Green Bay welcomes first-round pick Barnett

Packer first-round pick Nick Barnett had never visited Green Bay. The California native had only heard about the cold. Barnett's first impression of his new home was definitely a warm one, however, as he met his new team Sunday.<P>

As the first linebacker selected in the NFL Draft Saturday, Barnett and the Packers are both confident that this is a well-planned match.

"We had him as the top linebacker in the draft," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said after the selection. "I feel fortunate that he was able to be there when we were picking. I really didn't think he would make it this far."

In Barnett the Packers get a quick but strong linebacker who is still a month away from his 22nd birthday. Barnett, in turn, gets a shot to play on a team with championship hopes and a wide-open opportunity for him to make an impact at linebacker. Oh, and don't forget, he gets his first trip to Green Bay.

"My impression is that it's a pretty place. What everybody hears is that it snows there, you know, the frozen tundra. I'm excited. I can't wait to see what it looks like," Barnett said after he was selected Saturday. "I can't wait to meet the people there and see my teammates, and to talk to you guys more."

According to the Packers' coaching staff, Barnett led all linebackers at the scouting combine in both the bench press and short shuttle run. Last season he led the Pac-10 Conference with 121 tackles. Overall, the 21-year-old Barnett brings quickness and strength to the Packers linebacking corps.

Originally recruited to OSU as a defensive back, Barnett (listed at 6-foot-2, 236 pounds) has exceptional pass-coverage skills and the Packers believe he will be just as valuable on third down as he is stopping the run on first and second.

"I wouldn't take a linebacker in the first round that couldn't be on the field every down, and he's an every-down linebacker," Sherman said. "The fact that he is an excellent pass-coverage linebacker helps us, particularly with the teams that we play."

Barnett's clean bill of health was definitely a plus over some of the other highly-touted linebackers lincluding Georgia's Boss Bailey and Maryland's E.J. Henderson. It was Barnett's strength of character, however, that pushed him over the top.

"It's important that you pick a guy that you want to go to war with," Sherman said. "I trust this pick. I think he's going to come in here and have an impact one way or the other on our team, whether it's immediately at linebacker or eventually, or immediately on special teams.

"He'll be a positive influence in the locker room. He loves football, this guy.

"He has a great work ethic," Sherman said. "He's very humble, but he has great vision for himself. He sees himself being a great player in this league. He's going to work as hard as anybody has ever worked."

Barnett himself echoed that sentiment.

"I love this game. It's all I ever wanted to do," Barnett said. I've been playing this game since I was able to play sports. I play hard. That's how I was brought up. Don't do something unless you can be the best you can be. "

Said linebackers coach Mark Duffner: "He's an all-out guy in everything that he does. If we were here right now playing ping-pong, he'd want to be the best in this room. That's what I like about this guy."

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