Training camp for the Green Bay Packers kicked off Saturday morning with more than the usual chatter and occasional chirping among players on the field.
Word spread fast of the big contract extension accorded to Jordy Nelson. The star receiver broke the news himself as drills were being run at Green Bay's Nitschke Field.
Nelson told his fellow wideouts and the quarterbacks that he took care of the particulars of the four-year, $39 million deal across the street at Lambeau Field shortly before the first practice started.
"I just wanted them to be the first one to know so they didn't have to find out when they came back in here (the Lambeau locker room)," Nelson said after practice.
By the middle of practice, nearly everyone on the team received the news, including head coach Mike McCarthy, who was apprised by general manager Ted Thompson out on the field. Several teammates were quick to congratulate Nelson before practice finished.
"Jordy Nelson is an outstanding football player and a great ambassador for the Green Bay Packers (and) obviously an excellent family man," McCarthy said. "It's something that everybody's excited about and glad to see Jordy will be here for some time."
With Nelson going into the final year of his contract, the new pact has the 29-year-old with the Packers through conditionally the 2018 season. The extension reportedly includes more than $14 million in guaranteed money with a signing bonus of $11.5 million.
"Now, he can buy all the land in Kansas," quarterback Aaron Rodgers quipped about Nelson, a Kansas native. "I'm very happy (for him). It's fun to see guys like that who are incredible teammates, phenomenal players and good guys get rewarded. That's what we've done around here. Guys who have gotten second and third contracts are the guys who, for the most part, have been raised up in the system, done things the right way, the Packer way, and gotten rewarded for it.
"It's fun to see Jordy re-sign for four more (years). I told him that's five (seasons left under contract) for him, and I've got six (years) left. So, we're going to have to do one more (contract extension) after that and stick around a little bit longer."
Locking up Nelson before the start of the season had been expected. Packers management wasn't interested in dragging things out once the games begin and run the risk of Nelson becoming a free agent after the season.
Nelson, the team's second-round draft pick in 2008, had career highs of 85 catches and 1,314 receiving yards with eight touchdowns last season.
"Jordy's hard work and dedication has made him a good player, teammate and a core member of this team," Thompson said.
With Nelson's contract out of the way, the next order of business for Thompson and negotiator Russ Ball figures to be working out an extension in short order for Randall Cobb. The rising receiver is going into the final year of his first pro contract.
"Every coach wants his core guys, no doubt about it," McCarthy said. "You want to sign them all. If I was in charge of the player checkbook, we would have been way over the (salary) budget a long time ago. Randall's an excellent football player, and you always want to see your guys get paid and you continue to grow with them."
Players reported: July 25.
First practice: July 26.
Camp ends: August 27
--A few months in the making, the fans who arrived in big numbers for the first practice of training camp Saturday caught their first glimpse of a potentially dangerous pass-rushing duo.
Clay Matthews had the green light to jump in for drills after mostly watching the offseason workouts as he completed his recovery from a twice-surgically-repaired right thumb.
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn't waste any time to showcase the pairing of Matthews and Julius Peppers as his starting outside linebackers. Peppers, the veteran star signed as a free agent in March, made the adjustment from being exclusively a defensive end to linebacker in the offseason program with Matthews sidelined.
"That's why they're here," head coach Mike McCarthy. "Obviously, two very impactful players, so you definitely want them on the field at the same time as much as possible."
Much to the delight of Matthews, the arrival of another formidable quarterback tormentor is allowing him to move around frequently in Capers' array of formations. The changes in position were frequent Saturday.
"They definitely had me moving around from lining up in the middle of the field as a stack 'backer to the left, to the right, lining up in the slot, and just putting more of our playmakers on the field," Matthews said. "I think the problem that it presents for the offense is so many moving pieces. It allows me to use a multitude of my weapons and not just lining up in one spot rushing the passer.
"I think it's about mismatches and putting us in advantageous positions. We'll see how that does moving forward, but I felt good about it (Saturday), and hopefully it will only get better moving forward."
Matthews also is feeling good about where he is at health-wise. He missed six games last season because of the broken thumb, including the final two contests after sustaining another fracture.
He classified the status of the thumb at the start of the preseason as "strong to quite strong."
