For head coach Mike McCarthy, however, the rookie orientation camp that concluded Sunday was a promising prelude.
"As I told the rookies at the end of practice today, I felt it was clearly one of our better rookie camps, if not the best," McCarthy said Sunday. "I'll let this final day of video make that clear. But, I thought the practices increased as far as the production and the efficiency, seeing guys get on the same page. I felt the work was very good."
Fifty-seven players - a blend of this year's 11 draft picks, nine undrafted signees, 10 first-year players and 27 players brought in on a tryout basis - participated in the three-day indoctrination.
The practice sessions held each day didn't move McCarthy to make any bold proclamations, but some strong first impressions of the rookie class of 2013 arose.
Datone Jones, the team's first-round draft pick from UCLA, settled in at defensive end.
"I'm glad he's here," McCarthy said.
Unlike many of his new teammates whose heads were swimming as they pored over pages and pages of the intricate playbooks, Jones came in ready to jump ahead a few chapters. Jones essentially played in Packers coordinator Dom Capers' enduring brand of a 3-4 defensive system last season, implemented by then-first-year head coach Jim Mora Jr. after his forays in the NFL.
"Datone hit the lottery in a number of different ways. It's the same terminology," McCarthy said. "Lou Spanos, the (UCLA) defensive coordinator, is someone that grew up in the system in Pittsburgh (as an assistant coach with the Steelers) and does a great job. So, the terminology will be pretty seamless for (Jones)."
The rookie camp allowed Capers to take a long look at Jones off the edge in the base schemes and as a situational inside pass rusher, where the Packers hope they can get the most bang for the big bucks that will be invested in him. For his part, the 6-foot-4 Jones is planning to play big.
"Right now, I'm 285 (pounds)," he said during the camp. "I feel like a good playing weight for a defensive end is 285, 290. The weight will help playing against strong offensive tackles in this league, but I feel like I'm pretty athletic, I'm really strong and I can fit anywhere in this defense."Of the full 11-player lineup of draft choices, only Jones and second-round running back Eddie Lacy are unsigned.
Lacy, like Jones, was a full participant in the rookie camp - the launching pad for what should be a compelling position battle the next four months.
General manager Ted Thompson and McCarthy didn't just settle on adding the acclaimed Lacy from Alabama to a group that has been lean on production in recent seasons. Thompson traded up in the draft to take accomplished Johnathan Franklin from UCLA late in the fourth round.
Lacy and Franklin have become fast friends and are hotel roommates at the outset of their stay in Green Bay. Yet, both players know what's at stake as they vie to become the lead dog lined up behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"Competition is going to bring out the best in you," Franklin said. "We're definitely going to find out what kind of man we are and what kind of athletes we are. So, I'm excited to compete with Eddie and learn from Eddie and get better with him as well."
In the wake of admissions from a couple teams that his injury history soured them on taking Lacy, the bruising back maintained he's of good health.
"I talked about it for months," said Lacy, when asked about the fusion surgery performed on his right big toe in spring 2012. "It is what it is. I don't have a problem with it. I played the whole (college) season with it (last fall), and I'm going to continue to play with it."
Lacy and Franklin might have to be more concerned than pushing just one another for the starting job. Undrafted free agent Angelo Pease from Kansas State caught McCarthy's eye from start to finish in the rookie camp.
An unbelievable cut on a run between the tackles and burst for a big gain in the first practice Friday prompted McCarthy to say of Pease afterward, "He jumped out there on that run. That's a big-time cut. Frankly, I thought it was Eddie Lacy, just the way he dropped his weight and hit the hole."
McCarthy gushed some more about the 5-10, 211-pound Pease two days later after the final practice.
"I thought (he) had a very good weekend," McCarthy said. "He had another run today, geez ... I think he's a good young back."
How holes for the likes of Lacy, Franklin and possibly Pease are created and the ever-important pass protection for Rodgers is provided next season will be mostly the doing of an overhauled offensive line.
The biggest offseason development for the Packers came to light a week before the rookie camp.
McCarthy followed through with a plan he contemplated since the end of last season. Pro Bowl right guard Josh Sitton and right tackle Bryan Bulaga were moved to the corresponding spots on the left side, T.J. Lang was bumped from left guard to right guard, and an open audition is on at right tackle, which will include displaced starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse.
