What a difference a year can make. Those are the words that linebacker Hannibal Navies expressed when he discussed the upcoming season, his second as a Packer.
With new defensive coordinator Bob Slowik running the unit, one would expect an adjustment period. However, Navies said the defense is more comfortable now than they were a year ago.
"As far as our defense is concerned, we're a lot further along," Navies said. "We've played together for a whole year and we basically have the same unit in there. It's just more cohesive this year, and I feel a lot more energy out there and a lot more communication. We're excited about this year.
"It's a totally different feel this year than I had last year. The linebackers know where we're going to be and how we're going to react to the plays. We also know where the linemen are going to be. We're just more communicative on the field."
Navies said Slowik's approach will make a difference in not only his play, but the overall level of the defense.
"My role has changed just because I am more aggressive," Navies said. "I think that just shows how our whole defense is, actually. Our defense is a lot more aggressive this year regardless of who we are going to play or what the situation is.
"I feel that's what Slowik's motto is: Be aggressive regardless of what the offense gives us, just keep coming and that's what we are doing."
Navies said he and his teammates are excited about Slowik's scheme.
"I love it," Navies explained. "As a defensive player, you love being in a defense like this and just going to the ball and making plays."
Team Gears Up For Tennessee
The Packers have one last chance to sharpen their skills and prepare themselves for the regular season when they travel to Tennessee to take on the Titans Friday night.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said he can't guarantee an exact amount of playing time to a specific unit or player, but he does have a plan in mind.
"The first offense is going to take more plays than we normally take at the end of the preseason," Sherman said. "They will play about a half and I will cut it back from there, but that's where I plan to play them. Some guys may come out earlier, but that is the extent to what they'll play."
Perhaps one of the most intriguing roster battles left to be decided is the back-up quarterback situation. If Brett Favre plays a half, where does that leave Doug Pederson, Tim Couch, Craig Nall and Scott McBrien? Sherman said he won't know that until the game is underway.
"If someone has a hot hand we may leave them in there and if someone is cold, we may take them out," Sherman explained.
Another player whose status is up in the air is running back Ahman Green. Green bruised his kneecap in last Friday's game at Jacksonville and has missed a week of practice.
"I don't rule anything out, but at this stage it's probably doubtful," Sherman said of Green's status. "If he doesn't play, it certainly gives me a chance to see Najeh Davenport who has not been out there. We will see (Tony) Fisher, (Nick) Luchey and (Walter) Williams run the football as well."
Sherman did, however, rule out linebacker Torrance Marshall who continues to have a sore hamstring. Cornerback Michael Hawthorne is day-to-day at this point, and if he can't play, Sherman indicated that rookie Ahmad Carroll would get the starting nod.
Difficult Decisions Looming For Packers
This is a stressful time of the year for coaches, players, and personnel staff with the toughest part yet to come. After Friday's game, the Packers will have plenty of difficult decisions on their hands as they have to trim their roster from 74 players down to 53 by Sunday.
Reggie McKenzie, the Green Bay's director of pro personnel, said the Packers aren't the only team with difficult decisions to make.
"We are only one of 32 teams and all the teams are going through this," McKenzie said. "The league makes us count down to 53. We wish we could take them all, but we can't."
Still, that doesn't make the process any easier according to McKenzie.
"We feel like we are pretty deep all the way around," McKenzie explained. We aren't looking forward to this weekend. We're really not."
One of the players battling for a roster spot is Craig Nall. The third-year quarterback knows he has to be impressive to remain a Packer.
"Whenever I am out here on the field, I always have a chance to compete," Nall said. "That's my mindset whenever I come out here. I just try to do the best I can. With the competition as tight as it is, I can't have any off days."
Chatman Earns Favre's Respect
Brett Favre doesn't try to hide the fact that he knew little about Antonio Chatman when the Packers signed him last year. Favre admitted that what he did know of the 5-foot-9, 184-pound wide receiver/kick returner wasn't good.
"To be totally honest, I didn't know a lot about him last year when he came, other than he was our punt returner," Favre recalled. "As the season progressed and we got further into practice late in the year, I wasn't real high on him. His work habits at receiver were not very good. His attention to detail in meetings was not very good. I was like, 'Hey, this guy just thinks he is going to be a punt returner and that's it.'"
After playing with Chatman for a year and getting to know him better as a receiver this off-season, Favre views Chatman in a different light.
"My attitude toward him has changed tremendously," Favre explained. "He has won me over up to this point.
"For a little guy, he's made some big plays. He's probably gotten the most playing time of the top four receivers. He's had the most opportunities, but he's made the most of it. He's made some big catches and seems fearless. I think he has done a great job."
Chatman is not a finished product yet, but at least he has confidence of his quarterback, which is more than what he had a year ago.