Mini-camp opens minus familiar faces

The Green Bay Packers opened their post-draft mini-camp Wednesday without a few notable players. Javon Walker officially began his contract holdout while Brett Favre and fullback William Henderson were excused from the mini-camp by head coach Mike Sherman. Tight end Bubba Franks, who was named the team's transition player this off-season, also did not participate in the first of two voluntary practices for the Packers' veterans.<p>

Otherwise, the Packers used the two-hour practice inside the Don Hutson Center to begin installing a few new wrinkles in offense and the new defensive scheme under coordinator Jim Bates. Without Favre on the practice field, backups Craig Nall and J.T. O'Sullivan shared snaps with the first- and second-team offenses.

Sherman said he told Favre that he did not have to attend the mini-camp a couple of weeks ago. Favre has never missed a mini-camp while with the Packers.

His wife, Deanna, has undergone treatments recently for breast cancer. The Favres spend the off-season at their home in Hattiesburg, Miss.

"What he's been through last year with his wife (Deanna) in rehab with her cancer, I told him to stay home and take care of things at home with his family," said head coach Mike Sherman. "This will be his 15th mini-camp. I really don't think he's going to lose anything by not being here. If anything, it will probably be a benefit to him and to us.

"In my conversation with him, he was planning on coming, but I told him just to stay home.' Sherman said that Favre is working with a personal trainer at his home. This is the first time that Favre has hired a personal trainer. "He's probably going to be doing more this off-season than any in regard to physical training, which is a good thing," Sherman said. "He started that process yesterday, so I'm excited about that."

Sherman said that he is "undecided" on whether he will ask Favre to attend the team's June mini-camp.

Walker began his contract holdout, as expected. Walker, who has two years remaining on his current contract, wants to renegotiate his deal. Sherman did not know if Walker would report in time for the team's first mandatory practice on Friday.

"He gets the letters about the mini-camps," Sherman said. "He knows we would like him to be here for this."

Franks, who is not technically under contract with the Packers, also did not show, as expected. Franks has until July 22 to sign the transition tender of $2.095 million. He has yet to receive any long-term offers from other teams.

Henderson's father, Edward Henderson, was hospitalized after suffering a heart-attack on Tuesday. Sherman excused the veteran fullback so he could be with his parents.

Did not practice
A handful of veterans did not participate in practice Wednesday, mainly because of off-season surgeries. They included: CB Chris Johnson (shin), LB Hannibal Navies (shoulder), NT Grady Jackson (knee), RB Najeh Davenport (shoulder), CB Jason Horton (sarcoidosis surgery).

Horton underwent chest sarcoidosis surgery recently. It is believed that Reggie White, who died in late December, had sarcoidosis, an inflammation of tissue that can produce tiny lumps, most often in the lungs. However, in some instances, as appears to be the case with White, it can also occur in the heart.

Cardiac sarcoidosis can cause the heart to pump weakly, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. It also can affect the heart's electrical system, resulting in an arrhythmia. Johnson has missed most of his first two seasons in the league because of knee injuries. But he has experienced soreness in his shins while working out lately and did not practice. He is expected to miss the entire mini-camp.

I'm innocent
Cornerback Al Harris, who has been accused of assaulting an exotic dancer at a Miami night club on April 17, says he is innocent.

"I know I haven't done anything wrong and that's all I've got to say about it," said Harris. Harris participated in the voluntary mini-camp practice.

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