Settling in again

Edgar Bennett stopped short of calling it a match made in heaven... It, of course, being his return to Green Bay – where he became 1,000-yard rusher and a Super Bowl champion on the playing field – to take on a largely off-the-field role as director of player programs.<p>

But he did describe his current employment as "a blessing."

The depth of his appreciation became manifest when the ever-sunny Floridian, one of this planet's most congenial citizens, was asked if he is enjoying his new responsibilities.

"Absolutely, absolutely," Bennett promptly assured. "I look at it as a blessing to be back In Green Bay – the type of football city it is ... (and) the opportunity Mr. Harlan (Packers president Bob Harlan) and Coach Sherman have given me. I look at it as a blessing.

How did he happen to leave a thriving dry-cleaning business behind in his native Jacksonville to become "blessed?"

"I just talked with Coach Sherman, he said. "Number one, I would say I missed football and I wanted to be involved in football, some way, somehow. And just by the grace of God, Coach Sherman called and we started talking about a number of things. The opportunity came and I took it.

"I was excited about this opportunity to come back to Green Bay because this is where I started my career and I wanted to share some of my experience and knowledge with some of the guys that would be coming into this situation, as well as some of the vets who were already here in town.

What, pray tell, does a director of player programs do?

"To me, it's helping players get adapted to the NFL – to help them make the transition into the NFL from the college ranks," Edgar informed. "And, also, helping players to understand the type of system we have in place here in Green Bay under Coach Sherman.

"Also helping guys with their transition out of football, as well."

And what about others who are in between those chronological "extremes" professionally?

"We talk about a number of things," Bennett, who assumed his new post April 10, replied. "It helps in a number of areas, as far as their development as players is concerned."

All of which brought him to the advantage he has in relating to the players on their workaday level.

"I'm in a great situation here," he explained. "I get to go out on the field with these guys, so I get to be kind of involved in the coaching part of it as well, so I can kind of see what they're going through.

"I think it helps with them off the field, too, so I kind of see what's going on with them as far as, you know, the day-to-day duties."

And what kind of coaching responsibilities does he have on the practice field?

"To assist the running backs under Coach Sly Croom and to help out with Frank Novak on some special teams – like kickoff return or something like that."

The transition from operating a dry-cleaning establishment to his current responsibilities has been a relatively easy one, the 32-year-old Florida State alumnus assures.

"It didn't take too long," he said, observing, "Working with a great coaching staff helped and a majority of the players who were here I was already familiar with (he concluded his Packers playing career after suffering a torn Achilles tendon during the 1997 preseason). I either played with them or played against them, so I was familiar with them and they were familiar with me. So it made a good mixture."

Having played the game, Bennett is convinced, also has helped.

From his perception, he says, "I think they have responded to me well. And I think something that might have helped the situation is that I am a former player. I'm a former player for the Green Bay Packers. I think that might have helped the situation as I played with the majority of those guys in that (locker) room.

"I also look it as a situation where ... I've been there and done that from the football perspective, so I can kind of relate, and they can kind of relate that I understand what they are going through as well.

"The good thing about it is that I have been through the whole NFL process. And for young guys, when they're first coming in, it can be overwhelming, and I understand that. My job is to help those guys get adapted to the situation they're about to be involved in. It's a different situation because they already have some experience, but just sharing my experiences might give them a different view of some situations."

Player relations

What does he find players most often coming to him about?

"It ranges over a variety of different areas," Edgar responded.

Do they, mostly, just want him to listen?

"That's a great deal of it," he affirmed. "That's a great deal of it. It can range from that to helping guys get involved in a continuing education program. It can be from the financial standpoint, advice ... you know, how did you deal with a certain situation when you were playing? What do you think about this? What do you think about that? We bounce things off each other."

Does he find his new role as challenging as playing the game?

Pondering the question for a moment, Edgar rejoined, "It varies, it varies, because some things that come up, you could have all of the training in the world and you still might not be ready for that particular instance. So it varies.

