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Dodgeball Provides Break In Wednesday's OTA


When head coach Mike Sherman told the team he would execute Wednesday's organized team activity a little differently, fullback William Henderson figured he would implement new formations or that cloudy conditions would force the team inside to the Don Hutson Center.

Henderson never thought he would play a sport he has not played since his youth --dodgeball.

"I had no idea," he said of the post-practice dodgeball tournament held inside the gym at Lambeau Field. "This was a great changeup though."

Eight veterans, Henderson, Al Harris, Rob Davis, Mike Flanagan, Grady Jackson, Ahman Green, Ryan Longwell and Donald Driver were anointed captains. Each team included nine players and two coaches. Henderson selected running back Walt Williams as the first choice overall.

Among the coaches, defensive coordinator Jim Bates drew a lot of accolades.

"That guy's agile, isn't he? Wow! I was so impressed with that guy. He looked like a linebacker moving out there," said a man who should know a thing or two about that position, linebacker Brady Poppinga. "He was the star of the day in my opinion."

One ball came like a laser toward Bates, and he quickly dove to the floor to avoid it.

"I thought he broke his chin," Driver said.

The tournament may have been about bonding, but the games stoked the players' competitive juices. Team Driver member, wide receiver coach James Franklin, barked that guard Matt O'Dwyer was not hit and should not have been ruled out.

"No one wants to lose," said defensive end Aaron Kampman, who has not played dodgeball since eighth grade. "If we're playing tiddly winks, we want to win."

Franklin could not overrule special teams consultant Frank Novak, who served as the tournament official, but Team Driver still defeated Team Green and went on to beat Team Henderson in the first ever Packers Dodgeball Finals.

"I picked receivers first," Driver said. "That speed won the game."

Driver said he planned on writing "dodgeball champion" on several balls and placing it in each of the losing teammates' lockers on Thursday morning.

Punter Brooks Barnard was the last man standing. Wide receiver Antonio Chatman's shoes fell off as he caught the punter's throw, but Barnard was never pegged and took great pride in that.

"It's funny," he said. "Being a punter, they don't think you're an athlete, but I can compete with anybody on this team. I was kind of a sleeper pick."

Sherman typically has at least one group outing to bond the team and break the tedium of the OTAs. In the past, the Packers played paintball or went bowling. But, dodgeball had its benefits.

"It certainly ended up being one of the cheapest events," Sherman quipped.

It also did not result in any injuries. Although Sherman joked that he changed the players' contracts Wednesday morning to make them liable for any dodgeball injuries, players have suffered mild injuries in the past. During paintball, Sherman said former Packers safety Darren Sharper fell out of a tree. Others, he said, hurt their back during a bowling expedition.

"This might have been the safest exercise we've done," Sherman said.

Before the dodgeball tournament, the Packers practiced for just over an hour.

"Hopefully, they got a better workout in practice than they did in dodgeball," Sherman joked. "We practiced well today."

The Packers concentrated on goaline and third-down situations. The defense forced good pressure. Had the drills involved tackling, defensive tackle Colin Cole, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Kampman likely would have converted sacks.

The quarterbacks threw several short passes out of the backfield, especially to running back Tony Fisher, fullback Najeh Davenport and Green, but that emphasis was not by design.

"That's just how it worked today. The coach and quarterbacks did a great job of reading the progressions," Henderson said. "The backs were just open for the final checkdowns. ... We're always primary receivers. Coach has a lot of confidence in our ability to catch the ball and move it down the field."

The best offensive play came during the team offense segment when quarterback Aaron Rodgers drilled a pass to wide receiver Terrence Murphy as he came across the middle of the field.

But for the players, the highlight of the day was the dodgeball tournament.

"This is probably my favorite event to break up the monotony of practice since I've been here," Henderson said. "I definitely give kudos to whoever thought about introducing us to dodgeball."

The Packers will continue the voluntary organized team activities Thrusday (veterans and rookies) at 8:45a.m. Weather and field conditions permitting, practice will be held outside at Ray Nitschke Field (open to the public), but otherwise will be held inside the Don Hutson Center (closed to the public).

For more player/coach insight on Wednesday's workout, check out the Audio section.

Today At A Glance ...

Where: Ray Nitschke Field (outdoors)

Weather: cloudy, 81 degrees

Did Not Practice: Craig Bragg, Brennan Curtin, Robert Ferguson, Al Harris, Mike Hawkins, Jason Horton, Grady Jackson, Chris Johnson, James Lee, A.J. Lindsay, Mark Roman, Ray Thompson, Corey Williams

Did Not Attend: Brett Favre, Bubba Franks, Cletidus Hunt, Javon Walker

Here's a look at the remaining June practice schedule:

Thursday, June 9

8:45 a.m.

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