The Packers off-season program came to an unexpected close Tuesday when head coach Mike McCarthy announced he was minimizing the team's mandatory mini-camp. The three day camp ended after two workouts, a reward said the coach, for diligent work during the 4 weeks of organized team activities. Practice ended with a little team building fun, a home run derby. Each position group selected a pitcher and hitter to whack a 16 inch softball over a configured outfield wall of practice cones laid out by trainer Pepper Burress. McCarthy announced the derby winner would receive a car which was under wraps on the south end of Ray Nitschke Field. There were some feeble hitters, Matt Flynn, Nick Collins, Cullen Jenkins among them. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson launched a home run which stood until the final at bat. Representing the offensive line, number one pick Brian Bulaga popped up his first try, hit a roller on the second and with his final shot, lofted a high fly, opposite field bomb that beat Nelson's homer by several feet. Bulaga was then paraded to his awaiting vehicle, hoping it was a new Cadillac for his mother, but when he pulled off the tarp, there stood a wrecked Saturn, without a trunk lid and a door hanging on its hinges. The team broke camp with a big laugh and Bulaga was able to talk about his prodigious swing to reporters afterward.
As the Packers now take a 5 week break from football, a few questions remained in need of answers. Such as: When will Atari Bigby show up and is it too late to work his way back into the starting lineup at safety after the promising showing of rookie Morgan Burnett? Will Brad Jones retain his starting job at outside linebacker or will veteran Brady Poppinga take over? Who will handle the punt and kickoff returns while Will Blackmon continues to mend from knee surgery? And will Al Harris be the same following his reconstructive surgery? Stay tuned...the team checks into McCormick Hall at St. Norbert College on July 30.
The Packer blog will go on hiatus as vacation time nears for me. I'll need to recharge the batteries just as much as the players for the long, grind of an NFL season to come. Before I bid adieu, here are some quotes from the boys on the final day of camp, the mighty home run derby and the anticipation of the 2010 season to come.