Packers safety Vernon Scott takes a step forward by picking off Jordan Love
GREEN BAY - Late last week, Green Bay Packers safety Vernon Scott was explaining how critical if was for him to gain the trust of his coaches after a season in which he was buried so deep on the bench that he might as well have been sitting in the parking lot on game day.
Picking off quarterback Jordan Love and scoring a touchdown during a two-minute drill Monday is a good start.
Scott, a seventh-round pick in 2020, was a complete non-factor last season despite showing some promise at safety and on special teams as a rookie. He was inactive in all but three games and did not register a statistic in the eight special teams snaps he played.
A hamstring injury suffered in the first preseason game set him back, but he made the 53-man roster and was ready to play a month or so into the regular season. But week after week, his name was on the game-day inactive list. The Packers put more trust in Henry Black, a strong special teams player who advanced into a third safety role in the dime package when injuries struck the secondary.
After the season, however, the Packers didn’t pick up Black’s one-year, $645,000 contract and stuck with Scott.
Looking back, he’s not sure why he didn’t play, but he knew coming into this season he needed to do something to stand out and went to work on getting in better shape and leaving the disappointment of last year in the trash bin.
“I just put last year really behind,” he said. “I had injuries and then just the fact that being inactive a lot of games means it was just really a learning experience. I learned from it and took better care of my body and really I’m just trying to earn the trust of the coaches, putting in the time and work.”
Scott said given how competitive the secondary is, he knows he has to be the kind of playmaker he was at TCU in 2019, when he had 44 tackles, eight pass break-ups, a sack, an interception returned for a touchdown and two forced fumbles. At 6-2, 202 pounds, Scott ran around 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash and played as a nickel safety for the Horn Frogs, so there’s potential for him to play in coordinator Joe Barry’s system.
He showed that his rookie season when in 90 snaps on defense he had seven tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. In 184 special teams snaps, he had six tackles, which ranked No. 4 on the team.
When asked last year why Scott wasn’t getting on the field, secondary coach Jerry Gray said the injury set him back and with Black leading the team in special teams tackles, there wasn’t room for a fourth safety on the game-day roster. Scott, Gray said, couldn’t force himself into the lineup.
“I talked to Vern all the time, ‘Hey, my thought process with you is keep working hard because in the NFL you’re always one play away,’” Gray said in November. “That's the thing that we look for in our guys. Even in practice, if you're not competing, it's going to be hard to get on the football field.”
This year, Scott is lining up next to Shawn Davis on the No. 2 unit, which means he’s in the running for the No. 3 safety spot. He had a good offseason, is healthy and understands every play in training camp matters.
As for special teams, Scott has a new lease on life with new coordinator Rich Bisaccia and is trying to impress him as much as he is Gray.
“I’m just building that relationship, showing them I can make plays,” Scott said. “I know I can make plays – big plays – and contribute to the team overall. We’re stacked on defense. We have the guys, so I’m just trying to relish the opportunity to be out there with those guys. I want to show that I can go out there and play with those guys.”
Amari Rodgers gets some pointers
Matt LaFleur spent some extra time with wide receiver Amari Rodgers to start Monday's practice. As receivers were lining up to run pass-catching drills with quarterbacks, LaFleur sought out the second-year receiver. Pulling Rodgers aside, LaFleur walked him through high pointing a ball and the best technique to do so.
Coaches have been pushing Rodgers hard this training camp, looking to help the Clemson alum push past some rookie growing pains. In his first year, Rodgers dressed for all 16 games, starting only one. He finished with four receptions for 45 yards for the year. LaFleur spoke on Rodgers last Saturday, and what he could become.
“Amari’s in much better shape. It’s gonna be how fast he can continue to improve on a daily basis and he’s done some nice things,” LaFleur said. “But we’re three days into this sucker so there’s still a long time in front of us. But I am excited about what he could potentially become.”
Rodgers has also been working on punt return each day in practice. He spent time as the punt returner his rookie season but was hampered by two fumbles, poor fielding and fair catches. On 20 punt returns, he averaged 8.3 yards per return. Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia has worked with Rodgers persistently, particularly in relation to not fair-catching the ball, but instead looking for a return.
Packers prepare for first full-pads practice
LaFleur was able to sleep in Sunday, all the way to 8 a.m., as the Packers took their first day off of training camp. But Monday started things back up, as the Packers donned shell pads and kicked off five straight days of practice during the second week of camp.
Monday was a shorter practice as the players put on shells for the first time. Tuesday, the first day in pads, will be a longer practice that will also make up for lost time Monday. Wednesday will be a jog-through, which is why it's closed to the public; “that's why we closed it, it may be a little bit boring for everybody," LaFleur said. Thursday they will "crank it back up” and then Friday will be Family Night.
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“We've got to be very careful about how hard we're going each and every day,” said LaFleur of the five straight days. "It is going to be a little bit of a grind on our guys but that's why it's so important for these guys to take care of their bodies and doing everything they can, whether it's a cold tub or just getting massages. And our guys are pretty good good in terms of guys being responsible like that.”
As the pads come on, excitement levels rocket. The offense has been getting the better of the defense most days, but corner Eric Stokes knows this is when the real football begins.
“This is what all like we’re known for. You can look like an all-star in T-shirts and helmet but when pads come on, that's the real thing, that's a grown man, that’s what this sport is really made for. So we can’t wait to see.”