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Pleased To Be A Packer


Hardy Nickerson

One week after meeting with team officials and observing a mini-camp practice, veteran middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson was back in Green Bay, but this time he wasn't scouting the Packers, he was joining them.

Thursday, Nickerson met with the local media and discussed the factors that led him to sign with the Packers over the Philadelphia Eagles, his other top suitor.

"It was very, very close," Nickerson said. "The Eagles, they also have a very classy organization - first class -- but I felt that for me, this is the best place for me to play. When you throw in the history of this organization and what it means to the league, it was an opportunity of a lifetime."

Nickerson is hopeful that joining the Packers will help him obtain the one goal that three teams and 15 NFL seasons have failed to produce - a Super Bowl.

"What I'm after at this point in my career is to be a part of a team, to have those memories that carry with you for a long time, and to be a part of a special football team," Nickerson said. "In the evaluation process, I felt like this was a very special situation that I could contribute to."

Certainly the Packers believe Nickerson will aid their success. GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman reiterated his previous statement that the Packers had flagged Nickerson as a possible addition back in February, when they calculated that he might be among the Jacksonville Jaguars' salary-cap-saving cuts.

"We targeted him way back then as someone, who if he became available, that would really help our football team in many ways, in the linebacker position, on defense and our football team in general," Sherman said. "He brings with him a lot of experience and knowledge of his position and of defensive football, but even more so, he's a class man and will bring a lot of that to us as well."

Although reported by some that his deal with the Packers included a promise to start, Nickerson refused to declare that he would play the majority of the minutes at middle linebacker, saying only that he expected to "contribute."

Nickerson will turn 37 in September and is two years removed from an injury-shortened season of 2000. However, he's also coming off a franchise-record 230-tackle season at Jacksonville last year.

Acknowledging that he's most likely lost a step, Nickerson said that his knowledge of the game made up for any physical shortcomings that might have begun to sprout with age.

"I think I'm saving the best for last," he said. "I'm in great shape and ready to play some football. If last season was any indication of what I can do at this age, then I'm looking for an even better year . . . I'm not too old to make a few plays."

Lining up on the same sideline as three-time MVP Brett Favre might help maintain Nickerson's youth. Over 14 meetings with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one with the Jaguars, Nickerson's teams have gone 3-12 against the Packers, with Favre doing his share of damage.

"I've been in the fourth quarter with Brett a few times and he's killed us every time," Nickerson said. "I remember vividly a game here on Sunday night and we were ahead in the fourth quarter late. The Packers have the ball about the 30-yard line and we send the kitchen sink at him and he somehow gets the ball off and Antonio (Freeman) comes up with it with a diving catch to beat us.

"I'm looking forward to the other side of Lambeau Field . . . It's pretty awesome to say you are a Green Bay Packer."

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