Back to school for some Packers rookies

Ryan Wood
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The Green Bay Packers' 2016 draft class officially joins the team’s offseason program starting Monday after rookie orientation weekend, but not every rookie will be on hand.

Green Bay Packers first-round draft pick Kenny Clark (97) drills during rookie camp practice in the Hutson Center.

Three rookies had to return to school Sunday because of a longtime NFL rule requiring players drafted from universities with quarterly semesters to finish their school year before joining their team’s offseason program. First-round nose tackle Kenny Clark (UCLA), fifth-year receiver Trevor Davis (Cal) and sixth-round tackle Kyle Murphy (Stanford) will start their professional careers abroad.

Clark acknowledged his time away from Lambeau Field will be a challenge.

“I wish I could stay here throughout the whole process,” Clark said, “but I think that will probably be one of the more difficult parts – that I won’t be here with the team.”

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That’s not to say Clark devalues his education. On the cusp of becoming a multi-millionaire, Clark said graduation still is his goal. He’s a year to 18 months from earning his degree, Clark said. Over the next month, he’ll stay busy between classes learning his playbook and working out.

The Packers would have more than half their draft class absent over the next few weeks, but fourth-round inside linebacker Blake Martinez (Stanford) already has graduated.

Martinez said he was aware of the rule, and he planned accordingly. That meant taking summer school to gain enough credits to graduate in three-and-a-half years. This past year, Martinez said, he took 20 credit hours – the maximum allowed.

“It was a grind,” Martinez said. “My whole time at Stanford, I probably had no longer than a week off at a time from school. So I was always in summer school, I was always in school non-stop throughout the whole year – and it was tough. I always went to office hours and those types of things, which made it easier.

“I’d go to practice, and then instantly have school from 7 to 12 at night. Sleep, and then re-do the day. Now, I can have practice, go and do all this extra stuff as far as watching film, all this other stuff, and substituting that stuff in instead of school.”

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The NFL’s quarter-system rule isn’t new, but it does seem odd. College is supposed to prepare students for their professional careers. For the fortunate few considered elite college football prospects, their professional career is the NFL. In this case, school directly delays the start of their professional career.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked about the rule’s contradictory nature. He wouldn’t share his opinion whether the rule should exist, but it’s fair to assume coaches would prefer their players to be with the team. McCarthy said there will be a transition period when rookies return in June – “you obviously don’t have the (offseason program) reps,” McCarthy said – but he doesn’t expect their absence to stunt their growth.

McCarthy expects Clark, Davis and Murphy will be caught up by training camp.

“This is a common practice,” McCarthy said. “There’s a plan. We’ll maximize the time with Kenny here today and tomorrow. We’ll make sure he’s ready. We have a number of guys that are in that situation, and we’ll just use our experiences from the past to make sure we get them ready.” and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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