The Sports Xchange
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers ended last season with plenty of egg all over their collective face.
To end a spirited offseason during which returning players put a 44-21 drubbing at Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game behind them, head coach Mike McCarthy had an appropriate closing activity. A shortened final practice of minicamp Thursday culminated with an egg-toss contest among players, coaches and support staff on the field.
“It was a good cherry on top,” linebacker Jordan Tripp said afterward.
The fourth-year pro teamed with coaching administrator Omar Young to win the two-man competition. Tripp credited his soft hands and accurate tossing by Young, whose clinching throw was estimated to be 50 yards as the distances increased the longer the competitors stayed alive by not dropping their eggs.
“Coach is really in tune with what’s going on,” Tripp said of McCarthy. “It was nice to catch a bone like that. You can only do those things when we all come together and take care of business every day. Ultimately, that’s what it is. We’ve got to come back ready to roll.”
Tripp and his teammates have six weeks off until the 2017 season starts in earnest. Players report for training camp July 26 and have their first preseason practice the next day.
McCarthy delivered his final message to the team Wednesday before he all but scrapped the final day of the three-day minicamp by having the players work on the field for only 30 minutes preceding their egg-cellent diversion.
“So much has been invested into this offseason, and now the individual time to continue the commitment to make sure they’re ready for training camp,” said McCarthy, relaying his message. “(I) clearly laid out the expectations for the start of training camp and what to expect and what we’re doing once they get back.
“We have a lot invested here,” he added. “We got a lot of work done (this spring). Actually, the workload is significantly higher than last year, just going through all of our data and meeting with the medical staff and our strength and conditioning staff.”
McCarthy didn’t mind excusing the players as well as his staff early Thursday. He said the coaches won’t reconvene until July 24.
“This has been a hard offseason,” McCarthy acknowledged, “but that’s the way you want it because with that we got a lot of work done.”
Especially before McCarthy allowed quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receiver Jordy Nelson, linebacker Clay Matthews and 13 other players with five or more years of NFL playing experience to skip the entire minicamp.
In the weeks leading up to minicamp, Rodgers had plenty of work throwing the football to his upgraded group of pass catchers.
With an inability to get physical in the spring workouts because of the CBA rules on offseason contact, McCarthy emphasized the team’s bread-and-butter pass game more than he has in previous offseasons.
That allowed Rodgers to start building a rapport with veteran tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. Bennett, fresh off winning the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, and Kendricks signed with the Packers as free agents.
“It’s going to take time to get them up to speed with the verbiage and the offense, but I think what it does is it gives us some more flexibility to run two tight-end sets,” Rodgers said. “Both guys can put their hand on the ground and go and block guys really well but also add that dimension in the passing game.”
Still to be determined is how the pecking order will shake out with Green Bay’s decidedly youthful running backs.
Converted receiver Ty Montgomery, who rushed for just 457 yards to lead the team last season, is the No. 1 halfback after the Packers parted ways with Eddie Lacy (signed with the Seattle Seahawks). They selected three running backs in the draft.
The pass-oriented spring also allowed the coaches to get a long look at the team’s reshaped secondary.
Kevin King, the team’s top draft pick this year, was with the team for rookie camp in early May but had to miss the subsequent three weeks of organized team activities because classes still were in session at his former school, Washington.
King is expected to contend for a starting job from the outset opposite veteran Davon House, who re-signed with the team after playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars the last two seasons.
Hybrid safety Josh Jones, the team’s second draft choice, had a strong showing this spring and also should contribute right away.
“We’re athletic,” McCarthy summed up Thursday about his team. “I can clearly say that - we’re an athletic football team. It’s something that jumps out at you on the field, especially when you can see it in your big guys. Obviously, you better be athletic in your perimeter players, but I would say our athletic ability is high.”