Questions surround key training camp stories

The long wait is over. Rookie reporting day Tuesday kicks off a flurry of activity that will carry the Pack through the dawn of the 2006.

Training camp is a time for great expectations and ground work. This is a crucial time for coaches to get an accurate handle on their personnel. Naturally high-profile newcomers like guard Aaron Klemm and safety Arturo Freeman who are expected to step into starting roles will be in the spotlight. This promises to be an unusual summer session, because the most talked-about players this training camp may not ever see playing time in 2005.

Some may be on the sidelines by design, others due to disastrous decision making.

QB Aaron Rodgers already established himself as a top attraction the minute his name was announced as the Packers' first-round pick. Now observers have a chance to track every pass thrown in every drill this summer. And they will. Rodgers didn't exactly dazzle 'em in minicamp, so he will be expected to shine this summer before taking his rightful place on the sidelines come fall.

Punter B.J. Sander is one of the few players who probably wishes he was a rookie again. The third-round draft pick was a disaster in last year's training camp and preseason. He turned in a groos average of 36 yards and a net average of 30.8 yards over 23 preseason punts. Those aren't numbers the Packers were planning on when they spent the high pick on the Ray Guy award winner. Sander had to be designated inactive for all Packer regular-season games and the wildcard playoff.

Veteran Bryan Barker deftly stepped into the spot intended for Sander and responded with a 40-plus yard average and a respectable season. Did the Ohio State standout learn anything from Barker's 15 years of experience? The Packers are about to find out. Sander and rookie free agent Bryce Benekos out of UTEP are the only punters on the 2005 roster.

Barker, meanwhile, is still available if things don't work out.

Last we heard from wide receiver Javon Walker and nose tackle Grady Jackson, charges of uber-agent Drew Rosenhaus, and transition-tag recipient Bubba Franks, they weren't planning to attend camp.

That's a terrible idea for any player, and in Jackson's case it could kill his career. Not known for his off-season conditioning, and coming off a sub-par season, Jackson needs to be in camp for physical reasons. Beyond that, his total lack of commitment to improve at a position that was an embarrassment last year demonstrates his need for emotional conditioning work as well.

The Packers made Franks their transition player, thus giving him a one-year tender worth the average of thetop-10 highest-paid tight ends. Franks hasn't signed the tender and isn't expected at training camp. However, the deadline for other teams to make an offer passed unnoticed and now Franks can only deal with the Packers. The only parties who understand the motivation behind Franks' thinking that being paid as much as the fifth best tight end in the league isn't good enough are the TE himself and his agent Gene Mato.

Walker's motivation should be a moral obligation to his contract, but that ship has sailed. Why the young receiver is choosing to listen to his agent rather than his wise old quarterback will remain a mystery.

Here's another question for Walker: Why is Terrell Owens -- in a nearly identical situation -- reportedly willing to show up for camp but Walker isn't? Owens is another Rosenhaus client with a contract to honor, but involved in a dispute nonetheless. T.O. may be a showboating trash-talker, but the fact is he is a better receiver than Walker. If Owens keeps his most recent word to show up to Eagles camp, it's going to make Walker look that much worse.

Will Sherman and company be able to get an accurate handle on personnel with question marks concerning contracts and competency swirling overhead?

The judgements on ability are Sherman's. Thankfully with a new GM in place, the judgements on holdouts are a shared burden.

The story of how it all works out begins this week at training camp. Stay tuned.

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