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Packers Showcase Practice Skills For Shareholders


Wednesday afternoon's training camp practice may have only featured rookies, first-year players and two quarterbacks, but it had the electricity of regular-season game as more than 14,000 fans (shareholders and their guests) attended the afternoon session in Lambeau Field.

"It was crazy. Just coming out of the tunnel and hearing the greeting was just incredible," said tight end Steve Fleming, an undrafted rookie from the University of Arizona who made several nice grabs during the afternoon practice. "It isn't like anything I've ever been around or ever heard of. This was really fun, and I think it had a little bit to do with today's energy."

Before the practice, head coach Mike Sherman walked out to applause. He signed autographs before and after the practice. The players also stayed to sign afterwards.

"It's a great atmosphere," cornerback Patrick Dendy said. "The fans are great."

Chris Day made a nice deflection for the second day, earning a congraluatory slap from defensive coordinator Jim Bates and accolades from the crowd.

In the morning practice, rookie safety Marviel Underwood intercepted a tipped Craig Nall pass. In a scrimmage, he likely would have returned it for a score.

The Packers continue to devote a lot of time to special teams. They spent the middle section of both the morning and afternoon sessions on that unit.

Wide receivers, defensive backs and linebackers lined up five yards away from punter Bryce Benekos, before rushing him in a punt block drill, which could result in turnovers down the road.

"It's really big," Benekos said. "It can change the game in an instant. Special teams are a third of the game, and that's where a lot of big plays happen."

The Packers showed some innovation, using a yellow ball resembling a dodgeball, which is easier on both the punter's foot and the players' bodies than a football.

"It doesn't hurt them by hitting their hand or jamming their wrist. It also takes the strain off my foot," he said. "The squishee balls absorb a lot of the contact."

Benekos has not punted a football during practice because players have occupied most of the field space and long snapper Rob Davis will not practice until Friday. Benekos hones his skill indoors instead.

On the offensive side of the ball, fifth-round selection Junius Coston and seventh-round selection William Whitticker have impressed offensive line coach Larry Beightol.

Coston faces the difficult transition from center -- the position he played during his senior year at North Carolina A&T State University -- to guard with the Packers. The team has moved him to guard where they have more of a need.

"Coston can run," Beightol said. "We think he has all the tools it takes to play guard in the National Football League."

Whitticker has lost weight since the organized team activities. His slimmer figure should benefit him in the running game.

"I'm very pleased with where he's at," Beightol said. "He has a lot of potential to be a big road grader."

Wednesday marked just the third day of training camp practices. It is still too early to make prognostications.

"I'm not going to put anybody in the Hall of Fame here," Beightol said. "I'm excited about both of them."

And so are the fans that filled Lambeau Field on Wednesday.

Notes: Roy Manning (oblique) and Seante Williams (infection) returned to practice on Wednesday.

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