Packers hold first training camp practice, Clark signs massive contract extension
It felt weird without fans watching at Ray Nitschke Field
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The story of the day from Packers training camp actually came before practice as Kenny Clark signed a huge contract extension. The deal was for 4 more years and $70 million with a $25 million signing bonus. Clark became the highest-paid nose tackle in the history of the NFL and the 12th-highest paid defender in the league.
“It’s a blessing man,” Clark said. “It feels good. I honestly don’t even know what to say. I am just excited to be a Packer for the long haul. I’m excited about this opportunity. I’ve done worked hard for this.”
“I couldn’t be happier for Kenny,” said coach Matt LaFleur. “Kenny is the epitome of what we are all about here.”
“I think Kenny sometimes has been an underrated player for us over the years,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “He is such a solid force inside and I think his game has expanded every year. His ability to pass rush has been the biggest jump. He has always been stout in the run game.”
The big contract certainly generated a lot of buzz, as did the first practice. The players were excited to be back on the field despite the weird feel of no fans.
“Yeah, it’s strange,” Rodgers said. “Very strange. Obviously this is my 16th training camp. Nostalgically you miss some of those fun traditions that really make Green Bay, Green Bay.”
“Today felt a little bit different than your typical training camp day,” LaFleur said. “You didn’t have the energy of our fans which we dearly miss. Guys are going to have to dig deep this year and look inside themselves to bring that juice.”
“It’s all about us,” said inside linebacker Christian Kirksey. “We know the circumstances that we are going to play under, with no fans. This is where you have to dig deep and tell yourself this is why you play the game, for the love of the sport. And every time we step on the field we want to create an atmosphere where we are competing.”
On the practice field you could not help but being impressed by rookie running back A.J. Dillon. Even without pads on, he was an imposing presence.
“He is a big boy,” Rodgers marveled. “He is a large man. He walks around pretty comfortably at 250 pounds. for a back that moves pretty well.”
“He has got some massive legs,” LaFleur said. “I have not seen a running back that is built like that, not in my career that I have ever been around.”
“As a linebacker you want to man up and say, ‘If I see you in a hole I am going to hit you up top,’” Kirksey said. “But when you see how big he is, you almost have to go low. But then you look at his legs, he has tree trunks, you might want to think twice about that too.”
On the roster side of things, kicker Mason Crosby was activated from the COVID Reserve list on Saturday.
As for position battles? QB Tim Boyle took most of the 2nd-team reps ahead of 1st-round draft pick Jordan Love. Billy Turner got the first reps at right tackle ahead of Ricky Wagner with Lane Taylor starting at right guard. And Chandon Sullivan was playing slot corner with the 1st team following Tramon Williams’ departure.
As for the plays of the day, they were a couple of touchdown tosses. First off, Aaron Rodgers threading the needle to Allen Lazard for a 1-handed grab score. Tim Boyle also hit newcomer Reggie Begelton on a beautiful ball across the middle.
Other news and notes? There were not a ton of COVID face shields present on the practice field, though offensive lineman Lucas Patrick was trying one out on Saturday.
As for Matt LaFleur? He has been preaching urgency on third downs throughout his offseason interviews, and he was definitely stressing that urgency on the field Saturday.
And there is urgency with the season opener only 4 weeks from Sunday. The team knows they need to get as many reps under their belts before then. For that reason, you saw Aaron Rodgers and the first team offense and defense taking a lot more reps that you’re accustomed to seeing in an August training camp practice.
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