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Training Camp Notes: Backup battle begins

Craig Nall, back from his NFL Europe stint, made his 2003 Packer practice debut. A hopeful Akili Smith acknowledged the GB playbook is still a mystery. Eric Crouch worked to erase his "long shot" status. So begins the battle to back up Brett at training camp in Green Bay Saturday.<P>

Smith, 27, is looking for a fresh start after a disappointing four-year stint in Cincinnati. The Bengals cut their former first-round draft pick last month.

"To be quite honest, I'm here fighting for my life," Smith said. "I still have to make the team. Me and my family and my agent understand that. I have to get ready to play football."

Smith told reporters that he has been studying the Packers playbook for a month and feels like he still a lot to learn.

Packer coach Mike Sherman is willing to give Smith a shot.

"We're going to see if we can do something with his career that hasn't been done at this level and take our shot," Sherman said.

Craig Nall walked onto the field feeling like a rising star. The 2002 fifth-round draft pick coming off an NFLEL season where he emerged as the league's top quarterback.

"A roster spot is not guaranteed," Nall said. " I could come out and just play the worst ball I've ever played during camp and really lose confidence pretty quick. But I don't see that happening."

Nall stressed that he has to improve on the preseason performance he turned in as a rookie last year.

"I have to be better than that this year," Nall said.

Smith, Nall and Crouch all participated in drills Saturday. Favre and top backup Doug Pederson will join the QB hopefuls at practice Tuesday, when full-squad workouts begin.

"We're going to have to make a decision in camp between Akili and Nall a t some point and also Doug," Sherman said.

The usual crowds, many toting their bikes for players to take a traditional ride, lined the fences as practice kicked off in the afternoon. About 500 people were on hand for the first session and the crowds are expected to grow when the veterans report Tuesday.

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