The One And Only Punter
With the Green Bay Packers waiving his main competition, punter Bryce Benekos, one would think punter B.J. Sander let out a deep breath on Sunday.
The only punter on the Packers roster will not take anything for granted.
"That doesn't mean anything," he said. "As far I'm concerned I wasn't competing with just Bryce but with every guy out there that doesn't have a job. I look at this as a challenge."
With injuries mounting among the running backs and defensive backs, the team signed running back Joey Harris and cornerback Charles Byrd on Sunday. Waiving Benekos freed up a roster spot.
"We needed to help some depth issues on our team," head coach Mike Sherman said.
Running backs Najeh Davenport (ankle), Walt Williams (ankle) did not practice on Sunday while the team placed Chaz Williams (broken ankle) on injured reserve. Starting cornerbacks Joey Thomas (calf) and Al Harris (quadriceps) also missed Sunday's practice.
However, the release of Benekos also reflects the team's confidence in Sander. During Thursday's practice with the Buffalo Bills, several of Sander's punts traveled more than 40 yards. On his first punt during Friday's scrimmage, Sander boomed an unreturnable 42-yard punt with a 4.58-second hang time.
"He's done a pretty good job so far," Sherman said.
Sander remains self-assured but not complacent. He wants to improve his consistency. His second punt on Friday had a net of just 23 yards.
"I want to be able to hit the ball exactly where I want to in each situation," he said. "Overall I'm pretty happy with where I am right now."
O-line Faced Unfamiliar Situations
The offensive line spent Sunday looking at tape and correcting some of the errors on the field after surrendering eight sacks to the Buffalo Bills during the "Family Night" scrimmage.
However, several mitigating factors led to the protection problems.
"It wasn't as bad as everyone thinks," guard Atlas Herrion said.
Unlike preseason games where the Packers gameplan for opponents, they did not prepare a scouting report or breakdown film before the scrimmage against the Bills. And the Bills threw them off guard with an assortment of blitzes.
"They did throw some stuff at us that we hadn't seen," guard Matt O'Dwyer said. "It's not like we schemed for very long."
In addition, the Bills returned all of their defensive starters except for defensive tackle Pat Williams, while the Packers had two new starters along the offensive line, a unit that takes much longer to jell.
"Defense is more of an instinctive thing where the offense takes a lot of repetition and lots of practice," offensive tackle Brennan Curtin said.
Because defensive players could not tackle quarterbacks during the scrimmage, the officials ruled the sacks without allowing the quarterbacks a chance to evade the pass rushers.
Nonetheless, the offensive line will make some adjustments for the San Diego Chargers game on Aug. 11.
"As long as they learn from it," Sherman said, "we can win from the experience."
From First To Second
Defensive coordinator Jim Bates praised his first team defense but admonished the second team on Sunday during his analysis of the "Family Night" scrimmage.
"The first defense did a pretty good job of keeping them out of the end zone," he said. "The second unit didn't show much. ... We were a little too tentative, thinking a little too much, didn't react as quickly as I would like."
Bates lauded the play of 325-pound defensive tackle Colin Cole, who played on the first team during the scrimmage. Signed as undrafted free agent in 2004, Cole has become a stout defender adept at disengaging from his blocks and using proper technique.
"He played well," Bates said. "He's one of the players that stepped up."
Two other young players continue to impress. Rookie safeties Marviel Underwood and Nick Collins took some reps with the starting unit Sunday. To ease the burden on the rookies, Underwood and Collins played alongside veteran safeties Arturo Freeman and Mark Roman, respectively.
"We tried to mix it up today," Bates said.
Quick Hits:The Packers practiced fake field goal attempts during part of the special teams session. ... Wide receiver Chad Lucas showed good footwork in making a tip-toe touchdown catch on an Aaron Rodgers pass during goalline drills, but wide receiver Donald Driver had the catch of the day, a diving grab of a Brett Favre pass. ... Cornerback Chris Johnson (shin) practiced for the first time during training camp. ...Wide receiver Javon Walker left practice with a sore hamstring. ... Offensive tackle Chad Clifton missed practice because his wife gave birth to a boy on Saturday. ... Safeties Mark Roman and Nick Collins collided on a crossing route during Sunday's practice. ... Safety Earl Little was excused from practice due to a death in his family.