5 things learned at Packers training camp – Aug. 23


2. The first-team defense is getting healthier, but Za'Darius Smith remains out.

Among defensive regulars who had missed or been limited in 11-on-11 reps the past week, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Rashan Gary, Tyler Lancaster and Kevin King were all taking part Monday.

But Smith has not returned to practice, after getting on the field briefly last week and then being sidelined again. He has a back injury that is giving him trouble, and LaFleur acknowledged the issue could put Week 1 of the regular season in jeopardy for him. There's a lot of uncertainty right now.

"He's working through that," General Manager Brian Gutekunst said on Sunday of the injury. "It's a little bit day-to-day and we got him out there (last week) to see if he could get a good couple days, and then it just flared up on him again."

3. The rotation of interior offensive linemen hasn't stopped.

After the starting guards on Saturday night were Royce Newman (right) and Jon Runyan (left), the first snaps with the No. 1 offense Monday saw Newman on the left side and Lucas Patrick at right guard.

Then Runyan (right) and Ben Braden (left) rotated in as a pair, followed by Newman and Lucas Patrick coming back but switching sides from earlier in practice.

On top of that, rookie center Josh Myers departed during 11-on-11 work due to what appeared to be an equipment issue, with Runyan the first to step in as the backup center, an interesting choice given Patrick has more experience there.

So regarding who the starting guards will be Week 1 and how the depth chart will align at those interior spots: Stay tuned.

4. Rookie S Christian Uphoff had his eye on Green Bay if he went undrafted.

Uphoff was put in a tough spot come draft time, with Illinois State canceling its 2020 season due to the pandemic. Then when he ran at his pro day it was less than a month after pulling his hamstring, and it was a cold day to boot.

So while he still held out hope of getting drafted, he had a backup plan.

"Before the draft, me and my agent were talking and he was like, 'If you don't get drafted, where do you want to go?'" Uphoff said. "I was like, 'Green Bay.'

"I just knew Green Bay was a good place for undrafted free agents."

In a crowded reserve safety competition that includes fellow undrafted rookie Innis Gaines and second-year pros Vernon Scott (2020 seventh-round pick) and Henry Black (undrafted), the 6-3, 209-pound Uphoff is hanging right in the thick of it.

He's played a total of just 26 snaps on defense in the first two preseason games, less than Gaines and Black (Scott was injured last week). But he's made a solid impression over 18 special-teams snaps, including an impressive tackle on punt coverage last Saturday, beating two blockers to make the play.

That could earn him a longer look in Saturday's preseason finale at Buffalo.

"The first (game) I was pretty nervous and I didn't feel comfortable," he said. "But the second game, I got out there and I was thinking to myself, 'Dude, you're just playing a game, no reason to get all nervous,' so it was a lot more fun the second game, and I felt like I was playing a lot more freely."