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Training Camp Notebook: Chatman Develops Into Offensive Weapon


More Than Special

When Antonio Chatman first arrived in Green Bay after a career in the Arena League, he focused only on his special teams abilities.

"That was the only way he approached the game. He cared nothing about being a receiver," quarterback Brett Favre said. "I was ready to ship him out of here."

Chatman then reversed field like any elusive punt returner. Now he works hard at both special teams and offense.

"He's really improved as a receiver," head coach Mike Sherman said. "He's done a nice job for us."

Last year Chatman started his first two NFL games and became the No. 3 wide receiver when Robert Ferguson went down with an injury on Dec. 19. He caught 22 balls for 246 yards and a touchdown. During the 2005 training camp, he has caught nearly everything as the No. 4 receiver.

He became a student of the game. Favre even tests him, asking him to identify the safety's coverage whenever he returns to the huddle.

"I have to read the same thing he's reading," Chatman said.

While improving his mental approach, Chatman retained his burst -- the skill that separates him from other players.

"He might be the quickest guy we have off the ball," Favre said. "It's hard to bump and run him."

On special teams, Chatman averaged 7.7 yards on 32 punt returns and 22.6 yards on 25 kickoff returns last year. Special teams coordinator John Bonamego has emphasized blocking up front to help him find a crease.

Chatman returned one punt for seven yards against the San Diego Chargers last week but wanted to stay in the game with the second and third-stringers.

"I didn't want to come out," he said. "I feel I'm going to really break one with how [Bonmego] changed the blocking schemes."

That's the kind of energy the 5-9, 183-pound burner brings to the 2005 season as both a returner and at wide receiver -- where he has earned Favre's trust.

"You've got to go to the big man," Favre joked.


Wanted: More Theft

Defensive coordinator Jim Bates has cited a goal for his defense during Saturday's game versus the Buffalo Bills. He wants the Packers to force takeaways, a category where they tied for last in the league last year with 15.

"We need to be a turnover defense," he said.

During the organized team activities and early in training camp, the defense routinely forced fumbles and intercepted passes, but that has not been the case during recent practices. Bates estimated five practice plays this week should have resulted in turnovers. Rookie Cornerback Mike Hawkins -- in particular -- has displayed a knack for jumping routes but has dropped several passes.

"We have to finish the play and take advantage of those opportunities," Bates said.


What A Difference A Year Makes

Sherman praised the work of Ahmad Carroll, who has played cornerback on the first-team defense for all but a few practices.

"Carroll is a little bit more humble this year, quiet, doing his job," Sherman said. "I like him in practice. He's paying attention, staying focused."

Last year's 25th pick overall, Carroll came in with the attitude of a first round draft pick. Although he started 11 games, officials repeatedly penalized the brash rookie with holding and illegal contact fouls.

During the offseason he worked on improving his footwork and using his hands less. Sherman said he could rebound in his second year much like another highly drafted player -- wide receiver Robert Ferguson -- did. So far, Carroll version 2.0 has impressed the staff.

"He's responded to the challenges we've put in front of him," Sherman said.


Quick Hits:Rookie safety Marviel Underwood deftly broke up a Favre pass intended for wide receiver Javon Walker during 7-on-7 drills. ... Running back Ahman Green sat out Wednesday's practice because of an illness. ... Defensive tackle Corey Williams has multiple injuries (side, back, rib, and hip) but should return to practice on Thursday or Friday. "He's like a 50-year-old man," Sherman joked. ... Safety Nick Collins demonstrated his toughness, playing through a sore hamstring that left him limping on the field. ... Sherman addressed his gratitude to former Packers general manager Ron Wolf. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Ron's willingness to take a chance on a guy." He said. "I owe Ron an awful lot."... Cornerback Joey Thomas (calf, hip) likely will not play versus the Bills.

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