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Five Packers Get Opportunity To Play In NFL Europa


When players come out of college, bounce around to different teams a bit, and then land on a practice squad, all they really want is a chance to play.

NFL Europa (formerly called the NFL Europe League) gives them that chance, and the upcoming trip overseas is an opportunity five Green Bay Packers are looking forward to this spring.

Wide receiver Carlton Brewster, linebacker Tim Goodwell, cornerback Antonio Malone, safety Alvin Nnabuife and offensive lineman Adam Stenavich, most of whom spent at least a portion of 2006 on Green Bay's practice squad, have been allocated by the Packers to play in NFL Europa in 2007 to get their first true game experience since their college days.

"It gets you back into playing, so you'll be ready when training camp comes around," Stenavich said. "It's 10 games, so it's almost like a college season as far as playing experience and things like that."

All five players will find out which of the six teams they'll be playing for in late February. Then they'll head to Tampa, Fla., in early March for a three-week training camp with their NFL Europa team. They fly overseas in early April to begin the season, which concludes with the World Bowl in mid-June.

Playing in Europe will have its benefits for all the players. For Stenavich, who was in Carolina's training camp in 2006 and then was released and out of football for 2 1/2 months before joining the Packers' practice squad in late November, he'll get to continue making the transition from tackle, where he played in college, to guard on the offensive line.

"When the defense moves you have to recognize things different (as a guard), your keys and things like that," said Stenavich, a Marshfield, Wis., native who played at the University of Michigan. "Plus moving from college to pro, it's a whole different thing as far as quality of play."

Like Stenavich, Nnabuife joined the Packers' practice squad in November, after being waived by another team (Oakland) after the preseason. Meanwhile Goodwell has gone through the reverse, working on the practice squad from September until early November, when he was released and out of football until re-signing a reserve/future contract after the season. Malone, who was waived at the end of training camp, also was signed to a reserve/future contract after the season ended.

In any case, it's hard to make up for that much down time, but NFL Europa helps players come back in their second year with a better chance to land a roster spot.

It worked for a few current Packers, including defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins and receiver Ruvell Martin, who played well overseas the past couple of years and eventually stuck on the roster upon returning.

{sportsad300}Brewster hopes to follow Martin's lead and have a big season statistically to catch the eyes of coaches and scouts. Acquired by the Packers in a trade with Cleveland during training camp last year, Brewster turned some heads with a 46-yard catch in a preseason game.

"It's going to give me confidence to compete when it counts, on game day," Brewster said. "I'm looking to go over there to make plays, in the return game, on special teams, making catches, things like that. You can only do so much in practice."

That practice time helped Brewster as well, though, running routes frequently against Al Harris and his physical bump-and-run coverage during his first year in the NFL. Brewster feels that's made him as ready as anything to do well in the games overseas.

"Al helped me a lot," Brewster said. "Once you go against these guys who play man-press (coverage) in the NFL, you're going to be successful. If you can't get off the jam, the DBs will be in your face all day. If you can get open against man-press, you can get open against anything."

No matter the position, though, getting back into live game action is the key to any player's development.

"It's hard to pick up an offense and things like that when you're not out there doing it," Stenavich said. "That's probably the hardest part. You can look at it on paper, but it's a matter of going out there and doing it through playing."

Which the competitors in them can't wait to do.

"I haven't played football when it counts since my college years," Brewster said. "I miss being out there helping to make plays and help my team win. I'm looking forward to this."

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