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McCarthy calls out Perry and other injured players

Green Bay Packers cornerback Davon House practices at the team's minicamp at Ray Nitschke Field. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sports Xchange

Nick Perry has been showing up for work on the field this spring dressed the same as his teammates, but with one big exception.

That Perry has been conspicuously without a helmet over his head to go with the rest of his workout attire (jersey, athletic shorts and shoes) hasn’t earned the outside linebacker any style points with Mike McCarthy.

The Green Bay Packers head coach is none too happy that the underachieving former first-round draft pick, not to mention a few other players, remained a no-go as the team started its three-day minicamp Tuesday.

“I don’t think it helps any player to miss a whole offseason,” McCarthy said after Tuesday’s practice. “I talked about it last week with the (coaching) staff. I told the team about it again today. ... You’re accustomed to being (on) a 15-week (training) program (as a team in the spring), but obviously we’ve been (on) a nine-week program here in year four” since the league’s collective-bargaining agreement was ratified in 2011.

“To get all of that work done, nothing changes. You have a season to get ready for, you have this much work and to do it all in a nine-week period and for a player to miss all of it, obviously it’s not a good situation to be in. I think any of the players that did not take advantage of this nine-week opportunity due to injury; it’s definitely something that they’re going to have work harder to catch up once training camp starts.”

Since McCarthy has a policy on not discussing player injuries in the offseason, it’s unclear what has kept Perry from participating in the preceding three weeks of organized team activities and now the minicamp this week.

Perry, the team’s top draft pick in 2012, has played just 18 of a possible 35 games (including the playoffs) his first two seasons because of an array of physical setbacks. He sustained a foot injury a month into last season and missed five of the next six games before returning to action in late November for the final stretch.

Now, Perry looks to be in a tenuous position not only with his starting position, but for possibly holding onto a roster spot going into next season.

Green Bay augmented what has been a mostly unproductive spot opposite All-Pro Clay Matthews by signing veteran star Julius Peppers after he was cut by the Chicago Bears in March and also re-signing Mike Neal as an unrestricted free agent. With Matthews also a spectator this spring as he recovers from a twice-broken thumb suffered last season, converted defensive ends Peppers and Neal have worked as the starting outside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme.

Others who haven’t been on the field for the team’s open practices the last four weeks are tight end Andrew Quarless, running back Johnathan Franklin and defensive end Jerel Worthy.

“Hey, like a number of players on our football team, really the things that have been our biggest challenge the last two years (is) availability needs to be at a premium,” McCarthy stressed.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers echoed that Tuesday, touching on the urgency the younger players must have as the team segues from the end of the spring segment with the final minicamp practice Thursday to the start of training camp July 25.

“Like Mike said in the (team) meeting a few times over the OTAs, ‘When you leave here, young guys, make sure you’re ready to go because we’re not going to wait around come training camp,’” said Rodgers, embarking on his 10th pro season. “The offseason program, the OTAs, the IPWs (individual player workouts) are about getting the young guys ready, and when we get to training camp, we’re not going to wait around for anybody. We’re going to be going 100 miles an hour, and it’s on those guys to keep up.”

McCarthy said Pro-Bowl left guard Josh Sitton was excused Tuesday for the first day of the mandatory minicamp. Don Barclay filled in for Sitton with the No. 1 offensive line.

With a grinning Rodgers saying, “I’m healthy,” McCarthy had high praise for his offensive leader’s bounce-back offseason after missing most of the second half of last season because of a broken collarbone.

“I think Aaron has had probably his best spring,” McCarthy said. “I think he’s in great shape. We changed a lot of things to make things easier for the other players, the newer players coming in on offense, and I don’t think people realize when you’re in year 10, particularly year nine of an offense, the biggest change was for Aaron, but it was the best thing for the group. So, he had a little more studying to do this year than probably in prior years. I think he’s handled that very well.

“Shoot, the statistics of his ball efficiency and the emphasis of what we’re trying to improve on, not only from his individual work and with the running backs and the tight ends, has been excellent. I think Aaron’s in a great place and has had a very exceptional spring.”