GREEN BAY, Wis. — On the eve of his first training camp practice as the Packers’ starting quarterback, Jordan Love got a text from Aaron Rodgers.
“He said, ‘Just be yourself, have fun, enjoy it.’ It’s obviously my time now and he just said, ‘Be yourself.’ And I mean, that’s all you can do. That’s kind of been the message from everybody: ‘Just be yourself.’ Don’t try to be anybody else. Don’t try to be Aaron. Just be yourself. And that’s kind of what I’m trying to do.”
Love didn’t pump up the crowd at Ray Nitschke Field on Wednesday morning — rookie wide receiver Jayden Reed handled those duties — but that’s because, like Rodgers advised, Love was being himself.
“I was kind of locked in, blocked it out,” Love said of the fan reception for him. “I saw J-Reed was running down the sideline at the beginning pumping the fans up, so that’s always fun. But it was good. It was a great turnout. I know (quarterback) Sean (Clifford) made a comment to me early, he was like, ‘Man, there’s a lot of fans out here.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, welcome to Green Bay. They come out for all the practices just like that.’ So I think it was awesome to see everybody out there today.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the position, the eyes being on you. That’s something I’m working on right now, just trying to block out, just have my focus be what I’m working on that day, what I’m focusing on that day, so I can have all my focus on that and block out any distractions.”
Jordan Love says Aaron Rodgers reached out last night ahead of Love’s first camp as QB1. Here’s what he told him: pic.twitter.com/nRkkG65an8
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) July 26, 2023
Love had an up-and-down morning throwing the ball into the wind on a day in which head coach Matt LaFleur made the entire offense do push-ups in the post-practice huddle.
Here’s everything you need to know from Day 1 of training camp, on Love’s highlights and lowlights, how rookie kicker Anders Carlson fared and much more.
Even into the wind, Love looked to throw a tight spiral, something that hasn’t always been the case throughout his three-plus years in Green Bay, even as recently as this offseason. His day didn’t start well, as he and starting center Josh Myers (for now, more on that later) botched their first exchange of the day for a fumble that was recovered by running back Aaron Jones.
There was early pressure in Love’s grill, something he’ll likely face plenty of during the season. It’s how the Chiefs approached facing Love in his first career start in 2021 when Rodgers was sideline in COVID-19 protocol, much to Kansas City’s success that afternoon. Tight end Luke Musgrave allowed a pressure to defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt on Love’s second snap of the day in team drills and not long after, by design, outside linebacker Preston Smith came unblocked off the edge on a rollout play.
Love handled the pressure well and found wide receiver Christian Watson in the flat, but the second-year wideout dropped what should’ve been an easy catch. Love’s first deep ball of camp came down the right sideline to Musgrave, the rookie second-round pick. The ball was underthrown and cornerback Corey Ballentine knocked it down.
There are two notable takeaways from that play. One was how the wind affected Love’s deep ball Wednesday.
“Deep ball, Day 1, that’s something you’ve gotta have those reps at,” Love said. “It takes time, like I said. It’s not going to be perfect on the deep ball … obviously the wind accounts for that. You can never make excuses for that. You just gotta be able to play through it.”
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The second was that a tight end — yes, a tight end that plays for the Green Bay Packers — went deep. And the quarterback threw him a bomb. When’s the last time we saw that regularly around here, with all due respect to Marcedes Lewis’ acrobatic catch against the Dolphins last Christmas?
Having a tight end with the physical arsenal of Musgrave adds an intriguing dimension to Green Bay’s offense.
“It’s going to be huge for us,” Love said. “Obviously, we’ve been building that in. We wanted to take a shot to Luke. You know, he can run very fast, so we’ve been trying to build that in. But I think it’s going to add more capability for the tight ends, more versatility for them to run different routes, different concepts, and just make it harder for the defense to cover everybody.”
Love later missed Watson during a third-and-6 drill on what looked like a corner route when he threw the ball too far ahead of him. On the next play, Love scrambled for what would’ve been close to a first down, showcasing a skill set we didn’t see much of in Rodgers’ final years in Green Bay. Love then had a bullet over the middle intended for Reed broken up by a diving Keisean Nixon, who’s currently starting at the nickel.
