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Novak Announces Retirement


After 13 seasons in the NFL, including three in Green Bay, Frank Novak is calling it quits.

Friday, Novak officially announced his retirement as the Packers' special teams coach saying he wants to spend more time with his family and enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle.

"I have been a blessed man," Novak said. "It's just simply time for me to go on to another stage of my life, but I'm always going to be a Packer and will continue to hold the big 'G' very, very sacred to my heart."

Novak may be leaving his position, but he's not leaving football. At least not any time soon.

The 64-year-old will remain with the Packers for an indefinite period of time, helping the coaching staff prepare for the upcoming draft and 2003 season, while easing the transition of his successor, yet to be determined.

"I'm still going to be involved in athletics," Novak said. "Right now, in the short future, I'm going to be right here. How far it gets extended, we'll see on that."

Novak is coming off a season in which he fell under criticism for the Packers' struggles returning punt and kicks.

Trying Darrien Gordon, J.J. Moses and Eric Metcalf in the role of punt returner, the Packers finished last in the league with a 4.2-yard average.

Predominantly using rookies Najeh Davenport, Robert Ferguson and Javon Walker, the kickoff return unit also had difficulty, ranking 26th in the league with a 20.4-yard average.

Neither unit scored a touchdown.

But other areas of the Packers' special teams were among the top half of the league.

Az-Zahir Hakim had a 72-yard touchdown return at Detroit in the third game of the season, but the punt coverage unit improved to be the 13th-toughest in the league by season's end, allowing an average of 8.7 yards per return.

Josh Bidwell finished seventh in the NFC in net punting yards (35.7 net avg.) and was fifth in the division with 26 punts downed inside the 20-yard-line.

The kickoff coverage unit was 15th in the league, holding opponents to a return average of 21.7 yards.

Ryan Longwell made 28 of 34 field goal attempts (82.4 percent) and was perfect on 44 point-after attempts.

Certainly some of the Packers' special teams shortcomings were due to injuries, which forced Novak to use more than 40 players in Green Bay's coverage and return units.

But Novak refused to make excuses, believing that overcoming obstacles is part of coaching.

"I always feel accountable for everything we do," Novak said. "We can talk about, 'Well you didn't have this,' or, 'You didn't have that.' I believe you've got to make do with what you have. That's the way it is."

Earlier in the week, Sherman shouldered much of the blame for the Packers' punt return woes, saying that he failed to find an adequate return man.

"You have to put that on me as the general manager," Sherman said Wednesday. "I never quite found the guy. That's my job to find him.

"I couldn't invent him. We looked and looked and looked as a staff and he just wasn't out there ...

"We didn't block very well, I wasn't crazy about our blocking necessarily ... But the truth of the matter is, you have to make somebody miss. We're not going to get them all blocked."

Friday, Sherman wished Novak well on all his future endeavors.

"In my last three years, he has been very valuable to me," Sherman said. "He brings a sense of energy and passion to practice and to games that I believe our players felt and tried to replicate at times.

"He did some fantastic things for me and I'm very grateful."

After a lifetime dedicated to the game, it's hard to imagine Novak ever leaving football altogether.

He said he'd love to help the Packers in any ways possible in future years, and could envision someday returning to his roots and helping out with a high school or college team.

"There's nothing like being part of something that's bigger than yourself," Novak said. "That's what a team is. And I've been privileged to be part of football with the Green Bay Packers."

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