Crouch no slouch in camp

Eric Crouch, in his quest to play quarterback, may have passed his first test in quieting critics who feel his arm is not strong enough to compete in the National Football League. Crouch participated in the Green Bay Packers' recent post-draft minicamp and surprised a few doubters.<p>

"I figured Nebraska, quarterback, this guy can't throw a lick," said Packers quarterback Brett Favre. "But he can throw. We joke with him a little bit. He's a good guy. I understand he wants to be a quarterback. He is a quarterback. I said, 'Well, you shouldn't have went to Nebraska if you want to be looked at as a pro quarterback. I don't see too many pro scouts going to Nebraska to work out a quarterback, but he's done fine."

Favre took most of the snaps during the minicamp, but Crouch got a few reps, winging passes to receivers as the team practiced without pads. Crouch is considered a longshot to make the Packers' 53-man roster. If the Packers keep him on board for their upcoming training camp, he will be competing against veteran Doug Pederson, second-year pro Craig Nall, and free agents Zak Kustok and Jose Fuentes for the two positions behind Favre.

The Packers claimed Crouch on waivers April 23 from the St. Louis Rams. He was selected by the Rams in the third round of the 2002 NFL draft, but abruptly retired prior to the 2003 season and gave back his signing bonus of more than $300,000 to the Rams. The Rams wanted Crouch to play wide receiver and return punts, but he preferred to play quarterback.

When he retired, Crouch said he would only return to the NFL if given a chance to play quarterback. But many NFL scouts and observers have suggested that he would be better off playing wide receiver, running back or safety because he has not proven himself as a passer.

"I finally stood up for myself and did what was right for me and what was right for my career as a football player," Crouch said. "It took some guts and it was a hard decision to make, but in another sense it was a very easy decision because that is not what I wanted to be doing. Last year I learned a lot about myself and a lot about what I want."

Crouch said he considered making a return as a quarterback in the Canadian Football League, which begins training camp later this month, but wanted to take a shot with an NFL team first. The Packers signed him to take a closer look at his ability.

"I was fairly encouraged," said Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman. "He made some good throws. He has a live arm, a strong arm. The ball gets out of there. We know what type of athlete he is. Certainly, he's an athlete worth working with. It's just a matter of him learning how we do things from an offensive standpoint in this type of offense as opposed to where he's coming from."

Crouch holds the NCAA record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (59) and holds Nebraska's school record for total offense (7,915 yards). In his final season at Nebraska, he completed 105 of 189 passes for 1,510 and seven touchdowns, completing 55.6 percent of his passes. He ran for 1,115 yards on 203 carries for a 5.5 per-carry average and scored 18 touchdowns.

"I got a feel for the speed of the game last year playing receiver, especially with the Rams and their offense," Crouch said. "Coming in here I knew what to expect. NFL tempo is different than college. It's something that takes time and experience, and it takes snaps under center."

If he makes the team, Crouch would become the sixth Heisman Trophy winner to play for the Packers, joining Bruce Smith (1941), Paul Hornung (1956), Ty Detmer (1990), Desmond Howard (1991) and Danny Wuerffel (1996).

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