"I needed the extra time to heal up, and now that I've got those extra couple months, I feel good going into camp," Matthews said. "It feels even mentally better (for me), stronger with the time I've had off and the rehab and the eight months in between the (last) surgery date and coming out here (Saturday). So, I'm feeling strong about it, feeling good.
"Obviously, there will be some obstacles for me to overcome, but ultimately I think it was a good first day."
Matthews had the benefit of the first practice being in just shells, thus reducing the contact for the thumb. He is wearing a protective brace on his right hand.
--The Packers started camp with one spot open on their 90-man roster.
The possibility of them filling it with the return of tight end Jermichael Finley would seem remote. In a noticeable change from the offseason, Finley's still-empty locker at Lambeau Field no longer had his nameplate above it.
Apparently, nothing of consequence came from Finley's latest visit with team doctor Pat McKenzie last week. Finley, a free agent, is 8 1/2 months removed from neck-fusion surgery after he suffered a career-threatening injury on a helmet-to-helmet hit in Green Bay's win over the Cleveland Browns in October.
"We're still open to that and watching that," McCarthy said about re-signing the pass-catching standout. "Jermichael Finley is a Green Bay Packer in my opinion, and obviously he's going through a medical situation. First and foremost, you just want him to get healthy."
The longer the Packers go without Finley, the better McCarthy seems to be feeling about what the team has at tight end, which has been widely scrutinized as a position of weakness. Holdover Andrew Quarless is penciled in as the starting replacement for Finley but has a lot of proving to do in camp after being held out of the offseason workouts for an unspecified reason.
Green Bay also has young returnees Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor and Jake Stoneburner as well as rookie prospects Richard Rodgers and Colt Lyerla.
"I like our tight ends," McCarthy said. "I think that's a group that we've really got to get a lot of pad work (in camp). If there was ever, if you wanted to say, 'OK, what group progressed (from the offseason)?' You went, 'OK, wow!', (about the tight ends) in spring."
--McCarthy hinted at the outset of camp the team's decision-makers are leaning toward going into the season with three quarterbacks. The last time that happened was 2009, Aaron Rodgers' second season as the starter.
"I'm not opposed, (and) Ted's not opposed to keeping three quarterbacks," said McCarthy, referring to general manager Ted Thompson. "It really depends on the competition at the other positions."
Unlike a year ago during camp, the Packers have a couple established pros who are well-versed in McCarthy's offense to back up Rodgers with Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien.
--Team president Mark Murphy said the Packers are under consideration to play a regular-season game in London in the next few years.
The NFL expanded the number of games being played overseas at Wembley Stadium to three this season.
"The league would like the Packers to play in London," Murphy said. "We're a very unique organization that, I think, across the pond they might find interesting to learn a little bit about the Packers.
"(But) we would never give up a home game. It's too important for the community," he added. "But, I would be excited about having a chance to play in London. ... I think our fans here would love to travel to London and it would be a great experience."
Murphy noted the idea of having the Packers play the St. Louis Rams in London in 2012 was floated. However, discussions never became serious to move that scheduled game out of St. Louis because the Rams would have lost out on having a packed stadium with the Green Bay fans who gobbled up tickets for the road game.
Murphy also revealed Thursday, when he presided over the Packers' annual shareholders meeting at Lambeau Field, that the team is working on a guest appearance by retired quarterback Brett Favre this season.
"He probably had as big an impact on the organization as anybody in the history of the organization, and I'm very hopeful that when he does come back that he will be fully, fully supported by our fans," Murphy said. "I'm confident in that."
Favre's last appearance at Lambeau came during a surreal prime-time game in 2009, when the previously traded Packers great sported the jersey of the Minnesota Vikings and led Green Bay's NFC North rivals to victory.
"In terms of when he would come back, we've had ongoing discussions with him, very good relations," Murphy said. "We are talking about bringing him back for a game this year. We had discussions last year about bringing him back for a game - those were not fruitful - but we're hopeful we can get him back for a game this year."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They kept playing. There were times when people were pretty much throwing dirt on their coffin, but the guys hung together. It's one of the prouder moments of my time here as the general manager to watch them persevere when really everything was stacked against them." - Ted Thompson, the team's 10th-year GM, on the resolve by an injury-decimated Packers squad down the stretch last season to repeat as NFC North champion with an 8-7-1 record.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RG T.J. Lang continues to have extremely limited involvement at the outset of training camp because of a shoulder injury. The veteran starter made a cameo appearance in a few drills Monday. Don Barclay handled the bulk of the starting reps at Lang's spot for the third straight day. Head coach Mike McCarthy said after practice Monday that he isn't worried about Lang's status. The Packers will be off Tuesday.