"Frankly, we felt that Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton were our two most accomplished offensive linemen," McCarthy said. "And, just going back to old-school theory of how you build a structure of your offensive line, we wanted to put those two guys on the left side.
"We feel Bryan and Josh will be a solid, very good left side. Those two guys have a history (of playing on the same side) together - that was part of (the reason for the switch)."
Some departures from the Packers' receiver corps has Randall Cobb anticipating a bigger role in the offense this seasons. Of course, last season, Cobb led the Packers with 80 receptions for 954 yards and eight touchdowns.
Referring to the retirement of Donald Driver and the free-agent loss of Greg Jennings, Cobb said, "I think definitely with Donald retiring and Greg leaving, it's definitely going to be a lot more weight on me, James (jones) and Jordy's (Nelson) shoulders. But we're taking on the challenge head-on. We've been really excited to get back and work. We've got some young guys, some drafted guys that's coming in. We're excited to get back to work and see how it's going to turn out this year."
Concerning his own development, Cobb said, "I really don't think I've peaked yet. I'm 22 years old. I've got a lot of learning still to do. I have a long way to go and I just hope I continue to get better over the next years."
Johnathan Franklin aspires to be mayor of the second-largest city in the U.S., his hometown of Los Angeles.
As he gets started on his professional football career, Franklin leaned on his political interests to set the record straight with the media. Contrary to some published reports that Franklin would miss most of the Packers' offseason workouts in the next month, the rookie running back said he's in the clear to participate in all of them.
"Yes, that's the plan," Franklin said Friday, the first day of Green Bay's rookie orientation camp. "I brought all of my clothes (from California), I better be here for good."
The erroneous reports from a few days earlier indicated Franklin would be limited to the three-day rookie camp and then barred from taking part in the subsequent organized team activities and the mandatory minicamp in early June because of an NFL rule. A rookie is prohibited from practicing with his new team in the spring - aside from the first minicamp - until his college's academic year is over.
An exception is made to the rule, however, if the player has graduated. That applied to defensive end Datone Jones, Green Bay's first-round draft pick, and unbeknownst to some reporters also to Franklin, both of whom starred at UCLA, whose final exams on its quarters system don't end until June 14.
"I graduated last June. So, I'm done with school," said Franklin, a fourth-round draft pick. "I have my degree already."
Franklin earned a degree in political science. He was a fifth-year senior last season when he became UCLA's career rushing leader.
Head coach Mike McCarthy had a favorable opinion of the 5-10, 205-pound Franklin throughout the rookie camp - not only as a ball carrier but as a kick returner. The Packers put Franklin back on punt and kickoff returns during the weekend workouts.
"He seems very natural," McCarthy said.
Given the prominent role receiver Randall Cobb assumed in the offense last season, the Packers are seeking a reliable, explosive replacement for him on kick returns.
McCarthy indicated after the final rookie camp practice Sunday the plan is to carry the four quarterbacks on the roster through the bulk of the spring workouts and into training camp in late July.
The position group includes the incumbent trio of starter Aaron Rodgers, inexperienced top backup Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman as well as Matt Brown, who was signed as an undrafted free agent from Illinois State.
"I'd definitely like to (keep all four)," McCarthy said. "Not that Aaron is getting old, but we do a lot of fundamental work in (training) camp, so you see some stress on Aaron. We want as much competition as you possibly can throughout the quarterback position. It's the most important position, we feel, the way we train the quarterback here. We do a good job of that."
Coleman and Brown split the reps in the rookie camp.
Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick last year, was among the first-year players allowed to participate in the camp after he spent the entire 2012 season on the practice squad.
"What I wanted to see from B.J. was him look like he'd been here a year, being in charge of the drills and be productive. And, that was evident in all three practices," McCarthy said. "Now, there's a couple things that he'll learn from.
"He's got ability. There's just some things that he's done in the past in the way he's played the position that are totally opposite of the way it's being taught. So, we have to get that part figured out. But, I think he's definitely making a lot of progress."
Charles Woodson is resigned to extending his illustrious NFL career at any spot other than Green Bay - that is, if he's given the chance to keep playing next season.
The 36-year-old defensive back indicated during a recent appearance on NFL Network that the Packers have left him far behind in their rearview mirror after releasing him Feb. 15.
Although general manager Ted Thompson didn't address in free agency or the draft replacing the 15-year playmaker at safety, the club apparently isn't open to bringing him back. The Packers gained $10 million in salary-cap relief this year by cutting Woodson, whose production dipped in an injury-plagued 2012 season.
