Rookies, free agents get taste of action

All six of Green Bay's 2002 draft picks as well as a number of other rookie free agents joined Packers veterans for the team's post-draft minicamp on Friday. While it is way too early to tell if any of the rookies will be able to contribute in some fashion this season, they have but one objective: Compete.<p>

"I went up to a couple of coaches and asked, ‘What do you think?'" said Packers coach and GM Mike Sherman. "They kind of smiled because, obviously, it was the first day for the rookies. I really look for guys who are competing and guys that don't back down. As I told the rookied last night, ‘I want you to respect the veterans, but don't be intimidated by them.' They have to compete with them."

Most rookies were given a playbook upon arrival in Green Bay, just a day or two prior to the the minicamp, so knowing exactly where to go and what to do can be intimidating in itself. Not to mention trying to catch a Brett Favre fastball.

"To tell you the truth, I was running so much I didn't know who was throwing what ball," said wide receiver Javon Walker, Green Bay's first round draft pick. "I was just trying to do everything right. As soon as I get comfortable with the offense, then I'll recognize what's going on and figure out who's throwing me a pass and who's not."

The Packers wasted no time tossing Walker into the mix. He lineup with the No. offense in three wide receiver sets at times and often faced Mike McKenzie, Green Bay's top cornerback. Walker showed off his 4.3 40-yard dash speed by running past McKenzie on some plays. He also dropped some passes and made a few nice catches.

"I don't want everything easy. If it was easy then everybody would be in the NFL," Walker said. "The tougher it is, the better everybody will get."

The Packers also got their first look at defensive back Marques Anderson, fullback Najeh Davenport, defensive lineman Aaron Kampman, quarterback Craig Nall and offensive lineman Mike Houghton. Sherman said he was impressed with a few of the 13 rookie free agents that signed with the team this week as well.

"We have a group of guys ... our personnel staff did a marvelous job entering into the seventh round of calling and recuiting," Sherman said. "We have between six or seven potential guys that could be on anybody else's (draft) board and draftable type players. One or two of those guys on our team might make it as well."

The Packers are taking a good look at punt return specialist Richard Lewis of North Dakota State. Lewis is possessor of 4.4 speed in the '40.' The two-time NCAA Division II All-American posted 30 pass receptions over the past two seasons and averaged 14.3 yards for 53 punt returns, running back four for touchdowns. He also averaged 22.9 yards for 25 kickoff returns, including one return for a score.

The Packers also have been trying wide receivers Terry Glenn and Walker, and safety Scott Frost out as punt returners.

"(Special teams coach) Frank Novak is a possibility to return punts for us," Sherman said. "If he's the best guy ... we're going to investigate every opportunity we have. Certainly Terry has skill at catching and, obviously, has a short period of burst, which can make people miss. That's a criteria for a punt returner. We're going to practice him and others back there as well."

Practices conclude on Sunday. The next minicamp is set for early June. That will give the rookies a chance to learn the playbook a little better.

It's a lot thrown at me at. But with time, it will come," said Nall.


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