Only the strong will survive at left guard

The battle between Daryn Colledge and Allen Barbre started in the weight room and will be a focal point of training camp.

Their on-the-field battle began with the start of organized team activities a couple of weeks ago, and will heat up when training camp starts on July 28.

But the battle to be the starting left guard has been brewing since shortly after the Packers lost in the NFC championship game.

Both incumbent starter Daryn Colledge and the promising Allen Barbre, a fourth-round pick last year, have made impressive gains in the weight room this offseason. Both have gained about 5 points since last season, and that extra weight certainly didn't come from supersizing at the drive-thru and loitering at the buffet.

Last season, Colledge too often was overpowered by bigger defensive tackles, and there are a lot of those in the NFC North. It's clear he has put in the time to prevent that from happening in 2008.

One peek at Barbre, and it's easy to think of Mike Wahle.

Wahle arrived in Green Bay as a former tight end at Navy. After a few years in Green Bay, he had molded his body into a muscular but not bulky powerhouse. Barbre has done the same this offseason, reportedly cutting 10 pounds of fat while gaining 16 pounds of muscle.

Combine his remarkable strength gains with his athleticism — in addition to starting at offensive tackle at Division II Missouri Southern, he was a gunner on the punt team — and that's why he's probably ahead of Colledge by a nose at this early stage.

"I understand the scheme better, I've been here a little bit, (so) stronger, faster," the soft-spoken Barbre said on Thursday. "Working on my technique and keep improving every time."

Strength obviously won't be the determining factor in the battle. Including the postseason, Colledge has 30 NFL starts to his credit. He's a former second-round pick the Packers still think highly of, and he doesn't have to take much of a back seat to Barbre in terms of athleticism.

Offensive line play often is about mind-set. Colledge has responded when pushed in the past, so maybe a camp-long battle will help him elevate his game permanently.

Or maybe Barbre, who has more of a fire beneath his public demeanor, will seize the position for the next decade.

Whatever, a little competition is never a bad thing, especially for a team like the Packers, who focus on improvement from within rather than improvement through free agency.

"It's good for our team. It's a great opportunity to battle," Barbre said. "Whatever happens, happens. It's going to make our team better."

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to E-mail him at

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