Sherman Trims Roster by a Dozen

Josh Bidwell is in. Kevin Stemke is out. And it took Henry Burris less than a week to stave off Michael Bishop. Stemke and Bishop were among 12 players who were released by the Packers on Sunday, two days before the mandatory roster cutdown to 65.

The Packers have 71 players on their roster heading into the first cutdown on Aug. 28, but two players – tight end Adam Newman and guard Glenn Rountree – are exempt because they played in NFL Europe this spring. After the Packers trim their roster to 67, they have until Sept. 2 to reduce it to the league limit of 53 players. The Packers can then establish a five-man developmental squad.

Four second-year pros were waived, including offensive lineman Richard Mercier, defensive linemen Giradie Mercer and Aaron Fields, and cornerback Corey Chamblin. The Packers also waived six rookies and first-year players – wide receiver Jason Franklin, offensive linemen Marques McFadden and Tom Schau, linebacker London Dunlap, and defensive backs Damien Demps and Sam Young.

Sherman decided to meet with some of the players that he released Sunday, and his assistant coaches met with them as well. Most of the players on the bubble have been residing at a hotel near Lambeau Field since Aug. 21 when the Packers left their training camp headquarters at St. Norbert College.

"All the coaches had a chance to talk to guys working at a position," Sherman said. "It's not an easy day to go down. Most of those guys are in a hotel. You've got to go down, get them, and bring them up (to the main office). There's a routine, a checklist of things they have to go through and hopefully they get a chance to meet their coaches before they head out of here. We try to make ourselves available to them."

Bishop, acquired on waivers from New England Aug. 21, practiced with the Packers last week, but did not play in Green Bay's exhibition game against Miami. The Packers released veteran Billy Joe Tolliver the day they signed Bishop to challenge Henry Burris for the No. 3 spot at quarterback behind Brett Favre and Doug Pederson. But Sherman saw enough of Bishop in less than a week.

"We'll always be aggressive if someone is out there that maybe could challenge," Sherman said. "We put him through some tests with our offense and whatnot. I thought this was a good time to let him go."

Bidwell averaged 49 yards on four punts, including a 71-yarder against the Dolphins. He has punted well in practice and is much more confident as he enters his second season of duty, third overall. Bidwell sat out the '99 season after being diagnosed with testicular cancer a week before the season opener.

Stemke, winner of the first annual Ray Guy Award in 2000 as the nation's leading collegiate punter, had punted three times during the preseason for 119 yards, a 39.7-yard average. He is a Green Bay native, but was asked to shorten his step in camp to improve his get-off time, causing him to struggle.

"I'm just hopeful that he showed enough that somebody might have interest in him," Sherman said. "You never know with these things. These punters and kickers can resurface very quickly. We feel more comfortable now than we did previously."

The Packers probably will retain as many defensive linemen and linebackers as possible until the final roster cut. Both areas have been hit with injuries this preseason to starters. Linebacker Na'il Diggs (groin) and Nate Wayne (knee) did not play against Miami. If they play Friday at Oakland, it won't be for very long.

"It's a hard part as a coach and general manager because you do watch these guys. They all have dreams like everybody else. The opportunity didn't work out for them. You wish them well and move on."

The Packers also will be without starting defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt for the first four games of the season. Hunt was suspended by the NFL for substance abuse in July. Santana Dotson is expected to begin practicing this week, but he probably won't be 100% by the season opener.

Sherman also said that running backs Ahman Green (groin) and Dorsey Levens (broken hand) will begin practicing with the team on Aug. 27. Green is expected to play Friday at Oakland, but not extensively, said Sherman.

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