Give Them Time: Breaking Bad Habits in NFL Rookies

Andrew Datko

Packers rookie OT Andrew Datko has a lot to work on during training camp.

My college professor once told me, “You can’t get rid of bad habits; you can only replace them with new ones.”

I went to school for a B.S. degree in Music Education, with my major instrument being French horn. To make a long story short, though I had been learning the instrument since I was 10 years old, I was never satisfied with my level of playing. Even after four years of being in the U.S. Army Bands, I wanted to get better. My hope was that individual instruction by a good horn professor could fix my problems.

The big thing I had going for me was that I am a musically gifted person. I have a good ear for pitch and intonation, a strong sense of rhythm, and a knack for being able to sight-read music (i.e., play sheet music without having seen or practiced it before). But being able to play an instrument requires more than a musical mind, one must also have the correct technique physically to be in control of the instrument and make it do what you need it to do.

And this was where I had my problems. My breathing, embouchure (“the use of facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece of an instrument”), tonguing, and posture were not fundamentally sound; thus, I could not always produce the music the way my mind wanted to. I had formed some bad habits that needed serious changing.

Fortunately for me, my horn professor knew exactly how to help. His goal for me as an undergraduate student was to build a strong foundation in my playing so that I could continue to hone my craft and my artistry without the impedance of poor technique.

This was not an easy task, however, and in fact it was often quite frustrating. He essentially had to break me down to slowly build me back up. At first, we worked a lot on the most fundamental aspects of playing: how to sit, how to hold the instrument, proper breath control, embouchure. It wasn’t really a fun process, and I was simultaneously fighting off the bad habits I had already formed, trying to replace them with the good ones.



Rating the Rookies: Cobb Leads Packers 2011 Class Through 7 Games

The rookies on the Green Bay Packers roster have yet to complete a half-season in 2011, but the bye week in Week 8 gave us an opportunity to gauge how the Packers’ first-year players look through seven games.

Snap-counts and statistics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus

T Derek Sherrod (R1)

The Packers wanted him to take hold of the left guard position coming into training camp, but that experiment died in a hurry when Sherrod couldn’t handle the switch. He’s a right or left tackle from this point on. The only major action Sherrod has seen this season came against the Falcons in Week 5. After Chad Clifton went down with a hamstring injury, Sherrod filled in at right tackle as Marshall Newhouse slid over to the left side. Of the 51 snaps he played, 36 came on passing plays, and Sherrod allowed just two quarterback pressures and no sacks or hits. That kind of snap distribution shows the confidence that the Packers have in their rookie at right tackle in pass protection. Sherrod also came in on seven snaps (five run, two pass) against the Broncos in Week 4.

WR/KR Randall Cobb (R2)

GM Ted Thompson drafted Cobb in the second round to be the Packers primary return man and a sub-package receiver that can make plays in space. So far, that’s exactly what Cobb has been. He has returned every punt and kick save one, which was a squib kick that Tom Crabtree got his hands on. Cobb has done his best work on kicks, where his 30.5-yard average (13 returns, 396 yards) ranks fifth in the NFL among players with eight or more returns. Of course, his 108-yard TD against the Saints on opening night is the highlight of the season. He also lost a fumble in Carolina that contributed to the Packers falling down by 13 points in the first quarter.

Cobb hasn’t had the same impact on punt returns, where his 12 returns have yielded just 97 yards (8.1 average). Cobb has 11 fair catches. His only muffed punt of the season in Minnesota gave the Vikings good field position to re-take the lead, 14-7.  In the same game, Cobb had a 42-yard punt return that set up a Packers touchdown.



Packers Promote RB Brandon Saine from Practice Squad

The Green Bay Packers signed rookie running back Brandon Saine from the practice squad to the 53-man roster after placing fellow rookie back Alex Green on IR, GM Ted Thompson announced Monday. The Packers also signed safety Anthony Levine and offensive lineman Paul Fenaroll to the practice squad and Cecil Newton was released.

The need for promoting Saine arose when Green tore his ACL in the first quarter of the Packers 33-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7. The injury occured when Randall Cobb tripped into the back of Green’s legs during a kick return. Mike McCarthy announced last Monday that Green would be lost for the season.

A third-round pick from Hawaii, Green had just three carries for 11 yards and one catch for six yards in limited snaps this season. Depending on when surgery for the injury occurs, Green should be a full-go for 2012.

Saine (5-11, 220) was signed as an undrafted free agent on July 28 and won himself a spot on the Packers practice squad by rushing for 51 yards during the preseason. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection at Ohio State his senior year. He will wear No. 33.

While Green saw limited playing time in the Packers offense, Saine will likely receive less. Green Bay needed an extra running back on the roster, mostly because John Kuhn, who can fill in as an emergency back, is the team’s lone fullback. Expect to see Saine on special teams duty only.

