For those looking for a theme to the early stages of Packers camp, aggressiveness on defense is a phrase that will cross the lips of many coaches and players.
Whether it's an increase in pass rush or forcing more turnovers, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman is among the voices preaching the message of being more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. Early returns from the first few days of practice show that the mentality is already paying off.
"We're doing a lot of different things and it's very challenging for the young offensive line we have out there to deal with some unique stuff," Sherman said. "I'm pleased with it so far, but it obviously hasn't been tested in games yet, and that will be the true test."
Cornerback Michael Hawthorne is also excited by the approach.
"We'll be playing more physical smashmouth football," he said. "They're preaching to us to be aggressive. Don't play dirty, but definitely have a nastiness about you."
Keep It Up, 'O'
On the other side of the ball, what everyone is looking for is more of the same from 2003. The Packers led the NFC in rushing yards and tied for the league-lead with 32 touchdown passes.
If those numbers weren't encouraging enough, all 11 starters are back from a year ago, and the team intends on keeping the Lambeau Field scoreboard operator busy all season long.
Robert Ferguson sees the attitude in the early practices, and sees signs of things to come which could even eclipse last year's performance.
"I think there will definitely be a carry-over from last year," Ferguson said. "We've come out here practicing with the same swagger. We've got receivers going deep this year. I don't think we did that in camp last year."
Sherman envisions a similar high production level from past seasons, and he doesn't care whether the team gets it done on the ground or through the air.
"I foresee us doing whatever it takes for us to win a championship," Sherman said. "Some weeks we'll highly emphasize the run, other weeks the pass. We'd like to be fairly balanced with the idea that we are going to establish a run game in every single game."
While the Packers are blessed with one of the finest set of receiving triplets in the league with Ferguson, Donald Driver and Javon Walker, one of Sherman's top concerns is finding someone to step up and fill the role of the fourth receiver.
One candidate for that job is former college basketball player Scottie Vines. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder first raised some eyebrows on the Packers practice field with some athletic leaping catches over the starting defense as a member of the practice squad last season.
Vines suffered a knee injury in November that knocked him out for the season, but he's back healthy and competing for a spot on the 53-man roster. The former seven-foot high jumper has flashed early, making a good impression on the head coach.
"I thought he did an outstanding job prior to being hurt (last year)," Sherman said. "He was giving us good looks against our defense. He's a consistent receiver, a big strong kid who can make plays over defensive backs. I'm hoping he can give us more of that. He certainly hasn't let me down so far."
Training Camp = Nap Time
Some star football players are applauded for the child-like demeanor they bring with them to such a grueling sport. Apparently, practicing twice a day in August brings out the five-year old in many of the hulking athletes.
Running back Najeh Davenport explained how he stays fresh in between practices during the grueling two-a-days.
"I like to lie down and get ready for the next practice," Davenport said following Wednesday morning's workout. "Kindergartners have it good, they get to go to school and play, and then go back to sleep. A nap is important. You come back re-energized. I'm going home to take a nap right now."
Davenport isn't the only one who realizes just how important it is to get your rest in between practices. GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman had the visiting team locker room at Lambeau Field filled with mattresses to give players a spot to rejuvenate themselves between practice sessions.