Roman Pleased To Become A Packer

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For Mark Roman, free agency was an experience worth visiting, but it's safe to say that he isn't in a hurry to go back.

"Have you every tried to carry around a car on your shoulders?" Roman asked via telephone from his offseason home in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, after signing to a multi-year contract with the Green Bay Packers. "That's kind of what it's like.

"I'm not a negotiator, I'm not a capologist and I'm not an agent. I'm a football player. And to finally get the chance to think about playing football again and doing what I do for a living is a huge relief."

Signing Roman is surely a relief to the Packers as well, who have potentially locked down the safety position opposite Darren Sharper that has seen three different starters over the past two seasons.

Roman will no doubt have to earn the job in training camp, with Marques Anderson and Bryant Westbrook being among the other potential candidates, but approaching his fifth NFL season, the former Cincinnati Bengal is confident he's ready to contribute.

"I think I've just scratched the surface of my ability," said Roman, who made 83 tackles and one interception as the Bengals' starting safety in 2003. "Getting the chance to be The Guy at safety last season really boosted my confidence. No one wants to be second in anything, and I want to get to the point where I know my place is on the field and the team knows they can depend on me."

At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, Roman isn't as imposing a figure as the 6-foot-2 Sharper, but he isn't far off the 6-foot, 204-pound stature that severed LeRoy Butler well over his decade as the Packers' starting safety.

The 34th overall selection of the 2000 NFL Draft, Roman lined up at safety in college at Louisiana State, but predominantly played cornerback his first three seasons in the NFL, before returning to his original position last season.

"I think I'm versatile," Roman said. "I look at myself as a guy who can cover, but I'm a good tackler, too. I feel at home at safety, but I've also played corner. I've played in the nickel and I've played dime.

"I've pretty much played it all, but I know that no matter where I line up I'm going to have to go in and prove myself. I'm going to have to earn the respect of the other guys in the secondary, and by doing that I think I'm going to elevate my game."

As far as Roman is concerned, there's no better place to do that than Green Bay.

Roman had never visited the area until a few weeks ago, when he was brought in for a workout. But even a short stay in Titletown had an effect on Roman, who will celebrate his 27th birthday Friday before coming to Green Bay to begin offseason workouts this weekend.

"It's like you can already feel everyone in that town getting ready for the season to come," Roman said. "The anticipation is so thick you can cut it with a knife ...

"My main focus (of free agency) was to play for a winning team, but the reputation of the Packers kind of speaks for itself. They're always viewed as one of the NFL's elite teams, and that means a lot to me. I mean, playing in the league is one thing, but playing for the Packers and having a chance to win the Big Game year in and year out, that's a chance you embrace as soon as it comes along."

By signing with the Packers, Roman receives a chance to embrace a different opportunity he let slip by years ago.

Coming out of New Iberia (La.) High School in 1995, Roman was actually recruited by Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman, then at Texas A&M, but decided to stay in state at LSU.

"Coach Sherman came to my house and everything and met my mom," Roman remembered, "but I didn't want to play anywhere else but LSU. But he came in and was a real straight-shooter, and I liked him. It was unfortunate then that I couldn't play for him, because I wanted to be at LSU, but I'm just glad I got the opportunity again.

"It's crazy how things come full circle. It's like it was meant to be."

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