Love finished his day by getting “sacked” again when Smith blew by Musgrave, having a pass deep down the right sideline for wideout Romeo Doubs broken up by cornerback Jaire Alexander, throwing incomplete deep down the right side and on the run away from a Kenny Clark pressure to receiver Samori Toure (Toure caught the ball but couldn’t stay inbounds), finding tight end Josiah Deguara in the flat while on the move and, on his best throw of the day, completing a laser over the middle to Toure after the second-year wideout beat Nixon.
Gordon “Red” Batty begins his 30th season as Packers head equipment manager. Legend. pic.twitter.com/qmglmQvcZ5
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) July 26, 2023
Offensive tackle Caleb Jones, safety Tarvarius Moore and inside linebacker Tariq Carpenter didn’t practice because of illnesses. All were present at practice, however, and should be back soon.
Outside linebacker Rashan Gary (knee), cornerback Eric Stokes (foot) and rookie wide receiver Grant DuBose (back) also didn’t practice.
The Packers released wide receiver Jeff Cotton and signed undrafted rookie wideout Cody Chrest out of Sam Houston State.
As it stands, there is no competition for Carlson currently on the roster. That can always change, however, and the sixth-round pick and younger brother of Raiders standout kicker Daniel Carlson knows that.
“No matter who’s here, it’s always me vs. myself,” Carlson said. “It doesn’t matter if there is competition or there’s not. It’s about putting your best day forward.”
Carlson’s first day was solid, as he made 5-of-6 kicks with the wind at his back to make it easier.
He made his first field goal from 40 yards (left hash) and his second from 42 (right hash) before missing wide left from 44 (left hash) while the laces were pointed at a 90-degree angle to the left. Carlson’s second set of three kicks resulted in three makes, all from the right hash, one each from 41, 43 and 45 yards.
Packers rookie kicker Anders Carlson on the team’s training camp bike tradition:
“It was incredible. I didn’t know where to go at first. Took a few wrong turns, but we made our way there and made our way back, so that’s what counts.” pic.twitter.com/9Sz0Q922Qc
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) July 26, 2023
Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia likes having multiple kickers in camp as either competition or to spare legs, but the rookie is the only one on the roster. For now.
“I think we’ll see how it goes,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said Tuesday. “I think Rich would like 20 specialists if he could have them. And to those guys’ credit, they work them now and I have a lot of faith there, but I think we’ll kinda see how training camp goes to see if that makes sense.”
Carlson, who is replacing Mason Crosby after Crosby’s 16-year run in Green Bay, is situated in Crosby’s old locker.
“Obviously, I admire the career he had here and the legend he is, but for me, it’s all about my journey and what I can do to help the Packers,” Carlson said.
Jordan Love, Rashan Gary and more: The 10 biggest questions entering Packers training camp
The Packers’ starting offensive line looked like it did during the offseason, with David Bakhtiari at left tackle, Elgton Jenkins at left guard, Myers at center, Jon Runyan Jr. at right guard and Zach Tom at right tackle.
LaFleur said Tuesday that Bakhtiari’s workload will “definitely be modified quite a bit” this summer as he hopes to play his first full season since 2019 because of the ACL he tore in Week 17 of the 2020 season and the complications from the injury that have arisen in recent years.
“It’s going to be pretty fluid, just the communication with him, our medical staff, myself, our coaches,” LaFleur said. “Obviously, we know what type of player he is. He’s proved himself. I think anytime you get a veteran player that has that much experience, then you’re willing to do that. Obviously, we want the best for David because when he’s out there playing, we’re a better football team.”
Yosh Nijman, who has started 21 games at tackle over the last two seasons and performed admirably, played left tackle during the first portion of team drills with the 1s when Bakhtiari stepped out. The second-team offensive line was composed of Rasheed Walker at left tackle, Sean Rhyan at left guard, Jake Hanson at center, Royce Newman at right guard and Nijman at right tackle. The third-team offensive line featured Kadeem Telfort at left tackle, Jean Delance at left guard, Tom at center (does he push Myers for the starting job and perhaps slide Nijman to starting right tackle to get the best five out there?), Chuck Filiaga at right guard and Luke Tenuta at right tackle.
In other lineup housekeeping, Justin Hollins was the first edge rusher opposite Smith with Gary still sidelined, not second-year edge Kingsley Enagbare or rookie first-rounder Lukas Van Ness. Danny Etling was also the second quarterback up, followed by the fifth-round rookie Clifford and recently signed USFL MVP Alex McGough.
(Photo of Jordan Love: Tork Mason / USA Today)
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