The Green Bay Packers will allocate seven players to participate in NFL Europe this spring, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said Wednesday.
The list is made up of safety Jeremy Unertl, punter Tim Morgan, linebackers Isaac Keys and Jermaine Petty, wide receivers Brian Haugabrook and Travis Williams and return specialist/wide receiver Shawn Mills.
NFL teams are only required to allocate three players to NFLE -- down from six last season -- but Packers director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie said the developmental league offers a welcomed chance to evaluate inexperienced players in game situations.
"We think NFLE is extremely valuable," McKenzie said. "It's giving guys a chance to play rather than just practice. If you're a backup, after a while you're just standing there watching everyone else.
"This way guys get to compete. They get to take in a game plan, learn what the coaches are trying to teach them and take it to the field week in and week out. Backups don't do that."
Of the players ticketed to go overseas, Haugabrook, Unertl and Williams spent time in Packers mini-camps or training camp last season. Morgan was with the Packers' practice squad in 2001, while Keys, Mills and Petty were signed by the Packers for the first time January 8.
McKenzie said the Packers like Haugabrook's 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame and want to see if the former Florida backup shows the same rapid improvement demonstrated in his brief stint in Green Bay last summer.
Unertl, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound safety from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, is expected to have chances to make plays as both a safety and punt returner.
Williams (6-3, 200), who in recent years maintained his football conditioning by running pass routes on the deck of the U.S.S. Boxer while serving as an electronic welfare officer for the U.S. Navy, will see his most significant playing time since he was a collegian in 1999.
At 6-foot-4, 243 pounds, Morgan is a powerful left-footed punter the Packers think also could be utilized on kickoffs. But McKenzie said Morgan has to prove that he can be consistent in both regards.
McKenzie calls Petty (6-0, 255) an "intriguing" prospect at linebacker, after making the switch from defensive end before his senior year at the University of Arkansas. Keys (6-0, 245) also is making the transition from the D-line.
Mills (6-0, 185) will be getting his primary audition as a punt and kick return specialist.
"With all these guys, the purpose is to see them play," McKenzie said. "If we had issues with their size and strength we'd keep them here to get them bigger and stronger.
"But it's an advantage for us to send them (to NFLE). By evaluating those players over 10 games and then through training camp, we have a better feel about them than just watching them working out and going through mini-camps."
Pro Bowl offensive guard Marco Rivera is among a handful of current Packers who have benefited from the developmental league. Rivera played for the Scottish Claymores in what was then the World League after his rookie season of 1996.
This year, each NFL team must submit at least three players for allocation by next Monday (January 27). Those three players then will be assigned by the league to NFLE teams the following week.
Remaining players in the allocation pool will be selected to teams via the NFLE draft February 4.
The NFLE then runs training camps in Tampa from February 24-March 6. Controlled scrimmages are conducted March 15 and 23, with final roster cuts made after the second scrimmage.
Players then travel overseas to their respective towns March 25.
The 10-week NFLE season gets underway April 5, leading toward World Bowl XI in Glasgow, Scotland, June 14.