"It all depends. From the football side of it, you know, from maybe a situation that occurs with a player as far as making sure he know and understands that all the resources he needs are right here in this building.

"And if it's not in this building, we are capable of going outside to get whatever he needs to get the situation resolved."

Involved on game day

The conversation shifted to Bennett's game-day responsibilities – home and away.

"Coach Croom is up in the (press) box and I'm on the field with the head phones on," he replied. "And, usually,. when he sees something upstairs that he wants the running backs to know and understand, he relays the message to me and I relay the information to those guys.

"And also when some of the backs need something that they have a specific question about for Sly, I relay it to him. So we kind of work hand in hand. And I occasionally do a couple things for Frank (Novak) and the special teams."

Is coaching perhaps what he would like to do full-time in the foreseeable future?

"You know, I don't know ... I don't know. I really don't," was the candid reply. "I'm just using the opportunity that they've given me and, if I get to learn it from a number of different aspects, some administration part of it, the pro personnel department to the coaching part of it. So there's a number of different areas. But I'm just in a learning capacity, where I'm just trying to learn as much as possible."

Being on the Lambeau Field sideline on game day, Edgar is quick to admit, brings back vivid and rewarding memories of his playing days in green and gold (1992-96).

"It's special," he said. "I will say this – Green Bay is like no other place. To get a chance to go back out on that field, it brings up a lot of memories, you know, special memories, special times – that will never be forgotten.

"And you feel – I feel the electricity coming from the fans. Because, sometimes, they still remember and say 'hello.' So it makes it special."

But, it was ventured, the best memory of all would have to be of Super Bowl XXXI and the Packers' victory over the New England Patriots?

"Yes sir, yes sir, " Edgar, who in 1996 became the sixth 1,000-yard rusher in Packers history en route to the Super Bowl, enthusiastically affirmed. "Greatest memory of all-time. You play this game to be remembered as a champion. And we had a great, fantastic year and, no matter what, we'll always have that Super Bowl championship. They can never take that away."

Does he, being the eighth-ranking rusher in team history and holder of the club's single-season record for pass receptions by a running back, ever think about the possibility of being elected to the Packer Hall of Fame?

"Wow," Edgar exclaimed, then adding, "Not really, because I didn't think that would ever be possible, to be honest with you. I would love to. I think it would be a great honor, just to be mentioned is enough as far as the great players that have put on the green and gold and have gone out on Lambeau Field and represented the city of Green Bay. That's an honor for me in itself."

Good fit for family

From the personal perspective, Edgar is not the only Bennett happy to be back in Titletown.

His family (wife Mindy, son Edgar IV, 6, and daughter Elyse Morgcan, nearly 2), he assured, "is very, very excited about being here. My wife's side of the family (Green Bay and Sturgeon Bay residents) get a chance to see their grandkids more often. So they're very excited about it."

It may smack of betrayal to ardent Packerphiles but Edgar IV has opted to play soccer rather than football.

"Right now," Bennett admitted, with a somewhat sheepish smile, "he loves soccer...You know, he's been playing soccer longer...He started that at the age of four. So he loves it. "

And how good is he?

"He's very good," Edgar assured, with pardonable paternal pride. "He's very good. He shows signs of being a pretty good athlete. We'll see."

Chuckling, he added, "I guess he gets it from my wife. She's very good – she likes aerobics, yoga, sprint-cycling. She's very good at it."

Professionally, the head of the house is clearly in his element – and openly enthusiastic about his responsibilities – as well as the Packers of 2001.

"I think we have the attitude and the know-how ... from a team standpoint," he said, "to go out and really put ourselves in a position to make a run at it.

Obviously speaking from experience, he added, "It takes a special group of guys – coaches and players – in order to achieve what we achieved back in ' win the championship. And I think we have some people in place.

"It's just a matter of keeping guys healthy and going out each week and taking it for what it is, you know, one game at a time. One game at a time, and just continue to prepare and work our butts off. And we'll see what happens." Note: This feature appeared last October in Packer Report.

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