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Packers Notebook - Smith, Nall To Get Increased Snaps


In theory, the third-quarter cancellation of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game last Monday night hurt equally every Green Bay Packers player that had yet to get in the game.

In reality, it hurt quarterback Akili Smith most of all.

After four struggling seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Smith is trying to resurrect his professional career in Green Bay. But he's been with the Packers for less than two months, and has only weeks left to earn a spot on the team.

Learning a new offense and up against stiff competition in the form of 11th-year veteran Doug Pederson and second-year player Craig Nall, Smith needs all the opportunities he can get.

That's why GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman is determined to give both Smith and Nall increased snaps this weekend against the Atlanta Falcons.

Sherman indicated Thursday that Brett Favre will start the game, getting his usual limited preseason reps, and will be followed by Pederson, as was the case Monday night.

After that will come either Smith or Nall, the order of the two still to be determined.

In Canton, Ohio, against the Kansas City Chiefs, Nall stepped in for Pederson in the Packers' fifth possession of the game, which began with 2:17 left in the second quarter. By the time the first half ended, Nall had been sacked once and intercepted twice.

"I probably should have put Nall in earlier," Sherman said, "just to give him a fair shake. I didn't think I'd be putting him in in a two-minute situation.

"If I would have known that was the case and I had a crystal ball, I wouldn't have wanted to do that to a young quarterback. He was put in a very tough situation."

Although not as tough as that of Smith, who never got a chance to leave the sideline.

When rain started to fall in Canton, Smith had just a moment to review some college coaching tips before lightning sent both teams to the locker room for good.

"I felt like I was back in Oregon," Smith said in reference to the downpour. "All they talk about there is wet-ball mechanics, so I started thinking about that. The next thing you know, we're off the field.

"Lightning. Game over. It happened so quick."

Ferguson In? Walker Out?

Third-year wide receiver Robert Ferguson is still recovering from the bruised tailbone that sidelined him for 12 days this training camp, but he hasn't ruled out the possibility of playing Saturday night against the Atlanta Falcons.

"I still feel it," said Ferguson of his injury, which he called 80-percent healed. "It's just when I'm getting a bump technique, if (defenders) press me or push me.

"It's still tender ... I think I can play. But if it's really tender like that, I don't know."

After partial participation in Wednesday's practice, Ferguson took full part in the Packers' workouts Thursday.

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said Ferguson's availability Saturday would be determined based on the injury's reaction to that practice time.

"I never really know until the next day," Sherman said. "But I think things are fairly encouraging in that regard."

If Ferguson can't play, the Packers could be without their three top receivers. Donald Driver is still recovering from a strained hamstring and Javon Walker missed practice this week after twisting his ankle against Kansas City.

Although the injury isn't considered serious, Walker underwent an MRI Thursday and is considered doubtful for the Atlanta game.

"Javon Walker said if we were playing (Friday), he could probably go, if we were playing a game," Sherman said. "But he's always been a fast healer and he may be back in time for the game."

Driver Progressing

Donald Driver's strained hamstring continues to improve, but GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman plans to give his top receiver another game off to recover.

Driver said Thursday that he felt healthy enough to play this weekend, but understood the logic of waiting another week, just to be safe.

"If I can come back and play Saturday, that would be great," Driver said. "But they're not going to risk me in the preseason and lose me for the (regular) season."

Driver injured the hamstring running a pass route, July 27.

Sharper Still Stinging

Darren Sharper said his injured shoulder is getting stronger each day, but he doesn't anticipate playing this weekend.

Sharper suffered a stinger July 26, when he tackled running back Lamar Smith during practice. Although he has been able to practice since, Sharper was held out of the Kansas City game as a precaution.

"It's preseason, so I'm going to try to make sure I come back 100 percent," Sharper said. "I want to get out there for a couple preseason games, but I'm not going to rush it."

The holdup, according to GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman, is Sharper's triceps, which hasn't yet recovered to full strength.

"His triceps has to be firing and have the strength to ward off defenders," Sherman said. "If he can protect himself, he'll play. If he can't, he won't."

Sharper isn't the only player on the mend from that practice hit. Smith injured his knee on the play and hasn't practiced since.

"He's making progress," Sherman said of the running back. "You know he had a hell of an injury ... We're lucky he's even able to rehab the dang thing. So we're making progress there. I think (Smith will return) sometime next week."

Lee Closer

Hampered by an injured hip flexor, fifth-round draft pick James Lee hasn't been on the practice field for two weeks, but GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said the rookie defensive tackle is still making progress.

"The good thing is, he's conditioning very well," Sherman said. "He's lost about 10 pounds, which is odd for a young man who isn't able to be out here in two-a-days. He's lost the most weight of any player we've had here in the preseason, and he hasn't been out (on the practice field), so that's to his credit."

At the start of training camp, the Packers listed Lee at 325 pounds. Since acquiring Lee in the draft, Sherman hasn't kept secret his desire for the Oregon State alumnus to shed some pounds.

"When he came in here (for training camp), he passed the conditioning test, but wanted to push the conditioning even more and he's done that," Sherman said. "He's trying to do the right thing. We just really want to get him out here and see what he can do on the field."

Sherman anticipates that Lee will return to practice following the Atlanta game.

Down & Out

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said the following players would definitely miss the Packers-Falcons game this Saturday: Reggie Coleman (hip), Tyrone Davis (knee), Donald Driver (hamstring), Jorg Heckenbach (kidney), James Lee (hip), David Martin (hamstring), Lamar Smith (knee) and Adam Tate (knee).

Terdell Sands (ankle) and Javon Walker (ankle) are doubtful.

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