GRAND CHUTE, Wis.––In a typical year without an NFL-imposed lockout, the Packers would be conducting Organized Team Activity and minicamp practices in the June timeframe. And the veterans on the Packers would already have met this year’s rookie class.
But due to the league’s ongoing labor struggles, several of the newly drafted rookies met their teammates for the first time this weekend through the Donald Driver Celebrity Softball Game.
“It was crazy,” said Driver. “When I saw a couple of guys last night in the hotel, I just looked at them like, “Who is that? Who is that? Who is that?’ Because you normally don’t get to see them.
“But it was really great to see how much guys appreciate me bringing them in, knowing that they’re a part of our team, but we haven’t officially had a chance to work out together. But those guys are really nice guys, and it’s going to be great to see what those guys contribute to our team.”
A few of the rookies have met with their teammates on a small scale prior to this weekend, but never so many at the same time.
It was an opportunity for the first-year players to put a face with a name and get to know several of their teammates in advance of their first organized practice together, whenever it occurs.
“I’m excited,” said rookie cornerback Davon House. “I wish I could stay here for more than just today. But as soon as the lockout is over, I’ll be here the next flight I can catch.”
House, the highest drafted Packer to attend Driver’s softball game, previously reached out fellow cornerback Tramon Williams and Sam Shields (neither of whom attended Sunday’s game) to talk about the playbook and what to expect.
“I was looking forward to talking to Charles (Woodson), but he isn’t here today,” said House. “But as soon as the lockout’s over, there’s going to be a lot of, probably too much talking for me, and I’ve got to start doing some listening than anything.”
Sixth-round draft choice Ricky Elmore has had the opportunity to occasionally work out with fellow outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Brady Poppinga at a facility in California this offseason, although they haven’t talked much about Xs and Os.
“I’ve had a chance to talk to both of them, and they’ve had nothing but great things to say about this place,” said Elmore. “Nothing but great things to say about coach Greene. They say I’m going to love it.
“They tried to give me a heads up about what’s going to happen. Haven’t gotten to talk much about defense and stuff like that, but they said, and so did coach Greene, don’t worry about that because we’ll take care of that when you get here.”
Elmore said he’s been attempting to get his hands on a playbook, although the organization charges $16,000 to keep a playbook and understands why no players keep them.
For fifth-round draft choice D.J. Williams, he got to meet almost all of the other players at his position. Other tight ends attending Driver’s annual charity event were Jermichel Finley, Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree.
“This is the first time,” said Williams of meeting the rest of the Packers. “Dealing with the whole lockout business, us rookies are having a hard time figuring out exactly what to do.
“But it’s been fun coming out here meeting all the new guys, meeting the tight ends, most of the tight ends were here. It looks like it’s going to be a cool year.”
Also at Sunday’s game was sixth-round draft choice, linebacker D.J. Smith.
When the rookies will be able to meet the team as a whole is still uncertain. Not until the NFL and the Player’s Association can come to an agreement will the team be able to practice in a formal environment.
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