Skip to main content

Packers Notebook - Players Get First Game Action In Lambeau


Imagine waiting your whole life to play in an NFL game and then when the time comes, you can barely stand it because you are so nervous. Although your first game should be very special, it's hard to see it that way during the heat of the moment.

For a few Packers, Monday night's experience was one they will never forget, but also one they may be happy is over with. Defensive back Ahmad Carroll, defensive tackle James Lee, offensive lineman Steve Morley and punter B.J. Sander were among the players that made their pro debuts on Monday against the Seahawks. Although the Packers lost, these newcomers were happy to see their first game experience at Lambeau Field which had 69,718 in attendance.

Carroll, the Packers first-round selection out of Arkansas, admitted that he was anxious to get in the game.

"I had some jitters because it was my first game," Carroll said. "After that first dime package though, I was fine. The jitters faded away."

Like Carroll, Sander also has great expectations after being selected in the third round out of Ohio State. He wasn't pleased with his performance, but he was excited about the atmosphere.

"The fans are great," Sander said. "It reminds me a lot of being back at Ohio State and how the crowd really gets into the game."

James Lee had an even longer wait than Carroll and Sander. After he was selected in the fifth round last season, Lee injured his back after the first training camp practice. He spent all season on the injured reserve and he said his time away just built up his anticipation for the game.

"Sitting out the whole year did a lot to me," Lee said. "It was fantastic playing tonight. I was very excited because it was my first NFL game. It's what I have been dreaming about since I was a kid and hopefully there will be more to come."

Morley didn't travel the same path as Lee did, but he still had a difficult wait for his first NFL game.

The 6-foot-7, 332-pound lineman played high school and college football in Nova Scotia, Canada and just when he was ready to pursue the NFL, he had problems obtaining a visa for the United States. He played last season in the Canadian Football League (CFL) before the Packers signed him in February.

Morley said the hardest part about waiting was wondering how he would do against NFL competition.

"It was definitely a new experience being there with all the fans against an NFL opponent," Morley said. "I was curious about how I would hold up against all the NFL guys and I was a bit nervous. I thought I held up well against the defensive tackles."

Although the team came up short against the Seahawks, at least these guys got a taste of what it was like to play in Lambeau Field and what they have to look forward to as a Packer.

No Shortage Of Work For Sander

Certainly, Sander wanted to get a few opportunities to punt at Lambeau Field, but he never imagined he would get as much work as he did Monday night. The Packers had trouble moving the ball and the Packers rookie punted 10 times against the Seahawks.

"We certainly gave him some opportunities tonight, more than what I would have cared to," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "He put one down on the 11-yard line to back them up, but a couple others weren't so great.

"He has to learn how to punt the ball at Lambeau Field. There wasn't a wind factor that should have been a deterrent to him. I believe he is a good punter, he is just working through some issues that he needs to work through."

Sherman insisted that Sander will be fine once he gets his technique in order and becomes more consistent.

"I remember when Ryan Longwell went through a rough time at one point and you just have to work through it and that is what we are trying to do with Sander," Sherman said. "It happens with golfers, it happens with kickers and it happens with punters. He's had some good ones in practice, and a couple good ones tonight, but it's just something you have to work through."

Sander echoed the comments of Sherman and said that he has some things to work on this week.

"This was a great experience," Sander said. "I will watch the film and learn from it, but I wasn't very happy with it. I would grade it as sub-par. I hit three or four good balls, but overall there is some work to do. I will watch the film and have a good week of practice."

Sherman Pleased With Lee

The Packers had no idea what type of player they were getting when they drafted James Lee. He was up and down in college, but the Packers liked him enough to give him a shot in the NFL. When he went down for the season last summer, even more questions were raised about his future.

During training camp, Lee has shown that he is in excellent shape and on Monday, he finally had a chance to prove that in his very first NFL game.

"I got off the ball quickly today, but I need to work on some stuff," Lee said. "There were a couple times where I messed up, but that's what these games are for. It's the preseason and I have to get better every game."

At least Sherman was pleased with Lee's effort.

"James Lee made a couple of plays," Sherman said. "He missed a play, but he was pretty active, which I was excited about.

"He's in better shape now than he was two years ago. He's a power player and he does a good job holding the point, but he needs to disengage a little better. He's been working on that and I thought he did a better job tonight."

Holmgren Returns To City He Loves

Mike Holmgren took over the Seahawks in 1999 after spending six years as the Packers head coach, but he still enjoys coming back to Green Bay.

"I love this place," Holmgren said. "I honestly do. This is a wonderful place and it is different being on the other side of the field and it probably always will be to a certain extent.

"It is hard to play here, but I love this place. I went for a motorcycle ride this morning and stopped at a few of my old haunts."

Holmgren said Green Bay will always be special to him, no matter how long he coaches.

"Some things will never change -- this is a wonderful place for us," Holmgren said. "I have so many friends on the staff here. It is fun to come back here."

It's safe to say that the next time he comes back, Packers fans would appreciate it if he left on a losing note.

It Just Wasn't Meant To Be

The Packers have been getting a little tricky with their playbook in the first two weeks of practice and if Monday's game was any indication, maybe they should keep working on their gimmick plays.

When running back Najeh Davenport and wide receiver Javon Walker tried to connect on a reverse in the second quarter, things didn't go exactly as planned.

Walker couldn't handle the handoff from Davenport and the Packers nearly lost the fumble on the play. Walker doesn't know exactly what happened, but he did admit that the play needs more work.

"It was just a bad exchange," Walker said. "We didn't really get the handoff cleanly like we wanted to so it is something that we have to come back and work on in practice. It was a pass and it could have been a touchdown to Driver."

According to Walker, running trick plays aren't as easy as they may look.

"It's kind of difficult because you have to go through so many exchanges and you have so many reads on the pass," Walker said. "It's good because it's fun and it's trickery, but it takes a lot of work. The one time we tried to do it, we messed it up so it will probably go back in the library until we can start working on it again."

You Play To Win The Game

Some players don't have any ambition to play exhibition games. Others don't mind the preseason, but care little about winning the games. Don't count William Henderson or Nick Barnett in that group, however.

When asked whether winning was important, both players acted as if that was a silly question.

"You always want to win," Henderson said. "It's a competition every time you step on the field. Right now they're doing evaluations and seeing who wants to play for this team. That's the coaches' evaluation, that's what they are doing.

"Player-wise, you have to be psyched. You're playing in front of all these people who love the Packers and you have a chance to wear the Green and Gold. A guy coming in here has to want it, he just has to want it."

Henderson said that there is more at stake than a simple preseason game.

"Forget about the money, forget about everything else, this is a chance to play for this historic team and a chance to play in front of all your friends," Henderson said. "It's Monday Night Football and everybody is watching. If (Coach Sherman) wants to know who has that drive, tonight he got a good look."

Barnett agreed with Henderson and reiterated that every game should count in the mind of an NFL player.

"Of course I care about winning whether it is a preseason game, regular season game or a scrimmage or a practice," Barnett said. "You've got to care about winning. If you don't care about it, you shouldn't be here, especially playing for the Packers."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content