Veterans get early leave as Packers end minicamp

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- The Green Bay Packers wound up minicamp Thursday with more than a dozen players missing in action, albeit excused.

Coach Mike McCarthy excused the veterans who have more than five years of service for the final day. They included quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn, fullback John Kuhn, receiver Jordy Nelson, offensive linemen T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, nose tackle B.J. Raji, linebackers A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, cornerback Tramon Williams, kicker Mason Crosby and new defensive end/linebacker Julius Peppers.

Allowing those players a head start on getting away for the five-week break until the July 25 reporting date for training camp meant about a fifth of the team had only one minicamp practice this week.

McCarthy canceled the second day of practice Wednesday to take the team to a nearby bowling center for cosmic bowling as an annual team-bonding activity.

"When you look at the challenges that a nine-week (offseason) program puts on your team, really the stress point is your younger players," McCarthy said. "So, I think clearly on how we practiced the team, how we repped the team, the opportunities created for the veterans and the extra opportunities that you create for your younger players is all part of those decisions.

"Group dynamics is part of growing culture - I believe that - and so that is why we do the group-dynamic activity. What we do, how we do it, frankly is irrelevant. It's just the interaction in a different place.

"Today's practice was exactly what we look for. A lot of younger players got a lot of reps today that they did not have the opportunity in the other practices. ... This practice today was the same practice we had last Friday. It was really a focus on the younger players, getting those guys the reps and making sure we're getting them ready for training camp."

Not counting second-year running back Johnathan Franklin, whose career is now over due to a neck injury, the players who weren't on the field the last four weeks for OTAs and then the minicamp were incumbent starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, projected No. 1 tight end Andrew Quarless and young defensive end Jerel Worthy.

McCarthy didn't give a definitive answer when asked whether the inactive players would be ready for the start of training camp.

"Gosh, I'd hope so," McCarthy said. "We'll see how the physical (testing) goes when they get back (in late July). I'm hopeful, but we'll see. I don't have an answer for you."

Matthews, who was given the spring to complete his recovery from a twice-broken thumb sustained last season, previously expressed optimism he would be good to return when the preseason starts.

--Green Bay's rookie class of nine draft picks and a slew of undrafted guys are headed to Aurora, Ohio, this weekend for the NFL's Rookie Symposium.

The four-day orientation for the rookies from NFC teams at The Bertram Inn & Conference Center starts Sunday. The symposium will highlight the league's history, total wellness, professional experience and workplace conduct.

The rookies from the AFC teams will have their symposium June 25-28 at the same site.

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