Safety probably in Packers' draft plan

Look for the Green Bay Packers to select a safety in this weekend's NFL draft. With veterans LeRoy Butler and Antuan Edwards both coming off major injuries sustained last season, the Packers need to reinforce the depth at that position.<p>

Butler suffered a broken shoulder blade last November against the Atlanta Falcons. Edwards suffered torn knee ligaments in the third game of the season at Carolina. The only other safeties currently on Green Bay's roster include starter Darren Sharper, and backups Matt Bowen and Emilie White. Bhawoh Jue, who started in place of Butler late last season, probably will move back to cornerback. Veteran Billy Jenkins, who was signed by Green Bay late last season, signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills this off-season.

After years of less than mediocre talent at the safety position, April offers quality and quantity from the safeties, says TFY Draft Preview's Tony Pauline. "Even more exciting are the number of solid pass defending prospects at this position and not the usual run stuffers who lack any ball skills," Pauline says.

Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman said Butler is in a "wait-and-see type situation" with his shoulder. The Packers probably will not get a true measure of how Butler responds to contact until the pads go on in training camp.

"I'm very confident about him as a player," Sherman said. "He's still a player. He's older, obviously. Not quite as fast as he used to be, but he dissects things very quickly. Tremendous leader. I'm thankful to have him on our team, but the reality is we have to see where he is with his shoulder and see if he can do it."

Edwards says that his surgically repaired left knee will be ready to go when training camp rolls around in July. The fourth-year pro, who has been hampered by injuries since the Packers drafted him in the first round in 1999, has remained in Green Bay since his injury, and is ahead of the curve with his rehab.

"Right now, my focus – my main focus – is to get back out there and show Green Bay why they drafted me in the first round in '99," Edwards said.

"I'm just as excited as I was before (coming in as a rookie in 1999) if not more so. It's more of a challenge for me now – getting back from the injury because of what happened. I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited about this coming year."

The Packers probably will not use their first round draft pick on a safety because of their needs at wide receiver, linebacker and defensive line. But it wouldn't be too surprising to see Green Bay take a safety on the first day of the draft when it has three of the first 92 picks.

The Packers also have the last pick in the fourth round (a compensatory selection), and fifth and sixth round picks.


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