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Schottenheimer Excited To Join Packers


Kurt Schottenheimer's options were many, but his decision was simple.

Removed as defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions after only two seasons, Schottenheimer discussed coaching opportunities with several teams -- including the Lions -- in recent weeks, but knew all the while where he hoped to go.

"If this was going to work out, this was where I really wanted to come," Schottenheimer said Wednesday after being named defensive backs coach of the Green Bay Packers, replacing Bob Slowik who was promoted to defensive coordinator.

"I'm very impressed with (GM/Head Coach) Mike Sherman and the job that he's doing here and obviously the tradition and quality of the football team that they have."

Not that Schottenheimer's own professional history is anything less than impressive.

A three-time defensive coordinator in his 17 years as an NFL coach, Schottenheimer becomes the third coach on the Packers' defensive staff with coordinator experience, along with Slowik and linebackers coach Mark Duffner.

That experience was significant for Sherman, who stated that the hiring of Schottenheimer added strength to the defensive staff.

"I have a lot of confidence in him," Sherman said of Schottenheimer. "I think he's a good fit for our staff and our football team. He has a passion for football that excites me and that when I talked to him down at the Senior Bowl was very evident."

Of course, Schottenheimer brings more to Green Bay than his passion for the game. He also brings with him a desire to be aggressive, which matches up with Slowik's visions for revamping the defense as a whole.

As of his hiring, Schottenheimer hadn't had enough time to review tape of the Packers defense to get a feel for the total level of talent he has to work with in the secondary. But he was well aware of the reputations of Al Harris and Mike McKenzie as physical bump-and-run corners -- an identity he hopes to foster.

"I want to challenge people," Schottenheimer said. "I want to jam and disrupt wide receivers. I want people to be aggressive and physical in the secondary.

"(Harris and McKenzie are) big, strong physical guys that have pretty good movement skills. I think that they'll probably play their best football close to the line of scrimmage."

But bringing out the best of the Packers' veteran defensive backs may not be Schottenheimer's biggest challenge. Depth is key in the secondary and the Packers will have to depend on younger players to fill vital roles, especially if the secondary becomes a focal point of the 2004 NFL Draft.

In 2003, Duffner got first-round draft pick Nick Barnett up to speed in time to be the opening day starter at middle linebacker. And it's that kind of affect Schottenheimer hopes to have with the secondary.

After five straight years as a coordinator, a return to positional coaching could be construed as a negative. But Schottenheimer insisted that it's a move he embraces.

"I like a challenge," Schottenheimer said. "I like to try and get players to play to the best of their ability, and that excites me.

"I'm looking forward to getting back with the players ... seeing if I can make a difference or if I can put something into the secondary that's going to allow the players to become exceptionally good players.

"The coordinator thing, hey, it's fun, it's exciting to do that kind of thing, but I'm looking forward to coaching the secondary."

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