Green Bay Packers mini-camp continued into its third day Friday, this time with rookies joining the team for the first time.
After waking up early to go through their physicals and get fitted for equipment, the 2005 draft class was on the football field at the Don Hutson Center by 10:30 a.m.
Cornerback Mike Hawkins wasted little time making an impression on the coaches as he stepped in front of Terrence Murphy to pick off Craig Nall's pass in 7-on-7 drills.
"I watched him a lot today in practice and in pre-practice going up to get the ball," Sherman said of the speedy cornerback. "It looked like he had soft hands and he made some nice plays."
For Hawkins, the play was just a glimpse of what he hopes is more to come.
"It was just a routine play," he said, as he and his rookie teammates were surrounded by dozens of media members for the first time in the Packers locker room. "If you're out there doing your job and reading what you're supposed to read then it will happen. I learned a lot in just a couple of hours during my first meeting this morning. I just did what coach asked me to do, read the reads and just go through the progressions."
Hawkins, like many of the rookies coming to Green Bay for the first time, said that realizing his dream of becoming a professional football player was overwhelming.
"It's amazing," Hawkins said. "I play 'Madden' and I use all of these guys and now I'm sitting here on the field with them. It's just an amazing feeling to be around these people and to see the fans out there waiting on you to come outside."
Overall, Sherman said that he was impressed with the group of rookies and is looking forward to seeing how they progress.
"It's their first day to be a professional football player," Sherman said. "Their name is on the back of their jersey as well as the Green Bay Packers' name, so it's very important for them to take a step forward toward being a pro today.
"I reminded them last night that they're not on scholarship anymore and everyday they're being evaluated. Whether they do well or don't do well will determine whether they get the job or not."
First-round draft pick Aaron Rodgers took his first snaps as a Packer Friday morning. Rodgers also logged time holding for fellow California Bear Ryan Longwell's field goal attempts.
"You get two guys from Cal in there working together and they're going to split the atom for you," Sherman joked about the University of California alumns. "I think he and Craig (Nall) have done a good job with that. We'll go with the guy that seems to have the softest hands and can get the ball down in a timely fashion and with confidence."
"The three that went through were end over end for the most part," Longwell said. "That's a good sign that we taught (Rodgers) quick and he got in there and came through. We still have a long way to go but at least he's a quick learner.
"If he ends up being the holder then we definitely have more brain power than the rest of the teams in the league," Longwell joked in response to Sherman's comment.
In 7-on-7 drills, wide receiver Antonio Chatman continued his impressive mini-camp performance, this time skirting the sideline as he ran under a bomb tossed by Nall for a 40-yard gain. Andrae Thurman also made a plea for 'play-of-the-day' during the morning session as he was able to get both feet in bounds on a diving grab along the right sideline.
On defense, Corey Williams garnered the attention of his coaches as he was able to track down Chris Robertson for no gain as the running back took a pass from J.T. O'Sullivan in the backfield, while Ahmad Carroll and Nick Barnett converged on Walt Williams to drop the running back for loss.
The afternoon session belonged to the defense, although it took a couple of near interceptions by Joey Thomas, Nick Collins and Nick Barnett before they finally completed the plays.
After allowing wide receiver Robert Ferguson to scorch them for a 45-yard touchdown tossed by O'Sullivan, Collins retaliated by laying out to snag Nall's pass intended for tight end David Martin in the middle of the field.
Two plays later, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila batted Nall's pass into the hands of defensive tackle Colin Cole, who took it in for a 10-yard score.
The defense again stole the show on back-to-back plays as Kurt Campbell finally grabbed the ball after it caromed off wide receivers Vince Butler and Craig Samp. Leigh Torrence also picked off a pass intended for tight end Ben Steele in the middle of the field.
The offense wasn't without its big plays as Thurman got behind Joey Thomas to make a diving grab of O'Sullivan's 45-yard pass.
The afternoon practice ended with special teams drills and additional team drills for rookies and selected veterans.
Fullback William Henderson returned to the team after visiting with his father, who had been hospitalized following a heart attack Tuesday.
In injury news, cornerback Al Harris took the latter half of the morning practice off after straining his hamstring. Cletidus Hunt (hamstring) and Nick Luchey (hamstring) were added to the injury list Friday. Ahman Green and Donald Driver each sat out the afternoon practice session.
The Packers will continue mini-camp practices Saturday (veterans and rookies) at 10:30 a.m. Weather and field conditions permitting, practice will be held outside at Ray Nitschke Field (open to the public), but otherwise will be held inside the Don Hutson Center (closed to the public).
Here's a look at the practice schedule:
Saturday, April 30
10:30 a.m. (veterans and rookies)
2:45 p.m. (veterans and rookies)
Sunday, May 1
9:30 a.m. (rookies and selected veterans)
Today At A Glance ...
Where: Don Hutson Center (indoors)
Did Not Practice: Chad Clifton (knee), Brennan Curtin (knee), Najeh Davenport (shoulder), Cletidus Hunt (hamstring), Grady Jackson (knee), Chris Johnson (shin), Nick Luchey (hamstring), Jason Horton (chest/lungs), Hannibal Navies (shoulder)
Did Not Attend: Brett Favre, Bubba Franks, Javon Walker