Barker still the one

No, the preseason has not run into mid-September. The Green Bay Packers still have two punters on their roster heading into the second week of the regular season.<p>

Fifteen-year veteran Bryan Barker, signed on Aug. 23, punted Monday night in the Packers' 24-14 victory at Carolina and is still listed as the No. 1 punter heading into Sunday's game at Lambeau Field against the Chicago Bears. That leaves rookie third-round draft pick B.J. Sander on the outside looking in for at least another week, and it is unclear when he will get his chance, if at all.

While both Barker and Sander did little to impress in the preseason, Barker took a step forward in the season opener, when two of his punts were downed inside the 20-yard line. He also got off a long punt of 51yards. Another punt would have landed inside the 20-yard line had it not taken an unfavorable bounce for the Packers.

Sander, on the other hand, was inactive against the Panthers. He continues to work in practice this week with Barker in a unique relationship that is developing in which Barker is both competing against him and serving as a mentor to him.

Barker has been more than willing to help Sander, though he does not plan to give up the starting job anytime soon. He came to Green Bay to earn a roster spot and did just that after only 13 days with the team.

"The reason I'm here is to kick footballs, and that's what I'm focused on," said Barker. "If I were to start worrying about other things, then I obviously wouldn't be preparing properly for the game."

Sander remains confident though he punted poorly in all of the preseason games (36-yard average on 23 punts). He knows what he needs to do become No. 1 on the depth chart.

"Just go out and show the consistency that the coaches want to see, and between now and then, just learn from Bryan," he said. "He's been around for fifteen years, so I picked his brain a little bit to see what he has to say and see what I can learn."

Another sign that Barker may be around for remainder of the season is that his contract is now guaranteed. Due to his veteran status, being on the roster for at least the first week means that he will make $760,000 this year regardless of if he is released. Of that salary, $455,000 will count against the salary cap. It is unlikely that the Packers would keep him around just for a couple weeks of the regular season knowing they would pay him a full salary.


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