Anderson up to the challenge

Marques Anderson is rebuilding in a way. After a disappointing end to an impressive rookie season last year, the safety has fortified his body and mind this off-season to prove that he belongs in the starting lineup.<p>

Anderson wormed his way into the lineup last year because of injuries to other defensive backs. By the time Antuan Edwards was ready to return after suffering a broken right forearm early in the season, Anderson has entrenched himself as a starter next to Darren Sharper.

But the long NFL season has a way of wearing down a rookie, and Anderson was no different from most other first-year players. He finished with four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, but his production dropped off sharply near the end of the season. When the playoffs began, Anderson's weight was down and he basically was out of gas.

"He will be the first to tell you that at the end of the season he wasn't playing the way he needed to play, tackling the way you need to tackle," said Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman. "As recently as three weeks ago, we went back and studied him again. He did some nice things early, and I'm not just talking about interceptions. I'm talking about some of his run hits. But later in the season, it looked like he was worn down, tired, and kind of dropped his head a few times and missed some tackles. That was evident to me and others. I have confidence that he and Antuan will step up and compete, and the best man will win the job."

Anderson finished third in fan balloting for "Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year" award. He was seventh on team with 61 tackles and tied for fifth on team with 7 passes defensed.

But he will face competition for his starting job from Edwards, a fifth-year pro, when training camp opens. The Packers also may sign a veteran safety to compete against Anderson. Green Bay was very interested in signing veteran Sammy Knight in May, but Knight opted to sign with the Miami Dolphins.

"I am not only competing against guys on our team, I am competing against guys around the NFL," Anderson said. "That's how it goes. Even in real life you have to compete. You get those free agents and they want to come in and compete, that's the way it is."

Anderson has bulked up this off-season. He is visibly more muscular as he molded his 212-pound frame for the long haul by participating in the team's off-season workout program in Green Bay. He also trained with wide receiver (and roommate) Javon Walker in Phoenix at times this off-season.

Though he had a pretty good rookie season, Anderson is much more confident heading into training camp this season than last year at this time. Last year he was not able to participate in the team's June minicamp because UCLA was still in session. An NFL rule states that a player cannot attend a second minicamp when his school is still in session.

"Until you get that first season under you, it's real hard," Anderson said. "When you haven't played the teams that (others) have played before ... Next time we play Detroit, I already know what kind of schemes Detroit runs just from seeing them last year. Just the experience ... you can't buy that, you can't teach that. ... Basically going through last year is something I needed. I think it set a foundation. I think I set a good foundation for myself that I can build on for next year."

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