Coming off the practice field Friday, Packers players and coaches alike were eager for the festivities of Saturday's Family Night. The event is sold out, and will be the first chance for many of these players to get out on the grass at Lambeau Field in front of more than 60,000 fans.
"It's my favorite night of the year, because I can't lose," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "I'm a winner either way, no matter which side of the ball takes the game. I'm excited for our players because it gives them a chance to go out there and really absorb the atmosphere of what it's like to play at Lambeau Field and what our fans bring to our football games. We have a scrimmage and have over 60,000 people coming. It says a lot about Green Bay and a lot about the fans."
Sherman isn't surprised by the expected turnout, though.
"There are two things that don't surprise me in Green Bay," he said. "Number one, whatever Brett Favre does, that doesn't surprise me anymore, and the enthusiasm of our fans never surprises me."
Right guard Marco Rivera is also looking forward to getting out under the lights in front of the legions of Packer supporters.
"It's nice to have the fans come out and support us," said the Pro Bowl lineman. "It justifies what we've been saying around here that we have the best fans in the world. When you have 60,000 fans showing up for a scrimmage, that says something about Packer fans.
Return of the Mikes?
While the Packers are returning all five of their starting offensive linemen for what will be their fourth season together, the group has yet to practice as a unit thus far in training camp.
Starting center Mike Flanagan and left guard Mike Wahle have been held out of workouts with knee injuries, and while he'd love to have them out there, Sherman isn't going to risk further damage by rushing either one back on to the field.
"I'm going to be very, very conservative with getting them on the field," Sherman said. "They're both anxious, they both want to get out there, but I'm going to play this card all the way. Whatever the doctors tell me, I'm probably going to wait another week."
Marco Rivera is looking forward to having his linemates back, and thinks they will quickly be back to the high standards set in 2003.
"Mike Wahle and Mike Flanagan are coming back real soon, and once we get all five of us out here, we'll start jelling again, start getting back to where we were last year, and we'll take it from there."
Driver Back In Form
Wide receiver Donald Driver experienced a scare in the season opener last year, suffering a sprained neck in the fourth quarter of the game against Minnesota. The 2002 Pro Bowler, in turn, missed the season's second game and saw his numbers decline on the year.
Driver fought through the pain to close the season well and led the team with 52 receptions, but never did quite feel like he was accomplishing all he is capable of.
"I had a rough season last year," Driver said. "I finished good, but I felt like I left something behind. This is an opportunity for me to come be a little bigger and stronger, and do some of the things that I want to do. When you're coming back off a neck injury, it's hard for you to play the way you played before."
The Alcorn State alumnus is now back at 100 percent and looking to silence any critics that arose last season.
"I love the pressure, and I'm going to prove everybody wrong once again," he proclaimed. "Now that I'm back, I feel good. I'm enjoying myself right now. I'm glad I'm back off this neck injury and now it's time to play football."
Beneficial Night Off
A day in the training camp life of a Green Bay Packer generally starts with a 6:00 a.m. (or earlier) wake up call, followed by two practices in the summer sun and team and position meetings that run until nearly 10:00 p.m.
Sherman decided that Thursday, his troops would benefit from an evening away football. Players were released from their usual mandatory dinner at St. Norbert College and enjoyed a night out of the classroom.
Sherman got the results he was hoping for with a crisp, quality Friday morning practice.
"I think when you can have guys fresh and let them recharge their batteries and go out and have dinner outside of campus and our facility, then I think they come back fresher, and that was the case today. I'm very pleased with how they practiced today."