeing from him now compared to a year ago or even eight months ago."