Rookies hit the field

Sherman hoping for better communication, leadership among younger players

Many of the Green Bay Packers rookies and some free agents hit the practice field today in preparation for full-squad practices that begin on Friday.

One of Mike Sherman's goals for his team during training camp is be sure that the offense, defense and special teams are on the same page with each other.

"The communication that will have to happen between coach and player, and player and coach will have to cement itself," Sherman said today at his pre-training camp press conference. Sherman said the team has to adjust to any new formations in the offense, "the adjustments in particular," as well as the new defensive scheme under Jim Bates.

If wide receiver Javon Walker, defensive tackle Grady Jackson and tight end Bubba Franks fail to report to training camp later this week because of contract disputes, the Packers will be relying on younger players to step in. The Packers are grooming new safeties Nick Collins and Marviel Underwood as well as linebackers Brady Poppinga and Kurt Campbell. If Walker holds out, second-round draft pick Terrence Murphy will see added reps in practice. Without Franks, second-year pro Ben Steele will play more behind David Martin at tight end.

"We've done a lot in the minicamps. We've done a lot in the opportunity sessions, but now with an inundation of offense against our defense, whether it be the Green Bay Packer offense, or the Buffalo Bills, or the New England Patriots ... as they go from week-to-week-to-week and the different things we throw at them ... that learning process that they go through defensively certainly helps. That light has to click on for as many people as possible.

"Some of our younger players really have to step forward and become accountable to earn a position on this football team. That should occur in the next six weeks. Hopefully as coaches, we're able to put them in position to assume that responsibility.

"Offensively, we have to pick up where we left off. ... It goes without saying that if we don't turn the ball over, we usually win the football game. We have to be more conscious of that on offense. Obviously on the other side, getting the ball back.

"Special teams-wise, we know we have a great place-kicker, but we have to find out who our punter is going to be. Is the punter in the house? Hopefully he is. He (B.J. Sander) was drafted to be that. He went to NFL-E and had some success there. Before he left in the minicamp, it looked like he did some good things. But now we're into a different situation here with the season upon us. He has to be able to perform to that level of expectation.

"I'm really excited about the guys that are here. There are so many positive things in my mind with some of our younger players. They have assumed responsibility and stepped forward. ... There's a feeling of ownership. I want them to make the team better."

Of the 11 draft picks, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Murphy and Collins did not practice today because they have not signed contracts. Sherman expects that all three will be signed in time for full-squad practices on Friday.

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