Players give Sherman standing 'O'

Many surprised, but understand why coach was fired

It's not every day that a coach gets a standing ovation from his players, especially a coach of a 4-12 team. But Mike Sherman got one Monday morning after his final speech to his team, not long after he was told by general manager Ted Thompson that he will no longer be coach of the Green Bay Packers.

A handful of players who stuck around long enough for the media to catch up with them in the locker room after Thompson's press conference expressed gratitude and respect for Sherman as their coach. All who addressed the media were surprised at Thompson's decision but understand why the general manager fired Sherman, despite his 59-37 record with the Packers.

"I wouldn't say I'm disappointed, but I'd say I'm disappointed for selfish reasons, for Kabeer reasons," said defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. "It has nothing to do with the Green Bay Packers. I grew fond of Coach Sherman. I respect him. I love him, and I'm going to miss playing for him. That's why I'm disappointed with the decision. But if I'm looking at it from Ted's (Thompson) standpoint, he's doing what's best for the Green Bay Packers. He is not emotionally involved. He's staying focused on the team. That was a tough decision. That's not an easy decision for Ted. He did what he had to do."

Any team that finishes with a 4-12 season may be a team in turmoil, but that wasn't the case Packers. Green Bay began the season by losing seven of its first eight games, yet safety Mark Roman said Sherman did a great job of preventing the team from falling apart internally.

"Coach Sherman really kept it together," Roman said. "I've had three coaches (in Cincinnati). When I had them three, each time something changes, it was almost a mutiny. We didn't stay together. On this team, even though we were doing bad, everybody picked everybody up and lifted them up. … Everybody stayed together. With this kind of season. That's the most you can hope to get out of this and you build the character of the guys in the locker room."

Sherman addressed the players in the team meeting room this morning after he met with Thompson. The general manager informed the players of his decision before Sherman spoke. According to many, Sherman stayed composed and offered the players words of encouragement.

"He told us to keep our heads up," defensive tackle Grady Jackson said. "Mike is a great guy. I know he'll be coaching somewhere else. Wherever he go, I wouldn't mind playing for Mike Sherman."

Jackson becomes an unrestricted free agent when free agency opens in March.

Many players took time to stop and speak with Sherman in his office after the meeting and after they packed their belongings in the locker room. Many appreciated his final speech to the team.

"He was telling us what we need to do to be better football players and better family men," Roman said. "We gave him a standing ovation because we believed he deserved it. I think he would do the same thing for us. There's not a guy in here that Coach Sherman wouldn't stand up for, or wouldn't represent. He was just that kind of guy. When you get a guy like that and lose a guy like that that won't be around there are some emotions that go through it, but you get over that."

When asked if defensive coordinator Jim Bates would make for a good head coach, many players felt he could do the job, though, it's not their decision.

"He's got fire in him," Jackson said. "When he was interim coach in Miami, you see him around bumping chests with the players. You don't see that besides Dick Vermeil hugging and crying with his players."


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