Battles to watch in training camp

The fun begins tomorrow morning with the Green Bay Packers. That's when players will dress in pads instead of practicing in shorts and no pads, like they have in both off-season minicamps and practices earlier this week. As the pads go on, the competition for roster spots heats up in a hurry.<p>

This year the Packers are considered by many to contend for a Super Bowl title. As with most teams in that situation, the first teams on offense and defense are pretty much set. But there will be plenty of competition for backup spots, and in some cases, starting spots.

Let's take a look at some of the training camp battles that will take place in the next four to five weeks:

No. 2 and 3 wide receiver spots: Terry Glenn has made it clear this off-season that he is the team's top receiver. Great hands and quickness, no other receiver on the roster comes close to Glenn in talent.

Robert Ferguson is penciled in as the starter opposite Glenn, but his name could easily be erased and replaced with Donald Driver, Charles Lee, or Javon Walker. The competition will be heavy for the No. 2 and 3 spots. The winners of those two spots will play much more this season than the No. 4 and 5 receivers.

Backup running back: Pro Bowler Ahman Green is the top running back, but there is no clear backup. The contenders include Ki-Jana Carter, Jason Brookins, Rondell Mealey and Herbert "Whisper" Goodman. These backup spots are truly up for grabs. Also, keep in mind that rookie Najeh Davenport has the ability to play running back in single-set backfields as well as fullback.

Safety: Antuan Edwards has the inside track to start at safety in place of the retired LeRoy Butler. But Edwards is coming off a major knee surgery and may be limited early in camp in contact drills.

That could leave the door cracked open for rookie Marques Anderson or fifth-year pro Scott Frost, or third-year pro Matt Bowen. Anderson was selected in the third round of the recent NFL draft by the Packers, but was unable to participate in the June minicamp because school was still in session at UCLA.

If Edwards holds up during training camp, he'll start. If not, the starting job is wide open.

Nose tackle: Every Packers fan loves watching Gilbert Brown. But it's hard to watch him when he's in the training room. Last year, he missed nearly six full games because of injuries. That concerns the coaching staff. Still, no one stops the run and plugs up the middle of an offensive line the way Brown does.

If Brown can stay healthy through training camp, the job is his. If not, look for second-year pro Rod Walker and third-year pro Steve Warren to make serious challenges for Brown's job.

Kickoff returner: Barring injury, veteran Darrien Gordon will return punts for the Packers this season. But the kickoff return job is wide open. At this point, one of the backup running backs probably will return kickoffs. Mealey and Goodman each had turns to return kickoffs in 2001. Their ability to play both running back and return kickoffs could determine their roster fate.


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