The Green Bay Packers re-signed running back Walt Williams and wide receiver Andrae Thurman on Tuesday, creating a special reunion for both and a splendid birthday for the latter.
"It's a crazy birthday present," said Thurman, who turned 25 on Tuesday. He chatted on his cell phone while making the nine-hour drive from Nashville, Tenn. to Green Bay, Wis. "It's a really good feeling."
Williams received the news of the signing while working out at Brusly (La.) High School.
"It was just a blessing," he said. "I enjoyed my time here and a good relationship with my teammates, coaches and I liked the area ... I was always interested in returning."
Through lifting weights and running at his former high school, Williams, released from the Packers on Sept. 3, said he is in great shape but must adjust his body to the pounding a running back takes on the playing field.
"The main thing about football is the contact," he said.
Williams' mental transition should be more seamless. He spent the last two training camps, and the 2004 NFL Europe campaign with the Packers organization. His 2004 season ended when he suffered a high-ankle sprain against the Houston Texans Nov. 21. He rushed six times for 42 yards in that game.
"I know the offense pretty well," he said.
Although Thurman has been with the Tennessee Titans organization since the Packers released him on Sept. 3, he expressed his understanding of the Packers' West Coast, timing-based passing offense.
Thurman, who expected to arrive in Green Bay around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, has also studied his playbook whenever he needed a break during the drive.
Thurman played two games for the Packers last year and caught two passes for 12 yards. Claimed off waivers from the Titans, he will help fill the void of wide receiver Robert Ferguson. Ferguson will miss two to four weeks with a sprained knee ligament suffered during Sunday's game versus the Minnesota Vikings.
Williams will help shore up a Packers running game, which lost Ahman Green (quadriceps tendon) for the season on Sunday. His concern for Green dampened some of his enthusiasm.
"It was bittersweet," Williams said. "I was sorry to hear Ahman got hurt."
In addition to working out, he has spent the past two months trying to restore order to his life after Hurricane Katrina. He did not lose any loved ones but suffered damage to his house in Brusly.
Williams clearly seemed enthused to become part of the Packers family again. He had already talked with Adrian Klemm, Mark Roman, Najeh Davenport, Earl Little, Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, Mike Flanagan, William Henderson, Al Harris and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.
"Everyone was excited to see me," he said.
As of press time, Thurman had not met with his teammates yet, but hopes to jump into things quickly. He said he will put in some long days of study this week in hopes of playing on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Such thoughts have consumed him during his road trip.
"I've been thinking of nothing but football," he said.