"I don't want to speculate on that (a return to the Packers) because I have not heard anything from Green Bay," Woodson said in the TV interview. "We parted our ways a couple months ago. They told me they were moving on. I guess I took that to mean there was no opportunity to go back. So, I am looking for a future with another organization."
Unfortunately for Woodson, a potential Hall of Famer, he's drawn little interest on the open market. Only the San Francisco 49ers had him in for a visit shortly after his release from the Packers.
"Right now, it is kind of slow out there," Woodson said. "The options have dried up, but I am still waiting for an opportunity to play for a team, help a team win. So, I plan on playing in the future."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in early March reinstated veteran defensive tackle Johnny Jolly from a suspension that lasted three seasons because of drug charges.
The Packers retained the rights of Jolly, who still had a year left on his contract when he was suspended in July 2010, and he's on the current 90-man roster. Yet, Jolly, 30, apparently hasn't participated in any of the team's offseason program, which began April 15.
"Johnny is not here currently," McCarthy said Sunday. "He's still going through a process, and when he gets here, then I'll speak on it more."
McCarthy didn't elaborate on what is keeping Jolly away from the team or give any indication on when he would be back on the field.
A few of Green Bay's established players will take a break from the offseason workouts by serving as barnstorming ambassadors for the franchise.
Cobb, running back Alex Green and cornerback Jarrett Bush will join team president Mark Murphy and a few former Packers on the eighth annual Tailgate Tour.
The five-day, five-city bus excursion through Wisconsin and also a stop in Iowa (Dubuque) starts Tuesday.
The Packers will transition to their OTAs on May 20.
The Packers signed their nine draft picks drafted after the third round, including fourth-rounders running back Johnathan Franklin and offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and JC Tretter.
Bakhtiari (Colorado), Tretter (Cornell) and Franklin were fourth-round picks.
Fifth-round selections Micah Hyde (Iowa) and Josh Boyd (Mississippi State) also signed, as did sixth-round pick Nate Palmer (Illinois State) and three seventh-round picks: wide receivers Charles Johnson (Grand Valley State) and Kevin Dorsey (Maryland) and linebacker Sam Barrington.
The Packers also signed nine undrafted free agents. Among them were Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown and Ohio State tight end Jake Stoneburner.
"Matthews' locker is right next to mine. I'm going to talk to him a lot, pick his brain."- Defensive end Datone Jones, the team's first-round draft pick this year, on connecting from the outset with a veteran player such as defensive standout Clay Matthews.
A closer look at the Packers' picks:
Round 1/26—Datone Jones, DE, 6-4, 285, UCLA
Jones should give Green Bay's short-handed and underwhelming defensive line an immediate upgrade as an ideal fit for its diversified 3-4 scheme. He's athletic, plays physical and tracks the football in a hurry, tying everything together to blow up the backfield with 19 tackles for loss (6.5 sacks) last season. Jones' experience of playing at multiple spots in the Packers' style of defense will allow coordinator Dom Capers to create pass-rushing mismatches in a tandem with outside linebacker Clay Matthews.
Round 2/61—Eddie Lacy, RB, 5-11, 230, Alabama
Latest big-play back from 'Bama to arrive on the pro scene with much fanfare. Lacy stepped out of the shadows of predecessors Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson and rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns to help the Crimson Tide roll to the national title last season. Injury issues (including a recent hamstring ailment) may have allowed Lacy to slide to the Packers late in Round 2, but they'll take their chances on the punishing downhill runner (SEC career record of 6.8 yards per carry) in trying to fill a void at featured back.
Round 4/109—David Bakhtiari, OT, 6-4, 300, Colorado
Aaron Rodgers' incumbent blind-side protector at left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, has been put on alert with the arrival of Bakhtiari. As the replacement for standout Nate Solder (New England Patriots' first-round pick in 2011), the long-armed Bakhtiari rose above Colorado's mediocrity to become an efficient pass protector at the position the last two seasons.
Round 4/122—J.C. Tretter, G, 6-4, 307, Cornell
The converted tight end flourished in the Ivy League as a two-year starter at left tackle but, more so than the similarly versatile Bakhtiari, projects to be an interior lineman at the next level. A hard-nosed, driven Tretter could push left guard T.J. Lang or inexperienced center Evan Dietrich-Smith for a starting job.
