Walker Reports And Shines At Practice
Talk about a sight for sore eyes.
After not participating in the offseason activities, Packers pro bowl wide receiver Javon Walker practiced in both training camp sessions despite rumors swirling that he would not show.
"Talking it over with my family and agent, Drew Rosenhaus, it was the best decision to do," Walker said. "I knew I wasn't going to miss any time from football. ... I'm happy to be here in training camp"
On Tuesday night, he decided to report to Friday's practices.
Although he dropped two passes, Walker showed little rust from the time off. Sherman said he arrived in great shape.
In the afternoon practice, he caught a pass from quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan that would have been a touchdown in a live scrimmage.
"I thought he looked good," head coach Mike Sherman said. "He picked up where he left off."
Walker left off with 89 catches for 1382 yards and 12 touchdowns, making him Brett Favre's primary target in 2004. Not surpisingly, the quarterback expressed joy in seeing Walker on the field.
"He's a great guy. He's a great player," Favre said. "He's going to help us. I'm glad he's here."
The players exchanged pleasantries in the locker room, making any off-season comments regarding contracts water under the bridge.
"There were no hard feelings," Walker said. "Now we're at work. We know we're on the same level. So now it's time to just go out and play."
Walker said he hopes to play his entire career with Green Bay, extending an excellent receiving tradition in Green Bay that includes Don Hutson, James Lofton and Sterling Sharpe among others.
"The fans are great. I've always wanted to be a Packer," Walker said. "Football here is the best place ever."
Quarterback Brett Favre returned to action after staying home in Kiln, Miss., during the offseason, and the results of his personal training sessions were evident.
Having dropped eight pounds, he looked slim but displayed his trademark fastball. Each of his passes featured a nice, strong zip. He also possessed his usual joviality, often smiling after throwing a pass. He took the majority of the snaps during the team sessions of the morning practice.
"The same Brett came back ready to play," Sherman said. "I thought he was into practice and I thought he did well."
Fresh off an afternoon workout with sweat still glistening off his forehead, Favre donned a green t-shirt and headset for the afternoon practice. Sherman said he will limit the quarterback's practice time to once-a-day for the early part of camp.
"I felt pretty good," Favre said following the morning practice. "My feet are hurting, and if that's the only thing hurting I can't complain."
Sherman Pleased With Practice
Sherman praised the overall play during the first full practice on Friday.
"I was excited," he said. "There were a lot of big plays on both sides."
The head coach did express some frustration with ball control problems. The morning session featured three fumbles.
He has repeatedly praised the players' effort during the offseason programs and opportunity sessions, calling it the best of his Packers tenure. He reinforced that statement, emphasizing that it helped the rookies to have a good grasp of the offense for so early in camp.
"There didn't look like there were a lot of rookies going the wrong way," he said. "We kind of picked up where we left off in the June minicamps.
Hunt Needs To Step Up
With one big body ailing, the Packers will look for another one to rise to the occasion.
The Packers placed defensive tackle Grady Jackson, who attended practice but did not participate, on the physically-unable-to-perform list, meaning he has not yet passed his physical.
"He's going to be on that until we can make sure 100 percent that he's healthy and won't injure himself by taking the field," Sherman said.
With Jackson's knee ailing, the onus could fall more heavily on seven-year veteran Cletidus Hunt. Hunt has enormous potential but has not yet lived up to those expectations.
Locked into a fierce competition with Corey Williams for the starting defensive tackle position, Hunt faces an uphill battle because he missed the June OTA and did not receive many repetitions at the first minicamp.
"He's behind because he hasn't been here," Bates said.
However, the defensive tackle position involves fewer assignments and terminology than some other position in Bates' scheme. His defense calls for the big bodies up front to occupy blockers, freeing the linebackers to make plays.
"It's easier for a defensive tackle within the system to play maybe than any other position on our football team," Bates said.
Hunt passed the running test on Thursday and looked impressive during the training camp practice. He logged several snaps with the starting unit and held up well at the point of attack.
"He's off to a good start," Bates said.
Christenson Selected As Packers Ball Kid For The Day
Sherman on Friday instituted the Packers Ball Kid program. Interested children can line up where the players ride bikes. They randomly will receive tickets, and the child with the winning ticket will receive a goody bag with a hat, autograph, t-shirts, and more. The winner will be announced before each morning practice where the players enter the practice field with the program continuing until the end of camp. Friday's winner was Nate Christenson.
Quick Hits: Sherman said he will limit center Mike Flanagan, tackle Chad Clifton and defensive tackle James Lee to one-a-day practices... Sherman said B.J. Sander seems a lot more "mature" this year ... Rookie linebacker Brady Poppinga injured his hamstring during the morning session. Sherman said the injury could last from one to five days ... In the afternoon session, running back Walt Williams injured his ankle, and wide receiver Andrae Thurman injured his thumb ... The Packers released wide receiver Chris Samp. They filled his roster spot with Quentine Newhouse, a rookie free agent lineman from Northwestern (La.) State.