Levine (5-11, 200) returns to the Packers practice squad after being released on Sept. 3. He spent the first 18 games of 2010 on the practice squad but was released during final cut downs this season. He will wear No. 34. It’s safe to say that Levine is over a concussion issue that forced him to miss precious training camp and preseason time this August. He’ll provide emergency depth at safety, a position that has been stretched thin by Nick Collins’ injury.

Fenaroll (6-2, 300) was released by the Atlanta Falcons during final cut downs after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He was a three-year starter at Stony Brook and was named All-Big South in each of his final two seasons. He will wear No. 64. After releasing Newton—Cam’s older brother—the Packers needed another body on the offensive line. Fenaroll is that guy for the time being.



Green Bay Packers Draft Picks Get Their Numbers

Packers Blank JerseyIn what has been a frantic week of negotiations, trades, and player signings, the Green Bay Packers have finally signed each of their 2011 draft picks. These ten rookies had been waiting anxiously for the end of the lockout so that they could get to Green Bay and start training. And now, with all of their contracts signed, they have earned their uniform numbers and are ready to take to the practice field.

Below is a list of the draft picks, their new numbers, and some information about their contracts:

Derek Sherrod

Drafted: Rd 1, Pick 32 (32)
Position: OL (T)
Number: #78
Contract: Four-year contract total: $6.6 million ($5.32 million guaranteed); Signing bonus: $3,301,456

Randall Cobb

Drafted: Rd 2, Pick 32 (64)
Position: WR
Number: #18
Contract: Four-year contract total: $3.2 million; Signing bonus: $834,000

Alex Green

Drafted: Rd 3, Pick 32 (96)
Position: RB
Number: #20
Contract: Four-year contract

Davon House

Drafted: Rd 4, Pick 34 (131)
Position: DB (CB)
Number: #31
Contract: Four-year contract total: $2.34 million

D.J. Williams

Drafted: Rd 5, Pick 10 (141)
Position: TE
Number: #84
Contract: Four-year contract total: $2.33 million; First-year pay: $424,500; Signing bonus: $198,000

Caleb  Schlauderaff

Drafted: Rd 6, Pick 14 (179)
Position: OL (G)
Number: #68
Contract: Four-year contract total: $2.21 million; First-year pay: $401,450

D.J. Smith

Drafted: Rd 6, Pick 21 (186)
Position: LB
Number: #51
Contract: Four-year contract

Ricky Elmore

Drafted: Rd 6, Pick 32 (197)
Position: DL/LB
Number: #57
Contract: Four-year contract total: $2.18 million; First-year pay: $397,059

Ryan Taylor

Drafted: Rd 7, Pick 15 (218)
Position: TE
Number: #82
Contract: Four-year contract total: $2.14 million; First-year pay: $389,794

Lawrence Guy

Drafted: Rd 7, Pick 30 (233)
Position: DT
Number: #91
Contract: Four-year contract

Our Packers roster here at Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com has also been updated to show these changes. We will keep it current as training camp/preseason continues and cuts are made.


Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski




Presenting… The Position by Position 2011 Green Bay Packers Post-Draft Roster

During the 2011 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers added an additional 10 players to their team roster, with six going to the offense and four going to the defense. They now have a roster of 85 players, which they must cut down to 80 by training camp. (These details are, of course, subject to change based on the labor negotiations.)

With the lockout currently prohibiting teams from signing undrafted rookies, this is currently the best picture of the players that Mike McCarthy and his coaching staff will have to work with. Also note that there are currently 14 free agents on the roster (restriction status pending for some). In the far off chance they let every single free agent leave, that would give them 9 spots to fill by camp. If they managed to keep all of them, they would have to cut 5 players by then.

So enjoy perusing the current roster, and feel free to post your thoughts below. If you would like a printable version, I have posted both Excel and PDF versions below:

Packers 2011 Post-Draft Roster (*.XLSX)
Packers 2011 Post-Draft Roster (*.PDF)

*** Players in RED are free agents.
*** Players in GREEN are drafted rookies.

# Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Age Exp. College
10 Flynn, Matt QB 6-2 225 25 4 Louisiana State
6 Harrell, Graham QB 6-2 215 25 1 Texas Tech
12 Rodgers, Aaron QB 6-2 225 27 7 California
25 Grant, Ryan RB 6-1 222 28 5 Notre Dame
  Green, Alex RB 6-0 225 22 R Hawaii
32 Jackson, Brandon RB 5-10 216 25 5 Nebraska
30 Kuhn, John RB 6-0 250 28 6 Shippensburg
23 Nance, Dimitri RB 5-10 219 23 2 Arizona State
44 Starks, James RB 6-2 218 25 2 Buffalo
35 Hall, Korey FB 6-0 236 27 5 Boise State
45 Johnson, Quinn FB 6-1 263 24 3 Louisiana State
  Cobb, Randall WR 5-10 191 20 R Kentucky
80 Driver, Donald WR 6-0 194 36 13 Alcorn State
85 Jennings, Greg WR 5-11 198 27 6 Western Michigan