BY RICH PALZEWIC
Like last year when I attended my first Packers game on the sidelines, there were a few nerves attending my first minicamp in June on the sidelines. In retrospect, it was a piece of cake and I shouldn’t have been anxious at all.
When I attended OTAs in late May, I sat in the bleachers at Ray Nitschke Field with the rest of the fans. I snapped some great shots of the players from there, but I wanted to experience what it was like to be closer to the “giants,” so I was able to get credentials.
I was met inside the media gate by the Don Hutson Center by Sarah Quick, the Assistant Director of Communications with the team. Before getting my credentials, I was sitting on a bench when defensive coordinator Mike Pettine – who took over for the departed Dom Capers – made eye contact and gave me a small nod to acknowledge I existed … how exciting!
A few minutes later members of the media were given a roster, a small sheet of paper letting us know when we could shoot pics/video and we were on our way to the practice field.
One thing I learned quickly was that the Packers don’t want the media taking pictures or shooting video during certain times for a reason … they don’t want to give away any secrets … I understand that totally. The only time I was able to take pics was during stretching, ball drills, team ball security, fundamentals, the fundamentals/group periods and water breaks.
I got some good pictures, but in all honesty, I was probably able to get better ones sitting in the bleachers and moving around. Being on the sidelines did have a few advantages, though! Being within earshot of the players, I was able to hear them talking and even heard a few things I can’t type here!
Sixteen veterans were excused from the “mandatory” three-day minicamp, including Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham and David Bakhtiari to name a few. I’m sure Matthews was still nursing his surgically repaired broken nose that he suffered in the charity softball game June 2. If you didn’t hear, he took a line drive off the face while pitching. I think it’s a good bet that he won’t be pitching in that game ever again!
It was a good time for the rookies, free agents and newer players to get reps and work on skills. It was also the first time safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was in town after missing the voluntary OTAs. From what I read about the situation, Clinton-Dix’s godmother passed away, thus his absence. There was also a hint from the five-year veteran that money and wanting to spend time with family were factors in him missing OTAs.
I think one of the most interesting sidebars to training camp will the backup quarterback position. Both Brett Hundley and DeShone Kizer were present at minicamp taking snaps.
If you ask the experts, they would probably tell you that the team will only keep two QBs on the active roster, which means that two of the four in camp will most likely not be around come the regular season. I find it hard to believe they would go through all the troubles of trading a former first-round pick in Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns to get a young, talented quarterback like Kizer and then not have him on the roster. I can’t say with 100-percent certainty what will happen, but I don’t think Kizer is going anywhere!
While the defensive backs were working on catching passes from the Jugs machine, a ball squirted away and fell next to me. It was sitting there and no one grabbed it, so I picked it up and held on to it while assistant coach Jarrett Bush was working the drill. After he got done, I called his name and tossed it to him. He smiled and thanked me. Bush, a former player, assisted the Packers’ coaching staff in different capacities during OTAs and minicamp.
I got a few good shots of the linebackers working on a fumble/agility drill and head coach Mike McCarthy greeting an assistant coach. All in all, it was a fun day and experience!
With practice winding down I visited the “Lambeau Field Live” experience in the parking lot before heading home.
A security guard present informed me that the interactive exhibit will go around the state to different events. This year’s destinations include Summerfest in Milwaukee, the Northern Wisconsin State Fair in Chippewa Falls, EAA Airventure in Oshkosh, the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis and the Taste of Madison.
Lambeau Field Live will include Packers’ alumni appearances, “Play 60” programs for youth, a virtual reality experience, a satellite Packers Pro Shop and Packers Hall of Fame.
It’s free to those already attending the events where the exhibit will be brought over the next two years.