After nearly a month of dead air, the Packers returned as a full team for an open OTA. It was the media's first look at the new look offensive line, the new player rotations, and some oddities. Following practice, Head Coach Mike McCarthy met with the media.
On Bryan Bulaga and Josh Sitton:
Excited for them personally. They look at it as a great opportunity; excited for challenge. My responsibility with reps, working against Clay and defensive line. Speed is important. ...Feel Bryan is our best tackle. Have a right-handed quarterback so you put your best tackle on the left side. Important for us to have flexibility at both sides to give Aaron Rodgers capabilities at the line of scrimmage.
[Bulaga’s hip] looks good. He probably feels he could have played at some point late in the season. It was a path of rehab that was in his best interest long-term. It seems like I've seen Bryan almost every day since the season ended.
Whether your best offensive linemen need to be positioned on the quarterback's blindside has been debated, but there is no doubt Bulaga and Sitton are the Packers' two best offensive linemen. If placing them on the left makes McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers more comfortable, then that's enough to validate the decision for now. The bigger news here is that it sounds like Bulaga isn't experiencing any issues related to his hip injury from 2012. A healthy Bulaga, regardless of where he's playing, is a huge boost to Green Bay's offense.
On the wide receivers:
Ability to stay interchangeable a true asset to program, especially at wide receiver. Ability to keep moving players around is something we feel we can use to our advantage. How it plays out in game plan will ultimately tell the story.
McCarthy was specifically referring to Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. It appears he was referring to the ability of the players to step up into larger roles as opposed to lining up all over the offense. As we've discussed before, Cobb has played almost exclusively in the slot. While it's possible McCarthy could play him more outside, the presence of Nelson and Jones makes such a move unlikely.
On M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian:
Opportunity to compete. When you look at how much M.D. and McMillian played last year, I look for them to make that jump. Take that second-year jump. Will be very competitive. Morgan has established himself as the leader back there. Feel very good about how both of those guys have taken leadership role.
Technically, only McMillian is eligible for a second year jump as Jennings already has two seasons under his belt. However, it's clear McCarthy thinks each could be his starting safety this year. Both spent time with the ones today, with Jennings taking the first snaps for whatever that's worth. It'll be awhile before we know who, if either, has the lead in the safety competition.
On Sam Shields' absence:
Sam Shields is a young player. Program has helped young players develop. Wish Sam was here. Not here for specific reasons, if he wants to answer he can answer. Opportunity to compete. Very competitive. Wish he was here.
Those reasons are related to Shields' contract. The Packers applied the second round tender to him this offseason. When no team signed Shields to an offer sheet, he became the Packers' property for the 2013 season. The parties are negotiating a long term extension, but as of yet no deal has been struck. Until Shields signs an extension or his tender, he'll likely remain absent.
On Mike Neal playing OLB:
Depends on how you use big guys in space. Drop them into fire zone, too. We're going to expand Mike Neal's role. Going to wait on specifics until Week 1 of the season.
I don't think anyone thought Neal would play OLB this year, let alone drop back into coverage. There's really no way to make sense of this without seeing more, but it looks like Dom Capers is getting creative with his defense.
Quotes provided by Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn