GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Normally one of the Green Bay Packers' most pleasant and accessible stars, Aaron Kampman suddenly has gone quiet.
That more than anything might indicate some level of discomfort with the team's decision to switch defensive schemes, a move that will turn one of the NFL's best pass-rushing defensive ends into an outside linebacker in the Packers' new base 3-4 alignment.
Kampman hasn't spoken to reporters about the change, but Packers coach Mike McCarthy seemed to acknowledge Thursday that his star player has some reservations.
"I think this defense is going to help Aaron Kampman," McCarthy said. "I think there is always a hesitancy when you are asked to do something different. Aaron was very comfortable in the old scheme, but I think this is going to create more opportunities for him."
After not speaking to reporters during the Packers' "fan fest" in March, Kampman was present for Thursday's voluntary organized team activity, but he didn't appear in the locker room while it was open to the media. A team spokesman said Kampman originally planned to address reporters Thursday, but he changed his mind despite being encouraged to speak by the Packers' public-relations staff.
Kampman's agent didn't immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press.
One of Kampman's closest friends on the team, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, said he hopes the pass-rush whiz will embrace the change.
"I hope he realizes that this is probably going to be the best thing for him," Rodgers said.
And Rodgers reiterated a point repeatedly brought up by McCarthy and new defensive coordinator Dom Capers: Kampman's position switch might not be as drastic as it seems, given the fact he generally will go back to being a traditional defensive end when the Packers deviate from their base defense with a "sub" package with extra defensive backs.
"He's not going to be standing up as much as maybe people think he is," Rodgers said. "So I think he's going to make the transition very smoothly, and we've got a lot of guys pushing him."
Still, Kampman will have to learn how to rush the passer from a standing position -- as opposed to the three-point stance at defensive end, with his hand on the ground. He'll sometimes drop into pass coverage, a staple of the 3-4 scheme intended to confuse offenses.
"I give him credit because that's a big transition, going from d-end all the time to standing up and having to think a lot more and do different things," Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "He's really transitioned well."
Capers said rushing the passer from a standing position could make Kampman even more dangerous once he's comfortable with it. In certain situations, players in the defense can choose to line up in a three-point stance or stand up -- and Capers said they often choose to stand up.
"There's a lot more information you can process on the football field as a stand-up pass rusher as opposed to a pass rusher down in a three-point stance," said new outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who had 160 sacks during his NFL career. "I would know that, playing 15 years. He's going to have a lot more information to process to help him get off on the ball and blossom. We have all the plans in the world to improve his play, not to degrade his play at all, and he will be fine."
Capers downplayed talk of hesitancy on Kampman's part, describing the player as "very professional" and saying he's making good progress in his transition.
"He's obviously a very, very conscientious guy that's going to attempt to do things exactly the way you want them done," Capers said. "He's a smart player. You can see that right now in the transition."
But is Kampman enthusiastic about the switch or just being a good soldier doing what his coaches tell him to do?
"I don't get into that part of it, OK?" Capers said. "All I know is, everything we've asked him to do, he's done, and he's certainly not been resistant to anything we've asked him to do."
Notes: WR Donald Driver wasn't present at Thursday's practice, and the Wisconsin State Journal reported on its Web site that his absence is related to a desire to renegotiate his contract. "Donald is training in Texas, and the Packers know this," Driver's agent, Jordan Woy, said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "It is not a mandatory camp." ... Other high-profile veterans not attending Thursday's practice were S Nick Collins and CB Charles Woodson.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press