As Packers veterans join their teammates in reporting for training camp today, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman will formally greet his 2004 squad in their first team meeting of the year tonight at St. Norbert College.
Sherman has the task of bringing everyone together, whether it's their first Packers training camp, or they've just checked into the dorms in De Pere for the 13th time like Brett Favre.
"It's a very diverse group," said Sherman, who is beginning his fifth season as the Packers head coach. "You have rookies sitting in there that are nervous as all heck, then you have guys like Brett who's been there forever, heard it all, seen it all and done it all. Even though the group is so diverse, they all have the same goal, and that's to win a championship. You pull them in that way and you try to unite them that way."
Sherman will make sure everyone in that room knows what a unique experience putting on that Packers uniform will be for them.
"The first part of the meeting is the rules and regulations," Sherman said. "Then I'll tell them about St. Norbert and our history there -- we've been (staying in the dorms) there for 46 years, longer (at one training camp site) than any other team in the league. Then I'll give them a little of the history and the tradition of the franchise. After that, we'll start to focus on the here and now."
That here and now will be in full effect as the team will hit the field for their first full practice Monday morning at 8:45. The Packers will don their pads and the popping will surely be loud as everyone will be eager to get back on the field.
Sherman will also be eager to see everyone get back to work at full speed, and looks to keep the intensity level high throughout the month of camp. But he also knows that he won't push them too far, too early.
"It will be a camp much like last year's, but as it's been in the past, if there's a need to do less, we'll do less, or if there's a need to do more, we'll do more. I was very pleased with the way we practiced in the mini-camps without pads. If you can learn to practice without pads at game-like speed, there's an advantage to being able to make that tradeoff."
The coach knows his personnel and will be sure that they'll be pushed hard, but still at their best when the regular season rolls around in just over a month.
"This group has been together for a while, and there haven't been a whole lot of changes," Sherman said. "I know who's who and what's what with these guys, so there could be a chance that we'll take the pads off at times."
One new addition to the roster that will generate some interest from the coaching staff is quarterback Tim Couch. The sixth-year signal-caller joined the club last month after the mini-camps, so Couch will see more early snaps than Favre's understudies have received in the past.
"Tim will get quite a few reps, particularly in the first couple of weeks," Sherman said. "Doug (Pederson) and Craig (Nall) got more than they have usually gotten in the mini-camps in the past, so they've already gone through it once. Tim will get more than what a normal back-up quarterback would normally get early in camp. Once we get him going, once he's up to snuff, we'll move forward from there."
Favre will continue to sail along with his usual workload, though, taking about half of the snaps, as is the usual game plan.
"We always keep track of Brett's throws in camp, and we'll keep doing that," Sherman added. "He has to get his share and he will, but we try to be careful of how many throws he's going to get. I'm not going to take any reps away from Brett Favre."