ESPN NFL CampTour ’12: Paging Perry and Worthy
By Kevin Seifert, ESPN
~The seek button delivered a Wisconsin sports talk radio station during the drive west Wednesday night. The discussion revolved around Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Perry and if his seemingly quiet start to training camp has signaled a long season for the team’s first-round draft choice.
The conversation reflected questions I’ve heard from many of you. They’ve gone something like this: Why haven’t I heard anything about Nick Perry in this camp? And what about Jerel Worthy? Why have we heard so much about Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian and nothing about the two players drafted ahead of them?
It’s true. During my three days at Packers camp, I didn’t notice a single “flash” play from Perry — one that made you gasp and appreciate a special talent. The same goes for Worthy.
But is that anything to be concerned about? My sense is it’s awfully early to be worried. Both players are making adjustments to different assignments at the pro level, and during the first few weeks of camp, the Packers’ only goal has been to provide them as many repetitions as possible against front-line players.
“There is really no way a guy can go out and play at a speed a guy has to play unless you are confident in your assignments,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “These young guys, they just need to continue to challenge themselves mentally and then when they get repetitions on the field, they have to prove what they’re capable of doing. They’re all trying to establish what their identity is going to be right now.”
I understand impatience in the modern-day NFL, but if we’re not going to give rookies a pass after the first week of camp, then we’ve lost all sense of reality. Perry, for one, is three months into a significant position switch from defensive end to outside linebacker.
Capers said Perry has made clear progress since spring practices, but it seems self-evident to me that a player in the midst of such a transition is probably going to be a step slow in practice. (From the spring: Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene explains Perry’s challenge.)
“Coming from playing defensive end in college to linebacker,” Perry said, “the biggest thing I’ve been dealing with is seeing the bigger picture. Seeing formation changes, changing my strengths, changing my play in the game. I have to see more and stay ahead and stay on top. I’m just learning. I think I’m comfortable at the position. There’s still room for improvement. We’re getting better as the days progress.”
Worthy, meanwhile, is working alongside B.J. Raji as one of two defensive tackles in the Packers’ nickel package, which historically they have run 75 percent of their snaps.
“As a rookie,” Worthy said, “you’re coming in trying to show your skills and try to do the same things you did at college. But at this level, you have to understand that you have to enhance your game, enhance your technique and take the time to really focus on what you have to do fundamentally. It takes about four or five practices to really fully understand how to play fast, how to play at a high level and be able to be effective at a high level.”
I know there are high hopes for both players considering the way the Packers played pass defense in 2011. If we’re still having this conversation in December, you would have a right to be disappointed. In the meantime, however, let’s dial back the expectations just a bit.
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