GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman raised some eyebrows when he spent a third-round draft choice on a punter, choosing B.J. Sander out of Ohio State with the 87th overall selection in April.
Josh Bidwell, the Packers punter since 2000, departed via free agency in the off-season, and the Club was looking for someone to help them win the all-important field position game within the game. Sherman is happy with what Sander has shown him so far in camp.
"He's done a nice job," Sherman said. "He had an excellent day of punting today. He punted into the wind and I thought he did well. The other day, he punted with the wind and did well. He's done a good job, but you can't tell until you're in the game and see how he performs under pressure."
Another factor in Sander's selection was the fact that he kicks with his left foot. The ball comes off of a lefty's foot with a different spin than most returners are used to seeing. Fielding kicks off of Sander has at times proved treacherous so far for the return men.
Training camp is never easy, even for veterans who have grown accustomed to the rigors of the August two-a-days over many years in the NFL. For many rookies, they not only have to learn football at the high speed of this league, but the round-the-clock intensity that their new jobs will demand.
Defensive lineman Corey Williams is enjoying his first year in Packers camp. "It's a fun experience," the sixth-rounder from Arkansas State said. "I've never been in such an up-tempo practice. It's a big adjustment for me. I come out here every day and let my coach coach me and listen to the veterans and learn."
Top pick Ahmad Carroll relates another area of the learning experience, the total immersion in football that NFL training camp life requires.
"It's eat, sleep and drink football," said the cornerback. "The only time you're away from football is when you're asleep. Training camp is football. That's all it's about. People probably think that when we're away from here, we're on the phone or playing PlayStation, but we're in meetings and we're studying and watching film. It's football 24/7."
Beware Of Flags
Each season, players coming back to camp are taught about any rule changes that will be enforced in the upcoming season. Veteran NFL referee Jeff Triplette and members of his crew arrived in Green Bay for Thursday's morning practice to give the Packers a sense of the new calls.
This year's main area of emphasis centers around physical play by defensive backs more than five yards past the line of scrimmage.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman welcomed the officiating team to the field, but hopes they'll be more visible over the next few days.
"The first day in, they don't want to be a nuisance, so I've got to tell them to be more involved and call things," Sherman said. "They're going to meet with the players in the next couple of days here and visit with them on the new rules, particularly in regard to defensive holding."
Sherman and his staff have been preparing their troops for just what will and won't be allowed this year.
"The key area is that five-yard area where they're allowed to do pretty much anything outside of holding outside of the framework of the body," Sherman said. "Those collisions downfield are going to be called. These guys understand that and we've been coaching for it, we've been talking about it through the mini-camps, so I think we'll be OK there."
Lee Back In The Mix
2003 fifth-round pick James Lee endured a highly frustrating rookie season. The defensive tackle aggravated a back injury in the first week of training camp and missed the entire year after being placed on injured reserve in late August.
Now healthy, Lee is giving coaches a chance to see him in pads for the first time and he is not disappointing. GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman has been impressed with his performance in practice and his determination.
"His presence is the main thing," Sherman said. "He's out here and doing things which we didn't have the luxury of last year. He made a great play this morning chasing down a run. He's been penetrating very well. You can not move him out. He's a very strong, powerful man."
The Packers are looking to the 6-foot-5, 325-pounder to play an important role as a run stopper in their defensive line rotation, even if his first contribution will come a year later than first expected.
"He's done what I thought he would do a year ago," Sherman added. "Even more so, his conditioning is excellent. Hopefully he'll just continue to improve."