Much has been made of AJ Dillon’s legs. They’ve become a bit of a mini-obsession among some members of the media. From pictures, to social media comments to questions asked of coach Matt LaFleur, the legs of the Green Bay Packers rookie running back have somehow, ridiculously, been among the stars of the first week of training camp.
“I think it’s funny. It’s always kind of been a thing,” Dillon said Thursday after practice. “It was more of a controlled joke and now it’s kind of all over. But it’s funny. I enjoy it and embrace it. I got big legs.”
The legs of the former Boston College star were a known commodity when the Packers selected him in the second round of April’s NFL Draft. What wasn’t, were his hands. Over his three years in college, Dillon touched the ball 866 times. Of those, only 21 (or 2.4 percent) came with him catching the ball out of the backfield.
Through five practices, though, the 247-pound Dillon has shown he’s comfortable when the ball is in the air and headed his way. That was on display again Thursday when he caught a bullet up the seam from backup quarterback Tim Boyle and withstood a shot from safety Will Redmond for what would have been a big gain.
“Something I’ve always harped on myself is I never want to be put in just a “big back box.” I think I can help out this team in any way. Legs, arms, hands, whatever it may be, I’m trying to be complete in all aspects of my game,” Dillon said. “Having those reps, going out and catching those passes, something I didn’t have the opportunity to do too much at (Boston College)… . “I’m getting used to it now and trying to help out the offense or wherever I can.”
Dillon worked hard on his hands prior to the NFL Combine in February and then spent time with first-round pick Jordan Love before the team came together for training camp. Now, it’s about taking advantage of the chances he’s being given in the offense.
“The coaches have done a great job getting me those reps out there, kind of putting me in situations I haven’t been exposed to and eventually me getting comfortable there,” Dillon said. “I’m excited. I’m just jumping all-in on the opportunity.”
Packers practice in the stadium, pipe in crowd noise
We know Lambeau Field will not have fans for at least the first two games of the season. We also know the NFL is planning to experiment with allowing teams to have ambient crowd noise to create a little more atmosphere. For those two reasons, the Packers were inside Lambeau Field for practice on Thursday.
“I thought it was super competitive,” LaFleur said of the nearly two-hour session. “There was definitely some stuff that can be better. No doubt about it, in terms of play. Our guys got to understand and adapt to a new environment. At the end of the day, it’s still football, whether we’re out on Nitschke (practice field) or we’re inside Lambeau, it’s still football.”
LaFleur said the crowd noise the team faced was a prototype of what the NFL is planning to use, though they will adjust it as needed. It’s unclear what the exact decibel level wwas, but LaFleur definitely took notice of it.
“I had our guys lower that decibel level down a little bit because we haven’t done any of our silent cadence,” LaFleur said. “When we first went out there, I thought it was pretty loud. Loud enough where you’d have to use a silent count.”
Some players sit, others return
Two of Green Bay’s most important players did not take part in practice. Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith was out for a second straight day, while wide receiver Davante Adams sat after suffering an apparent ankle injury in Wednesday’s practice. LaFleur said he is not concerned about either player.
Safety Adrian Amos was not at practice. LaFluer said the veteran had to deal with a personal matter and was excused. He expects Amos to return to the team shortly.
As for guys returning, center Corey Linsley and tackle David Bakhtiari both took part in 11-on-11 drills after not doing so on Wednesday.
The one new injury came to right tackle Rick Wagner. The former Wisconsin standout suffered what appeared to be a left arm injury. After speaking with trainers for several minutes, he exited the field and did not return.