--LB Jamari Lattimore missed a second straight day of practice Monday because of illness.
--OLB Clay Matthews was on the field and an active participant for the first practice of training camp Saturday. The defensive standout wore a brace on his right hand to protect his right thumb, on which he had surgery twice for fractures last season. Matthews, who didn't take part in the team's offseason workouts this spring, lined up opposite veteran newcomer Julius Peppers as the starting outside linebackers in Saturday's practice.
--S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix continues to play second fiddle in the secondary. As during the offseason workouts, Dix, the team's first-round draft pick this year, worked with the No. 2 defense at safety on the opening day of training camp Saturday. Converted second-year cornerback Micah Hyde continued to work alongside incumbent starter Morgan Burnett as the safeties with the No. 1 unit.
--OLB Nick Perry started training camp on the physically unable to perform list because of lingering foot and knee injuries. Perry, a former first-round draft pick, missed five games last season because of a broken foot and didn't participate in the team's offseason workouts this spring. Head coach Mike McCarthy on Saturday suggested Perry wouldn't be sidelined much longer.
--DE/OLB Mike Neal also was on the PUP list when the team held its first camp practice Saturday. Neal indicated afterward that he's been enduring soreness in his lower abdomen. He participated in the offseason program this spring, filling in as a starter at outside linebacker with Clay Matthews held out. Neal isn't expected to miss much time at the outset of camp.
--DE Jerel Worthy is sidelined indefinitely because of what McCarthy termed an injury to his lower back. Worthy started camp on the non-football injury list. Worthy didn't participate in the offseason workouts.
--DT Letroy Guion wasn't available for the start of camp because of a hamstring injury. Guion, who is on the non-football injury list, signed with the Packers in the offseason after the seventh-year pro previously was with the rival Minnesota Vikings.
--WR Jeff Janis missed the opening day of camp practice Saturday because of an illness. Janis is a rookie taken in the seventh round of the draft this year.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--RB Kahlil Bell (not tendered offer as UFA).
--TE Jermichael Finley (not tendered offer as UFA).
--LB Robert Francois (not tendered offer as UFA).
--DT Johnny Jolly (not tendered offer as UFA).
--DT Ryan Pickett (not tendered offer as UFA).
--QB Seneca Wallace (not tendered offer as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (1/21): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Davante Adams (2/53): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Khyri Thornton (3/85): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Richard Rodgers (3/98): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Carl Bradford (4/121): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--C Corey Linsley (5/161): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Jared Abbrederis (5/176): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Demetri Goodson (6/197): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Jeff Janis (7/236): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Chris Banjo: Potential ERFA; $495,000/1 yr.
--QB Matt Flynn: UFA; $970,000/1 yr, $75,000 SB.
--FB John Kuhn: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Jamari Lattimore: RFA tendered at $1.431M with no compensation; $1.431m/1 yr.
--DE/OLB Mike Neal: UFA; $8M/2 yrs, $2.5M SB.
--TE Andrew Quarless; UFA; $3M/2 yrs, $350,000 SB.
--DT B.J. Raji: UFA; $4M/1 yr.
--CB Sam Shields: Potential UFA; $39M/4 yrs, $12.5M SB.
--RB James Starks: UFA; $3.165M/2 yrs, $725,000 SB.
--DL Letroy Guion: FA Vikings; $985,000/1 yr, $100,000 SB.
--LB Julius Peppers: FA Bears; $26M/3 yrs, $7.5 SB.
--C Evan Dietrich-Smith: UFA Buccaneers; $14.2M/4 yrs.
--WR James Jones: UFA Raiders; $10M/3 yrs, $3.65M guaranteed.
--S M.D. Jennings: Not tendered as RFA/Bears; terms unknown.
--T Marshall Newhouse: UFA Bengals; terms unknown.
--C/G Greg Van Roten (released).
--DE C.J. Wilson: UFA Raiders; $795,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Jordy Nelson
- Green Bay Packers
- Clay Matthews
- Aaron Rodgers
- Mike McCarthy