GREEN BAY - Because training camp will start a week earlier than normal due to the Green Bay Packers' scheduled Hall of Fame game appearance Aug. 7, coach Mike McCarthy has had to treat this off-season slightly different than past ones.
Though he and general manager Ted Thompson get an extra week to evaluate their younger players this summer, they also have to deal with the best way to handle their veterans, for whom training camp can be a repetitive bore as well as a physical grind.
To that end, McCarthy decided to give his 15 most-experienced players a pass on the three-day mandatory minicamp that concludes the off-season workout program. The entire team will have to report for training camp a week earlier than normal due to five exhibition games on the schedule and if McCarthy were to force the veterans to work this week it would have cut back their vacation time.
Given how much McCarthy covets routine - and a healthy roster - he made the decision to send his most experienced players home for the summer. So, Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews and a number of others won't be around.
"Frankly, the Hall of Fame game is a big part of this decision," McCarthy said before practice Tuesday. "We have an extra week of work. So really if you look at the veteran’s workload as far as the nine-week off-season program, training camp, everything leading up to the beginning of this season, they’re excused from three practices today but they’ll have four or five practices that first week, so they’ll actually still have the same amount of work or a little more than they would in a normal training camp.
"So that’s the starting point. And then with that, playing an extra preseason game our young players are going to play a lot more. This gives us another four or five practices to get those young players ready to play in that game. That’s really the baseline of the decision, and I thought it definitely was a win-win for everybody."
It's a big win for young players like backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who gets to run the No. 1 offense for three days, and will probably see more action than any other quarterback during the exhibition season. If McCarthy lets Rodgers play in the Hall of Fame game, it won't be for much more than a series or two. Typically, coaches hold most of their veterans out of that game for fear of injury.
Hundley isn't the only one who will benefit from the extra week of camp. First-round pick Kenny Clark, as well as fourth-round pick Dean Lowry and seventh-round pick Kyle Murphy, have missed all the OTAs because of NFL rules prohibiting players from reporting if their college is still in session. They arrive today and will begin the process of acclimating themselves to the on-field work the rest of the team has been doing since they were drafted.
"It will be really important for them to feel the stress and the speed of the three days of practice," McCarthy said. "They’ll get everything that they need. I’m confident based on the communication with the assistant coaches that they feel good about where they are as far as their book-smarts and what they’ve been exposed to.
"Now they’ll be like everybody else was four weeks ago: They’ll get to apply it to a practice and get out there and run around. It will be great just to get those guys acclimated."
The Packers practice Tuesday through Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Practices will take place on Ray Nitschke Field and are open to the public weather permitting.