Packers Notebook - Leader Of The Pack?


Statistically speaking, middle linebacker Nick Barnett established himself as the leader of the defense in 2003, racking up a team-high 134 tackles on his way to being named Packers' Defensive Rookie of the Year.

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman is looking for Barnett to expand his leadership role from the stat sheet, bringing it to the locker room and the huddle in his second professional campaign.

"I think Nick played his cards the correct way last year," Sherman said. "He was learning the system and also developing the respect of his teammates by how he played. Now his teammates know what he's all about and the respect factor is there, so we'll see more leadership out of Nick."

Safety Watch

In a camp that is lacking for starting lineup position battles, one opening that will be in the spotlight is the starting strong safety spot.

Returning starter Marques Anderson is being pushed by free agent signee Mark Roman and fourth-year man Bhawoh Jue.

Roman took the reps with the first team in Tuesday morning's session after Anderson ran with the starters the previous day, but this rotation is what everyone had in mind going into camp.

"To my knowledge, we will be rotating," Anderson said. "Whenever I'm on the field, I'm going to go 100% and give my best. I worked really hard in the offseason and I'm ready to take my game to a whole other level."

Sherman is constantly monitoring the progress at the position, but don't push him to name his starter any time soon.

"They knew coming in it was going to be a competitive position," Sherman said. "Marques has played a lot since his rookie season here, so he knows the system. Roman is coming into a new situation. Obviously we wanted to enhance that situation and he's doing that. To determine a starter at this point is way, way too early."

Couch Coming Along

Quarterback Tim Couch has been thrown straight into the fire, trying to pick up a new offense without the benefit of mini-camps. Couch has earned high praise from a number of sources after his early camp performances.

"He's an accurate passer and I'm very pleased with what he's doing," said offensive coordinator Tom Rossley. "He's doing a good job. This is a completely new language that he's started to learn in the last three days. It's going to take him a little while to get settled in, but you're going to see a lot of good things from Tim Couch."

The men on the receiving end of his throws are impressed with what Couch has shown them as well.

"I think he's a great quarterback, and we all know he's a player," receiver Javon Walker said. "He's in a new system and he's coming along well. He made some great throws today. I'm looking forward to playing with him."

Camping With 'Kamp'

Third-year defensive end Aaron Kampman came into training camp as a starter for the first time in his career. The Iowa man will open the year at the 'Power' end position, opposite Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, and he's ready for the task.

"You have more responsibility, and I welcome that and appreciate that," Kampman said. "It's something that I want and hopefully I do well with it."

Kampman finished strong last season, leading the NFC with three sacks in two postseason contests, and is ready to build on that performance.

"I wanted to improve on my pass-rushing ability, and I did a lot of work in the offseason to help me there," he said. "I've worked on my explosion and my quickness. I feel I've made strides and I'm starting to see some results."

Kampman and his teammates are excited about the scheme that defensive coordinator Bob Slowik has implemented, and he thinks the results will be evident on the field.

"We're going to be doing some more attacking," Kampman said. "We won't just be playing so much base defense. We're going to utilize every single one of our weapons. We feel like we're a fast defense, and the scheme that we have in place is going to be advantageous for us."

Super Backfield?

Fullback William Henderson, who along with quarterback Brett Favre is one of only two remaining starters from the Packers' Super Bowl champion team of 1996, feels that the emergence of running backs Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher to go with perennial Pro Bowler Ahman Green gives the team a potent backfield combination.

When asked to compare the two sets of running backs, Henderson wasn't short on praise for either group.

"This is a totally different type of backfield," said the 10-year veteran. "We had a special group on that team. Edgar Bennett set records, Dorsey Levens was about to set records and was doing a great job. Travis Jervey, a Pro Bowl special teamer, was doing everything he could to make a contribution, and I was just trying to bang heads and knock people out of the way. It was a special team, but this one is more dynamic. They all have a different element that brings a certain spark to the team. I think this could be one of the best backfields that has ever come through this place."

Henderson hopes that he and his backfield mates might be able to run themselves into another Super Bowl appearance this year.

"It seems like yesterday," he said. "It doesn't seem like it's been eight years since the Super Bowl win, but it has. I'm hoping that this could be one of those years that I get another chance to feel it because I was so young, I didn't truly respect what I had in my hands when I got the Super Bowl ring the first time. I want another chance at it."

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