While a contract has yet to be finalized, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said Wednesday that the Packers seem to be close to signing veteran middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson.
"We haven't had anything officially signed yet, so I'm always the eternal pessimist in regard to something definitely happening unless we get something on paper, but it certainly appears that that's the way it's headed right now, so hopefully that will be the case," Sherman said. "We had targeted Hardy back in February as a guy who could help our football team and we were hopeful that he would be released . . .
"(Director of Player Personnel) Reggie McKenzie did an outstanding job getting us to this point and hopefully that's going to happen today, but it's not definite just yet."
Released June 3 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Nickerson met with team officials and attended a Packers mini-camp practice last Thursday before heading east to meet with the Philadelphia Eagles, who had also expressed interest in the five-time Pro Bowler.
Nickerson has been quoted as saying that he wanted to sign with the team that would give him the greatest opportunity to win a Super Bowl, something he's never done in his 15-year career.
Although some reports have surfaced suggesting that the Packers were dismayed with the progress of second-year veteran Torrance Marshall, who has been playing middle linebacker with the first-string defense during mini-camps, Sherman challenged the notion that Marshall hasn't met expectations.
"In regard to that issue, I don't know where the information has come out," Sherman said. "I've read it a couple times that Torrance Marshall hasn't learned our defense -- he's learned our defense extremely well. I've never made that comment that he hasn't.
"He's done a fantastic job picking up our defense. He had as good a day as you could have yesterday (Tuesday), I thought. I have absolutely no disappointment or angst about him at all. He's done a tremendous job, he's ahead of where I thought he would be at this time."
While also giving the Packers immediate experience at middle linebacker, Sherman is hopeful that the presence of Nickerson will accelerate Marshall's growth as a player. Sherman refused to suggest that Nickerson's contract comes with a guaranteed starting spot.
"A lot of things happen before that first ballgame, so we'll see how it plays out," he said. "Certainly we didn't bring (Nickerson) in here to be a special teams player for us . . .
"I'm anxious to get that caliber of player and person on our team. We can just be a better because of it. How it all pans out, we'll just wait and see."
In the twilight of his career, Nickerson proved that he can still produce, rounding up a franchise-record 230 tackles for the Jaguars last season, according to team statistics. However, he missed most of the 2000 season with a knee injury, suiting up in only six games.
Although Nickerson will turn 37 in September, Packers safety Darren Sharper said you wouldn't know it to look at him.
"When he came to mini-camp I met him and it looked like the guy was 29 or 30," Sharper said. "Anytime you add a player of his caliber at any position, it makes you a better team. By now we kind of know that we're at a level where we can get to our ultimate goal.
"You add a guy with his experience, the things he's done in his league and just his name, that puts you over the top of that level so we're really excited."