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Offseason Program Builds Stronger Players, Stronger Team


Though the past few months have been a bit of a quiet period around the locker room at Lambeau Field, the relative silence has been broken this week as a great deal of the players on the Packers roster have returned to the building to participate in the offseason conditioning program.

Walking down the hall past the weight room, the unmistakable sound of the banging of the metal plates is back, along with the music pumping through the sound system as the athletes pump iron.

The offseason program represents different things to different players. Some of the guys in the locker room are spending their first offseason in Green Bay and are looking to build up for a successful season in the fall.

Others are veterans of the program and they know from experience just what it will take to keep themselves in position to carry their hard work in the weight room out on to the field later this year.

Second-year cornerback Joey Thomas is one of the players who is going through his first offseason as a pro, and he is in a much different situation than he was at this time last year, when he was waiting to hear his name called on draft day.

"This year is completely different," said Thomas. "Last year I had no idea what was going to happen or where I was going to be. I kind of found myself in a whirlwind trying to figure it out. This year, I'm more comfortable because I've got a year under my belt."

Although there are definitely differences for Thomas, he can draw some similarities to past experiences.

"Your rookie year is kind of like being a freshman in college," he said. "You go into it and don't really know what to expect. Halfway through you kind of have an idea and then towards the end, you have a good idea of what's going on.

"This is kind of like making the transformation from my freshman year to my sophomore year - and in my sophomore year I did great things and I expect no different from this year."

Another player who finds himself in a different situation than 12 months ago is defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, who at this point in 2004 was heading to Germany for an NFL Europe season with the Cologne Centurions.

"Playing over there you don't get much time to get stronger, you're just kind of getting ready for the season," said Jenkins. "But this offseason I'll be able to concentrate on getting stronger - I want to be a little more solid on the line."

Like most of the guys who have been hitting the weight room this week, Jenkins has been working out at home, but he says it can't compare to working side by side with teammates.

"I do a little bit of everything to stay in shape," he said. I've been doing some Tae Bo and Pilates at home with my wife.

"But it's always good to be in this environment working. It's good to do it by yourself, but you don't have the camaraderie and the people there pushing you, so it's always better to be here."

Other players who have been through this program before are just as eager as the fresh faces to be in the weight room every day, and that is attributable to the team's strength and conditioning staff led by Barry Rubin and his assistants Mark Lovat and Vince Workman.

"The program is going real well," said offensive tackle Brennan Curtin, who has been working hard in the weight room since tearing the ACL in his right knee during the preseason last August. "This is my third offseason here. Barry Rubin, Mark Lovat, "Pook" (Workman) and those guys do a great job of changing things up every year to keep it interesting.

"I think one of the biggest things you fight in an offseason program is keeping the players interested because it can become very monotonous. They do a good job of keeping the guys guessing. It's nice to not necessarily know what you're going to be doing on a given day. You have an idea, but they change up the individual exercises."

Curtin also sees the benefits the offseason program produces for them to not only become stronger players, but stronger teammates.

"The offseason is a good time," he said. "The guys come together and you get to know the new guys as they come in. It's a lot of fun - you get to bond with some of the guys on your team that maybe during the season it's too hectic and you're so focused in on your one position group that you don't get to be with the other guys as much."

It appears that the offseason program serves multiple purposes - both building stronger players and a stronger team.

A sign on the wall of the weight room reads, "The harder you work today, the harder it is to surrender tomorrow." Judging by the hard work being put in by these players throughout the offseason, don't expect them to be giving up anytime soon.

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