Tonight, the Packers held their first, and due to tomorrow's White House visit, only practice in preparation for Saturday's preseason opener in Cleveland. In a general sense, they've been preparing all along, blocking and tackling is blocking and tackling, but as far as working specifically against Browns' stuff, tonight was it.
Said preparation boils down to this: Cleveland plays and defenses are drawn up on cards, and those cards are shown to the scout or "look" team prior to each play. During the offensive period, assorted defensive players will serve as the scout team while Aaron Rodgers and company execute the Packers offensive game plan. It's vice versa during the defensive period. Tonight's practice was more like the regular season in this regard. And in the NFL, you'd be surprised at the talent on some "scout" teams. I can remember Rodgers and Ruvell Martin lighting up the Packers #1 defense not all that many years ago.
While fans pay attention to the scores in preseason game, that's really not what they're all about. Although coaches and players are competitive people who want to win way more than most, the games' primary purpose is personnel evaluation. There's nothing like game conditions to bring out the best, or the worst, in a particular player. The actual final score is usually a poor indicator of which team is the best team. Who was held out with injuries they'd normally play with, how long the "good" players played, and how much offense or defense was used vary greatly from team to team. Don't underestimate the impact of coaching either. Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers, two of the best in the business, are putting in 1-day game plans. That's to the advantage of folks who are less skilled in their craft. Bottom line, preseason games are very useful in terms of who should be on your team and who should be doing the playing, especially this year when opportunities for evaluation have been limited. Other than that, they don't count for much and are forgotten quickly. And should be.
If tonight's workout is any indication, Saturday's game will be short on star power. Although he took a few reps with the scout team, I didn't see Charles Woodson participate in a single defensive snap. I did see Mason Crosby kicking off and the medical staff will see how his ankle responds to the work tomorrow. Sam Shields may be the newest addition to the sick list, as he followed a brilliant interception with a high impact collision with the ground. Sustained some sort of hip injury but Mike McCarthy didn't seem overly concerned afterwards.
The head coach also called an audible today in regards to his practice schedule. Tonight's session is the final night practice and from now on, the normal starting time is 11:15 AM. McCarthy says he wants to get the team on a program more closely resembling its regular season schedule, but he also may be reconsidering the long days that go with the night practices. As Greg Jennings was quick to point out, you start at 7 am and by the time you get around to doing what you're there for, practicing, it's twelve hours later. And you've only just begun.
Not that anybody is holding their breath for the musings of yours truly, but I'll be traveling with the team to Washington and then to Cleveland for the game. I'll be back with postgame observations on Sunday.