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Changes All Around for the Packers D as Camp Opens

At one point during the Packers’ first practice of training camp, Charles Woodson came to the sideline for a breather and went down on one knee between cornerback Tramon Williams and safety Morgan Burnett.

Appropriate, because the Packers’ defensive leader apparently isn’t connected to one position group anymore.

Going into his 15th pro season, Woodson lined up at safety more than he did at his natural cornerback spot.

“‘Wood,’ I think he can do it all,” safety M.D. Jennings said after practice Thursday.

Woodson’s conversion to possibly a bigger role at a new position comes at a critical time. Getting the defense back to performing at a high level has been a priority for the Packers after things took a turn for the worst last season.

General manager Ted Thompson used the team’s first six draft picks on defensive players and also signed a few free agents to bolster the depth on that side.

More changes ensued as the Packers kicked off the preseason with Thursday’s 2½-hour practice on a warm morning.

A day after the team released veteran Charlie Peprah, Woodson worked extensively at the starting safety spot previously held by Peprah.

“Charles has played that position,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We used to call it our ‘Three Okie’ package, and now he’s just lined up in ‘Okie’ playing strong safety. So it really isn’t anything new . it’s the same really as it’s always been.”

Peprah, who has played six years in the NFL, replaced an injured Nick Collins in the starting lineup only three games into last season. Peprah also was a starting replacement for the Packers for most of their Super Bowl-winning season in 2010.

Green Bay cut him, though, after he failed his physical when players reported for training camp Wednesday. Peprah had knee surgery after last season and didn’t participate in the team’s offseason workouts.

The Packers previously released Collins in the spring amid concerns about the three-time Pro Bowl player’s desire to attempt a comeback from a severe neck injury.

McCarthy still feels good about the Packers’ depth at safety, where incumbent starter Burnett could be paired with Woodson, second-year player Jennings or rookie Jerron McMillian.

“We have some young players that we’re excited about, some players we’ve had a chance to watch throughout the spring,” McCarthy said. “Charlie’s situation, really looking at all the options after his visit with the doctors . really, it’s a lot of competition.”

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