GREEN BAY — Rashan Gary got to choose No. 52. And with all due respect to Clay Matthews — whom Gary does respect, by the way — it was more about arithmetic than admiration.
The Green Bay Packers newest outside linebacker and first-round draft pick took part in his first practice as a pro Friday afternoon at the team’s post-draft rookie camp, and he did so wearing the familiar No. 52 that Matthews, the team’s six-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker, had worn for the previous 10 seasons.
Matthews was well aware of that, having seen on Twitter the Packers’ announcement of all the draft picks’ numbers and tweeted back, “The body’s not even cold yet.”
So how did Gary end up with No. 52?
“I requested it,” the former Michigan standout replied.
“(Because) five minus two equals three. I wore (No.) 3 in college,” Gary said, before adding, “But Clay Matthews, I used to watch his game a lot. I’m a bigger-type guy, but just watching what he used to do, his passion for the game, I loved it. As soon as I saw (No. 52) was open, I had to take it.”
Showing off the arm
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With only three quarterbacks taking part in the camp — undrafted rookie signee Manny Wilkins of Arizona State, and tryout quarterbacks Taylor Cornelius of Oklahoma State and C.J. Collins of Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas — coach Matt LaFleur threw a number of passes during the individual drill periods that were open to the media.
LaFleur, who has coached quarterbacks with the Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons before being an offensive coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans, played quarterback at Saginaw Valley State.
“(I) threw some good balls out there, man,” he joked after practice.
Sternberger sits out
Tight end Jace Sternberger, the team’s third-round pick out of Texas A&M, attended practice but did not participate because of illness, LaFleur said. Sternberger was one of two draft picks whose deals weren’t done in time for the first practice.
“First impressions are always big for me. Not even (only) in sports, but in life, when you meet that first person,” Sternberger said. “Obviously, I didn’t get to do anything today being sick, but it’s one of those things where I’m doing things off the field preparation-wise where I can still make a good impression.”
The Packers do have another practice on Saturday, and Sternberger said he plans to take part.
“It’s nothing too serious. I was battling it earlier in the week and am recovering from it,” he said. “The plan is to be full-go tomorrow.”
Former University of Wisconsin running back Taiwan Deal was one of the 20 players who took part in practice on a tryout basis. … Another tryout player was LSU kicker Cole Tracy. Tracy will also have a tryout with the New Orleans Saints. … Offensive linemen Cole Madison, Antony Coyle and Gerhard de Beer, defensive lineman Eric Cotton, tight end Evan Baylis, running back Lavon Coleman and wide receiver Allen Lazard were among the players who were with the team last year who were able to take part in practice.
Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on your local ESPN station.