Edwards has inside track at safety

Antuan Edwards says he'll be ready to play and the Green Bay Packers coaching staff feels that the fourth-year pro can pick up where LeRoy Butler left off at safety this year. As the Packers enter the beginning of training camp next week, Edwards will be practicing with the first team defense alongside Darren Sharper at safety.<p>

"He'll line up there for us at the beginning of (training) camp," said Packers defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

Edwards has made above average progress after undergoing surgery last Oct. 18 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a game Sept. 30 at Carolina. The fourth-year pro gave Butler a strong challenge to start at safety during training camp last year. But he will still have to beat out rookie Marques Anderson, fifth-year pro Scott Frost and third-year pro Matt Bowen for the right to start.

The Packers selected Edwards in the first round of the 1999 draft, the 25th pick overall and fourth defensive back taken. Since then he has started in four games and has shown versatility by playing cornerback and safety in the team's passing defenses.

Edwards' durability is the big question. He missed four games in 2000 after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He missed the early part of training camp during his rookie season after undergoing toe surgery to repair ligament damage that he suffered during his senior season at Clemson.

But Edwards said during the recent June minicamp that, "I'll be ready" for training camp. He said was running at least three days a week and lifting weights three to five days a week. It typically takes players nine to 12 months to rehab from an ACL injury. Edwards late last season expressed that he was ahead in his rehab.

Packers coaches feel that he will be ready to participate in contact drills when camp begins on July 27. But he is not a lock yet to start at safety.

"The only thing whether we can actually fill that (spot) with someone of (Butler's) qualities is not yet determined," said defensive backs coach Bob Slowik. "Antuan has worked hard. He definitely has has put in his time. He's ready for the opportunity if he's healthy. He'll get the first crack. We've been preparing for the worst and hoping for the best ever since this situation came up with LeRoy. We've had Antuan, Scott Frost and Marques Anderson put extra work in the summer. We have been preparing for this."

If Edwards, Frost or Anderson do not prove that they can start, look for the Packers to turn to Bhawoh Jue. The second-year pro started in the team's final seven regular season games in place of Butler. The coaching staff would like to keep him at cornerback, but feel they have an ace in the hole if they are not comfortable with the situation at safety.

"We're looking forward to making that next step," Donatell said.

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