After getting washed out the last couple of years, 55,605 fans were treated to excellent weather, some pretty good football and a lot of fun at the 2012 Family Night sponsored by Bellin Health at Lambeau Field Friday night.
Let's cover the football first. Head Coach Mike McCarthy had the team come out for a warmup similar to how they'll warm up for both pre-season and regular season games. When they finished, went back to the locker room and returned, the scrimmage was well planned. There were five extensive periods of live plays, with full tackling for the first time this summer. Each period pitted either the number one offense against the second team defense or vice-versa. The opening series had Aaron Rodgers lead the offense in the no-huddle. Tom Crabtree beat Erik Waldon's coverage for a 24 yard catch, Jermichael Finley hauled in a 20 yarder and James Starks capped the posession with a four yard touchdown run. The second series was led by backup quarterbacks Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman against the starting defense. Stalled by a couple of false start penalties, the offense couldn't score. Another move the ball period came next and Rodgers made a pair of big plays. The first covered 37 yards on a deep corner route by Donald Driver who made the catch against Brandian Ross. He's the free agent defensive back that intercepted Rodgers on the first play of last year's Family Night scrimmage, taking it back for a touchdown. Aaron must have remembered for two snaps later, he eluded a Jamari Lattimore blitz and found Greg Jennings at the goal line and he made a sliding catch of the hard, low and accurate pass for a 33 yard touchdown with guess who in coverage... Ross. Harrell got a chance to run the no huddle offense on the next period and he had to deal with a malfunctioning helmet radio receiver but was able to convert a 4th and 8 to Ryan Taylor for 11 yards against M.D. Jennings. The drive ended with a Mason Crosby field goal of 37 yards. The final period was a two minute drill, again with Harrell at quarterback but the defense won out, holding the offense on downs. In between each series of scrimmage plays, the special teams got in some work. Sam Shields was the number one kickoff returner and nearly broke one runback. Diondre Borel handled punt return chores. Tim Masthay, fresh off his new contract signed Friday, had one punt downed at the one and he launched a booming kick from his own 30 later. Mason Crosby, who hadn't missed a field goal attempt throughout the first week of camp made his first three, but at the end of the night, tried several long and even longer kicks. With the new upper deck at the south end zone in place but still unfinished, the notorious swirling winds of Lambeau offered a new challenge. Crosby missed a 45 yard try and then missed two in a row from 50. He connected on a 56 yard kick into the north end zone and backed up even more, missing one from 60 before making his second attempt. He finished off the night by missing wide right from 62 and short from 65 yards out.
The biggest fear in live practices of course is injury, and there was one of note. Starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse left the field with one of the team doctors but the nature of the injury was still unknown to McCarthy after practice and of this writing. Several players were scratched because of injury. On offense, tight end Eric Lair was on crutches on the sideline and others wearing only jersies were Tori Gurley, Shaky Smithson, Jon Hoese, John Kuhn, Marc Tyler, Jaymes Brooks, Derrick Sherrod, Andrew Quarless and D.J. Williams. On defense, Charles Woodson was a healthy scratch, Desmond Bishop, Brad Jones, Frank Zombo, Johnny Jones and Mike Daniels also didn't participate.
As for the fun... The crowd arrived early and were treated to the Oneida Nation dancers, a rousing parachute team from the US Army that floated in a half dozen perfect landings, Donald Driver's Dancing with the Stars Cowboy clinching dance song, Train Train Coming blared on the P.A. and there was a spectacular national anthem sung by young Skyler Stecker, the daughter of former Ashwaubenon Jaguar star and NFL running back Aaron Stecker. After the Packers offense scored their two touchdowns, Rodgers led the offensive line to the end zone stands for a collaborative Lambeau Leap that drew some laughs. The night was capped by a field goal contest between the offensive and defensive linemen. Anthony Hargrove and Jarius Wynn had abysmal misses but T.J. Lang knocked his through to give the O-Line the victory. After a few player jersies were given away, the night concluded with a big, loud fireworks show.
On the link below, post practice quotes from McCarthy, Rodgers and several other players from a very enjoyable evening at Lambeau.