Training Camp Notebook: Thomas Has 'Eyes On The Prize'

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Thomas Can Still Become The Starter

Cornerback Joey Thomas participated in all drills during practice for the first time since he returned from calf and hip injuries. He yearns to make up for the lost time.

"I'm anxious," he said.

Cornerbacks Ahmad Carroll and Al Harris took the repetitions with the starting unit, but Thomas broke up several passes during the last two days of camp and will not settle for assuming the nickel cornerback position.

"I've got my eyes on the prize," he said.

Sherman said both Carroll and Thomas will see extensive time during the regular season, and the competition for the starting left cornerback remains open.

"We can't close our eyes to anybody," Sherman said. "I look at it as great competition. We have talented players there, and the best man will win the start. They're both going to play quite a bit in our dime package."

Thomas said his most difficult challenge is honing the fundamentals other players have spent weeks developing.

He will play against the New England Patriots on Friday and repeatedly emphasized to reporters how well his body feels.

"I'm healthy," Thomas said. "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it."

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Leader Of The Pack

Mike Sherman expressed his joy in remaining with the Green Bay Packers organization in his first public comments since signing a two-year contract extension as Packers head coach.

"It feels good," he said. "This is where I want to coach, where I want to live and the organization I want to be a part of."

The contract dictates that Sherman will continue as head coach through the 2007 season. Both Sherman and general manager Ted Thompson agreed on extending his previous contract, which expired after the 2005 season, by two years.

"I like to deal with short term goals, and I know I can give the Packers everything I have for the next three years," Sherman said. "After that if there's an opportunity to continue, I will address it at that time."

Sherman has led the Packers to a winning season in each of his five years with the team. He also has coached them to three consecutive NFC North titles and has earned the respect of his players.

"Coach Sherman and I are pretty close," wide receiver Robert Ferguson said. "I'm 100 percent happy for him. I love playing for him, and I'd love for him to be my coach throughout my career."

According to the new contract, Sherman will remain as head coach and executive vice president, but Thompson will have full authority regarding all aspects of the team's football operations.

Sherman had those duties before Thompson assumed them this year.

"Your preparation is not any less, and your workload is not any less," Sherman said. "[The work] has been funneled in different areas."

Sherman takes pride in continuing as the 13th head coach in the Packers' history and did not want to test the market.

"I like being here," he said. "I have the best job in the National Football League."

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Large Target

With injuries to tight ends Steve Fleming (ankle) and David Martin (groin), the Packers could turn to a huge receiving option, 315-pound offensive tackle Mark Tauscher.

During goalline drills on Wednesday, the veteran caught a touchdown pass from Brett Favre.

"I told a couple of my buddies to pick me up in the fantasy league," he joked.

The Packers had never attempted a pass to Tauscher before Wednesday, but he clearly enjoyed the opportunity. Following the touchdown, he smiled through his facemask and spiked the football in celebration.

Tauscher said the Packers likely will not use him as a receiver during games. The team tried him out as more of a gimmick, but if they call his number during a game, he'll make the play.

"I will catch the ball if it's thrown to me," he said. "I'd love to catch a touchdown. I think it would be a lot of fun."

**

Quick Hits: The starters will play the first half on Friday, and some could play into the second half. The coaching staff will finalize those plans on Wednesday night. ... Na'il Diggs (knee), Fleming, Vonta Leach (knee), Terrence Murphy (knee), Todd Franz (shoulder), Cletidus Hunt (knees/shoulder), Martin, Corey Williams (oblique), Grady Jackson (knee) and A.J. Lindsay (shoulder) will not play against the Patriots on Friday. ... Leach and Murphy may return to play against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, Sept. 1. ... Aaron Rodgers has compiled a quarterback rating of 40 through two preseason games, but Sherman remains confident in the rookie. "Eventually that light will click on," he said. "It's a matter of time before he evolves into the player we know he can be."... Wide receiver Robert Ferguson missed his second consecutive practice due to a heart murmur but will play against the Patriots. "Everything's fine," Sherman said. ... Rookie linebacker Kurt Campbell underwent reconstructive knee surgery on Aug. 15 and will not play this year. ... Sherman said that the 6-6, 328-pound defensive tackle Donnell Washington has good size and athleticism but must improve his technique. ...James Lee, a 323-pound defensive tackle has straight-line speed and a good motor but needs to improve his lateral quickness. ... According to NFL rules, the Packers must trim their roster to 65 players by Aug. 30.

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