Round 4/125—Johnathan Franklin, RB, 5-10, 205, UCLA
General manager Ted Thompson jumped back into the fourth round by making a trade with the Denver Broncos to nab the team's second high-quality back in this year's draft. A Lacy-Franklin pairing to supplement the Rodgers-led aerial attack has juicy possibilities. The knock on Franklin is his size, but he has explosive speed (4.4 in the 40) and credentials (1,734 rushing yards and 6.1 yards per carry last season) as UCLA's all-time leading rusher.
Round 5/159—Micah Hyde, CB, 6-0, 197, Iowa
Named the top defensive back in the Big Ten last season, Hyde has big-time experience as a starter for three years with playmaking skills and a willingness to hit. He's expected to stay at cornerback, a crowded position for Green Bay, but could distinguish himself on special teams, including as a punt returner.
Round 5/167—Josh Boyd, DT, 6-3, 310, Mississippi State
Boyd, a three-technique lineman better equipped to stop the run than collapse the pocket, will have to adjust to the nuances of a 3-4 scheme. Production by the sturdy three-year starter regressed last season, when he had only 1.5 sacks.
Round 6/193—Nate Palmer, OLB, 6-2, 248, Illinois State
Hybrid end-linebacker in college faces stern challenge in vying for a roster spot at a position group teeming with talent. Being around the Packers' defensive leader can only benefit Palmer, who put up Matthews-esque sack numbers with 17 along with five forced fumbles the last two seasons after transferring from Illinois.
Round 7/216—Charles Johnson, WR, 6-2, 215, Grand Valley State
The third college stop for the speedy Johnson (4.35 in 40) proved to be the charm. Extensive stint at Division II Grand Valley yielded 31 touchdown receptions the past two seasons and big production of 72 catches for nearly 1,200 yards in 2012.
Round 7/224—Kevin Dorsey, WR, 6-1, 207, Maryland
Dorsey had perhaps the most obscure numbers of all receivers taken in this year's draft with just 18 catches and four touchdowns last season, but Thompson chalked that up to quarterback issues at Maryland. Dorsey's average of 17.3 yards with those limited receptions is promising.
Round 7/232—Sam Barrington, ILB, 6-1, 235, South Florida
Athletic, versatile linebacker delivered in 4-3 system with at least 65 tackles each of the last three seasons with a total of 6 1/2 sacks, prompting Thompson to say the team's final pick had "really good value." Projects to play inside in 3-4 scheme.
RB Cedric Benson held up for only the first five games last season before suffering a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. The eight-year veteran had some moments of being a rugged, productive ball carrier until he was lost in early October, so bringing him back would make sense.
RB Ryan Grant rejoined the team for the stretch run in early December and didn't provide much at age 30. Giving Grant a third shot in Green Bay has been all but ruled out.
CB Sam Shields (tendered at $2.023M with second-round pick as compensation) may go into next season as the team's No. 1 cornerback, provided he's still a Packer after his stock went up with a productive close to last season - four interceptions in six games, highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown return in the divisional playoff loss at San Francisco. The second-round tender given to Shields should keep teams from trying to pick him off.
T David Bakhtiari (4/109): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
T JC Tretter (4/122): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
RB Johnathan Franklin (4/125): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
CB Micah Hyde (5/159): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
DE Josh Boyd (5/167): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
LB Nate Palmer (6/193): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
WR Charles Johnson (7/216): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
WR Kevin Dorsey (7/224): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
LB Sam Barrington (7/232): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
C Evan Dietrich-Smith: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
LB Robert Francois: Not tendered as RFA; $725,000/1 yr, $50,000 SB.
LB Brad Jones: UFA; $11.75M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
TE Matthew Mulligan: FA Rams; 1 yr, terms unknown.
TE Tom Crabtree: Not tendered as RFA/Buccaneers; $1.6M/2 yrs, $50,000 RB 2013-14.
WR Donald Driver (UFA; retired).
WR Greg Jennings: UFA Vikings; $45M/5 yrs, $10M SB/$17.8M guaranteed.
RB Brandon Saine (released).
LB D.J. Smith (released).
C Jeff Saturday (retired).
LB Erik Walden: FA Colts; $16M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
DB Charles Woodson (released).
LB Frank Zombo: Not tendered as RFA/Chiefs; terms unknown.