GREEN BAY - As the Packers paused for a water break Thursday, the wide receivers gathered off to the side of Ray Nitschke Field and dived into a veritable goody bag.
Out came tennis balls and footballs, which were to be juggled, and a number of red bricks, which were to be dropped and caught before hitting the ground. A collection of NERF balls surfaced, and players were instructed to catch and squeeze those, too.
What looked like the aftermath of a confused piñata was in reality a coaching tool for a newly promoted member of the coaching staff. Luke Getsy, elevated to wide receivers coach during the offseason, created the drills in an attempt to improve hand-eye coordination for his players. The early returns were positive: smiles, laughter and, of course, work.
“New coach, new little instruments he had today,” receiver Randall Cobb said after practice. “It was cool. Luke has been great. He’s brought a lot of new things, a lot of new thoughts to us. Different ways to view what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Cobb embraced the alternate training immediately. He quickly grabbed three tennis balls and tried to juggle against the wall of the Don Hutson Center. He transitioned to traditional juggling without the wall. He tried — and bobbled — when Getsy asked him to juggle two balls using only one hand.
Compared to his teammates, Cobb enjoyed a fair bit of success. He taught himself to juggle last season in hopes of improving his hands and eyes. The activity was incorporated into his weekly routine, and Cobb said he often practiced after his sessions in the weight room.
“It’s something that we do in our offseason here, but I also do it where I train in Baltimore,” Cobb said.
All around him, teammates tried their hand at the unusual drills. Trevor Davis, the rookie receiver from California, struggled comically to juggle three footballs, which spent more time on the ground than they did in the air. Jamel Johnson, who spent most of last year on the practice squad, released a brick with one hand and then snagged it out of mid-air a few tenths of a second later.
“I think it’s like anything we do in the fundamentals, it’s applicable to their position, to developing their skill set,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “You have to be a little more creative in the (Collective Bargaining Agreement) football environment that we’re in right now. It’s something as a coaching staff you look to be creative and keep it fresh for our players.”
The only mishap came near the end of the break, when the receivers began to return to the field. Cobb dropped his brick and it broke, cracking in two. When a teammate noticed the mistake, Cobb slunk silently away, an index finger pressed to his mouth in request of silence.
“That’s actually what I’m going to do right now,” Cobb said near the end of his interview. “I’m going to pick up another brick for tomorrow. But you didn’t see that. It wasn’t me, either. Don’t tell anybody.”