Shields Flashes On Defense

The undrafted rookie cornerback has been one of the pleasant surprises in the early days of training camp.

GREEN BAY – Because undrafted rookie cornerback Sam Shields is only among a handful of players to be getting an opportunity to return punts during practice, it was an assumption that he would catch the attention of onlookers with his play on special teams.

Meanwhile, he's buried deep down the depth chart at cornerback, and therefore, wasn't expected make much of an impact on defense. Especially at a position he's only been playing since his senior year of college when he made the switch from wide receiver.

But there Shields was on Saturday standing out on defense, flashing his blazing speed and untapped potential for a couple thousand railbirds watching the first day of training camp practice.

"I'm getting to it, but I still got to keep working on it," said Shields. "But it's getting there."

In the very first session of one-on-ones while matched up on an island against an opposing wide receiver, Shields broke up a pass intended for Brett Swain on a post pattern. Moments later Shields undercut a route by Jordy Nelson to break up another pass.

Fast forward to later in practice when during 11-on-11s Shields had the first interception of the entire training camp during teams drills off backup quarterback Matt Flynn. It's possible the pick could have been returned for a touchdown had it been in game.

"Sam has made plays. Yeah, definitely," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "Sam really jumped out to me in the spring, particularly with the special teams, and he’s made some plays as a corner, as a defensive back. It is a transition for him. He’s put together two pretty good days."

It's clear that Shields is one of the fastest players on the team, maybe the fastest. He claims to have run a 4.20 40-yard dash during the spring of his junior year at the University of Miami.

On the two pass break-ups and one interception on the first day of training camp practice, Shields showed off that speed by making a good break on all three balls. He credits his growing knowledge of the defense as one of the reasons.

"Getting in the playbook gave me more confidence, and Coach is being more confident in me being out there," said Shields on Sunday.

As far as punt returns, Shields still has a ways to go. Just like OTAs and minicamp this past May and June, Shields has already had a couple drops and just doesn't instill the same confidence that veteran players like a Will Blackmon or a Tramon Williams do.

The Packers would be taking quite a big risk if they were to trot Shields out to the punt return position during the regular season. Still, he's out there every day catching punts from the JUGS machine before every practice.

"I just got to keep focusing on catching the ball in practice," said Shields. "Showing the coaches that I can field the ball and judging the ball, things like that."

Shields may have a better opportunity to impress during kick returns, which are far easier to field than a punt. Through two days of practice, the Packers have yet to practice kickoffs, so that time is probably approaching quickly.

With his speed, Shields could be a dangerous kick returner, which would really complement what could be a similarly dangerous threat on defense. Shields has yet to prove he's going to be a reliable tackler, but he's going to work on it.

"I just got to continue to stay in the playbook and work with some of the veterans," said Shields. "They're helping me out a lot."

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Comments (12)

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Cole's picture

August 02, 2010 at 10:46 am

I was going to say, until I read the third to last paragraph, "why don't they try him on kick returns?"

What a wonderful suprise it would be if both he underwood, and lee turn out to be solid DBs.

I would love to see him return some kickoffs and just let blackmon handle punts for now.

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afrenchpackersfan's picture

August 02, 2010 at 11:08 am

I don't know why but I have always appreciate this player even before they sign him (part of the reason may be thre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q9zZAsTeic). Really hope that he will continue to impress with his speed and learn the DB's technique. Could be a very good acquisition since special teams and (in a lower degree) pass defense could be the most important areas to improve in the near future...

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PackersRS's picture

August 02, 2010 at 11:20 am

I really, really hope this kid pans out. He looks like a difference-maker.

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Bad Knees's picture

August 02, 2010 at 11:46 am

Put him, the Juggs machine, in a darkened Don Hutson Center with a strobe light and let him catch passes and punts. Hand eye coordination will be improved.

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Brian Carriveau's picture

August 02, 2010 at 11:55 am

Hilarious.

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afrenchpackersfan's picture

August 02, 2010 at 12:12 pm

lol

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Brooklyn's picture

August 02, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Put him on the jugs machine in the dark with some gunners running at him

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Bad Knees's picture

August 02, 2010 at 02:46 pm

Sometimes to improve you have to think outside of the "box". And yes, the concept is funny but...

http://www.brianmac.co.uk/articles/scni19a3.htm

Read down about 2/3 of the article. Again, shields needs to improve hand - eye coordination.

Someone probably thought putting an ozone system in the locker room was a gas (pun intended). But, ozone does kill staff germs.

Really hope this guy makes the team, has a lot to offer.

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Bad Knees's picture

August 02, 2010 at 03:45 pm

And one final point since the other article referred to children improving sight skills. Please read the following quote.

Dr. Elise Brisco, an optometrist who's worked with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, used strobe lights, bean bags, balance boards and trampolines. "Your vision guides your hands, your legs, your balance, your shifting of weight," she said. "When the puck is moving so fast, you need to make a continual dynamic adjustment."

So she might have the player stand on a balance board, and as he moved forward or backward, as if surfing, she'd turn on a strobe light and throw a ball at him. "With the strobe light, they didn't see the entire pathway," said Brisco. "So they had to fill in the gaps with their mind's eye. That's visualization. When we would turn the lights on, they'd see the entire pathway of the target, and it would seem slower."

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Keith Kamps's picture

August 02, 2010 at 08:20 pm

Little know fact. Sam Shields is a Sarasota kid. He starred at Booker High School before heading over the the "U".

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Irish Cheesehaed's picture

August 02, 2010 at 08:24 pm

This year's Terrell Sutton.

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SpiderPack's picture

August 03, 2010 at 09:11 am

Well Bad Knees, that was entertaining as hell, but I agree w/you wholeheartedly. Shields' problem catching the ball is entirely mental, that kinda stuff always is, especially if pot's been in his life. He's probably a bit bewitched about the fielding issue. If they don't employ the "Psychedelic Strobe Light" technique (I'm still laughing BTW), they should go Zen on his ass, like W. Tim Gallwey (who wrote "The Inner Game of Tennis") would. Or he should see the same sports shrink John Smoltz did back when he turned the corner for the Braves. Then he can be our missing link on special teams.

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