Shortly after he talked with Mike Sherman on Monday morning, General Manager Ted Thompson informed the players in the team meeting room of his decision to dismiss their head coach.
"It was a sad moment," Grady Jackson said. "That hurt a lot of guys."
Many of the players had expected a quiet morning of meetings with coaches and gathering their belongings from their lockers for their trip home for the offseason.
"It was a shock," Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said. "We thought we were going to talk about how we finished the season."
During Sherman's head coaching tenure with the team from 2000-2005, he finished 57-39 and won three consecutive NFC North titles from 2002-2004.
The Packers fell to a disappointing 4-12 season in 2005, but the players applauded his ability to keep the team cohesive and competitive despite having 13 players placed on injured reserve. Those injuries occurred to impact players, including Javon Walker, Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and Bubba Franks. The Packers lost eight of their games by seven points or less.
"He never lost the team," safety Mark Roman said. "We never stopped believing in him, and he never stopped believing in any of the guys in this room."
Most of the players took the tone of praising their former head coach while supporting Thompson's decision. Gbaja-Biamila compared his stance to discussions he has with his wife, Eileen, regarding important family issues. Often they seek outside counsel or financial advisors. Sometimes she disagrees with his final decision, but she always backs him.
"When it's all said and done, she supports my decision," he said. "You don't like it, but you respect it."
The coaching change weighed heavily on the mind of Samkon Gado. Sherman had become a special figure in his life. He took a chance on the undrafted rookie free agent, giving him his first start less than a month after he had joined the Packers' practice squad. Sherman also stood in his corner despite Gado's early difficulties holding on to the ball.
"Even after the four fumbles, he still had faith to keep me the guy," Gado said. "I can't forget that. This is tough for me. I really did develop an attachment to him."
Gado has rapidly recovered from his strained knee ligament. He could have played this weekend had the Packers been scheduled for another game.
"I feel very good," Gado said.
As Gado nears 100 percent, the running back situation will become one of the most interesting offseason developments. With running backs Green, Davenport and Tony Fisher unrestricted free agents, it remains to be seen which players will compete with Gado for jobs in 2006. As the Packers made their first offseason change with Sherman's dismissal, similar uncertainty fills much of the roster.
"You've got a lot of guys in here who are free agents so you never know," Jackson said.
Jackson, one of the Packers' 14 unrestricted free agents, planned to meet with Thompson on Monday and then head back to his Madison, Miss. home on Wednesday.
Like Jackson, many of the players will spend the rest of the week contemplating Thompson's announcement.
"He did it very classy and did it in front all of us," Gbaja- Biamila said. "You could see it was a very hard decision for him to make."