Packers 'absolutely' keeping rookies up to speed

Ryan Wood
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First-round draft choice Kenny Clark

The Green Bay Packers will have their entire roster together for the first time this offseason when they open minicamp next week, even if not everyone on their 90-man roster is signed.

The Packers have yet to reach a deal with first-round defensive tackle Kenny Clark, who was drafted 27th overall in April. Clark is the only player in the Packers' seven-man rookie class who has yet to sign. The Packers will have an agreement in place that they will negotiate in full faith should Clark be injured, allowing him to practice.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, each pick in the draft comes with its own slotted value. So that Clark has yet to sign should not be alarming. Before the CBA, negotiations could last deep into the summer.

Last month, the Packers had their entire class at rookie orientation one week after the draft. After the weekend camp, Clark, fourth-round defensive end Dean Lowry (Northwestern) and sixth-round tackle Kyle Murphy (Stanford) were forced to return to their campus. The NFL requires drafted players from universities on the quarter-semester system to stay on campus until school dismisses for the summer.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he and his staff “absolutely” keep rookies up to speed when they’re away from Green Bay.

“There’s nightly meetings with the coaches and the players that are not here,” McCarthy said. “We’re looking forward to getting those guys here at the end of the week.”

Veterans do not participate in rookie orientation, so next week’s minicamp will be the first time Clark, Lowry and Murphy all will be together with their more experienced teammates. It will be valuable for the entire defensive line to be together. Clark and Lowry likely will be counted on to provide snaps for a position group thinned by retirement (B.J. Raji), suspension (Mike Pennel) and cuts (Josh Boyd).

It’s especially important for Clark to quickly get up to speed. He is the first-round pick, a potential plug-and-play replacement for Raji. When he spoke with the media after rookie orientation, just a couple days before returning to his Los Angeles campus, Clark said he would focus fully on his career.

“I think probably the playbook and getting the playbook down,” Clark said, “and just trying to learn things on the fly. … I wish I could stay here throughout the whole process, but I think that will probably be one of the more difficult parts – that I won’t be here with the team.” and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood

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