In Green Bay, Wis., with the Packers. Training camp is technically at St. Norbert College (and has been for 48 years, the longest tenure in the NFL), because that's where the players sleep at night. But in reality the Packers, like many NFL teams, conduct the meat-and-potatoes of their training camp at their regular season training complex. In this case, that means Lambeau Field. (By the way, where the Packers are concerned, meat and potatoes means ground and mashed, on the training table cafeteria line; in true Midwestern style. "When in Rome,'' said Texas native and Packers GM Ted Thompson as he dug into a plate of hearty fare.)
However, as advertised, Packers indeed ride bicycles loaned by local kids for the short ride across the street from Lambeau to Clark Hinkle Field for practice. This alone lends a homey atmosphere to the proceedings, harkening back to simpler times or something like that. It's cute, put it that way.
Here's the Drill
1. First drill of the day. Packers offense lines up for half-speed work. A tanned, grey-haired guy in a red No. 4 jersey lines up behind center, takes a snap, rolls out and feigns throwing a pass. He looks like a young -- but not that young -- assistant coach. Brett Favre, of course, is no assistant coach. "It's almost surreal seeing him out there,'' says backup Aaron Rodgers. "I have to remind myself who I'm playing behind.''
You want to know how Favre looks? Hard to say based on one day. The Pack were in shells (no pads) for a two-hour morning practice under pleasant sunshine, giving their bodies a break. Favre threw some sharp ball and several picks. What does it mean to a 16-year-veteran who will be 37 in October and has started 221 NFL games? Probably not a whole lot.
Packers new head coach Mike McCarthy, who was Favre's quarterbacks coach in 1999, sees much the same player he had then. "I guess I'm going to say he's more mature,'' McCarthy said after practice, shrugging almost sheepishly. "`The arm? Maybe not quite as strong. But in ''99 I'd say he had one of the two strongest arms I've ever seen, along with John Elway. The lower body is in great shape. That was one of the first things I looked at.''
2. Speaking of Rodgers, there was a lot of premature "bust'' buzz a year ago, after Rodgers was drafted with the 24th overall pick in the 2005 draft. Nobody is dropping the B word anymore. Rodgers made the most of his first-team reps while Favre was deciding whether to return or retire and actually picked up McCarthy's system -- and in particular the terminology -- more quickly than Favre. "I was almost a translator for Brett for a while,'' says Rodgers.
Packers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski has, according to McCarthy, occasionally tossed out the expression "A.F.,'' as in "After Favre.'' The way Rodgers is looking, A.F. doesn't look as daunting as it did a year ago.