With near perfect weather as the backdrop, almost 200 fans lined the fences today at Clarke Hinkle Field as the Green Bay Packers opened their second mini-camp of the offseason.
While most of the team was in attendance, some rookies were absent due to college courses still in session. First-round draft pick linebacker Nick Barnett and fifth-round draft pick defensive tackle James Lee both remained at Oregon State, while free agent offensive lineman Jamil Soriano finishes his semester at Harvard.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman assured reporters that the players missing camp would not be totally lost when they arrive for training camp, thanks to their new playbook delivered to them via CD.
Among those returning to the field for the first time this off-season were defensive backs Bhawoh Jue, coming back from an injured abdomen/groin last season, and Marques Anderson, who missed the Packers' previous mini-camp with a hamstring injury.
The best catch of the day came from wide receiver Donald Driver. While scrambling to his right, quarterback Eric Crouch found the open Driver and hit him with a tough pass to his left. Driver was forced to lay out for the ball and made the diving catch seem easy.
Crouch again found help from wide receiver Carl Ford, who made a diving catch on the sidelines for a 30-yard reception. Both plays garnered the attention of the fans and received applause.
Among the rookies making noise today was kick returner/wide receiver Antonio Chatman, who is vying for a position on the squad following a spectacular 2003 season with the AFL's Chicago Rush. Chatman broke the Arena Football League's all-purpose yards record, amassing 3,678 yards in 18 games this season and was again making moves, losing defenders attempting to cover him on punt returns.
Rookie cornerback Keith Burnell also intercepted a 10-yard pass from Crouch.
The Packers will continue mini-camp Tuesday with a 11:00 a.m. practice. Weather and field conditions permitting, practice will be held outside at Clarke Hinkle Field (open to the public), but otherwise will be held inside the Don Hutson Center (closed to the public).
Today At A Glance ...
Where: Clarke Hinkle Field
Weather: 64 degrees, sunny.
Did Not Participate: Chad Clifton (pelvis/hip), Bubba Franks (illness), Chukie Nwokorie (knee), Joe Johnson (triceps), DeAndrew Rubin (hamstring), Mark Tauscher (knee), Rod Walker (shoulder).
Remains Unsigned: Gilbert Brown.