The close proximity of the bleachers to the hard play on Clarke Hinkle Field is known to create a close player-to-fan interaction that generates an incentive for Packer enthusiasts to make their way to training camp, and while things were no different at Friday's training camp practices, there were both positive and negative things to see.
Wisconsin's favorite 'gravedigger' had an especially appreciative fan section amidst the bleachers on the south end zone with an animated cheer to accompany a painted sandwich board, indicating that they were indeed defensive tackle Gilbert Brown's 'No. 1 fans.'
The slimmed-down 339-pound Brown was nicknamed 'The Gravedigger' in honor of his celebratory dance following a sack or thunderous tackle, and continues to be a fan favorite in his ninth NFL season.
The Packers' regular-season opener against Atlanta will mark the gentle giant's 100th NFL game, spanning nine seasons with the Packers.
Although Brown only played about 25 percent of the snaps in 2001, starting 11 of the 18 games during the season at nose tackle, he managed to close out the season with 33 tackles, 25 of them solo.
Despite the collective efforts of the defensive line during the morning's 2-minute drills, the offense displayed shining moments with their ground attack. An encouraging run from rookie Tony Fisher, acquired from free agency in April 2002, received congratulatory applause from teammates, followed by an enthusiastic "Thataway, Fisher," from GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman.
The last stage of 2-minute drills was wrapped up with a highlight-reel interception by safety and third-round draft pick Marques Anderson, who snagged a pass off of rookie quarterback and fifth-round draft pick Craig Nall before sprinting down the sideline untouched.
Green Bay's veteran receivers also looked encouraging during the many reps they received during the afternoon practice, with the north end zone serving as the stomping grounds for multiple 'touchdown' catches by Donald Driver and Charles Lee.
The afternoon practice continued to emphasize special teams, placing cornerback Hurley Tarver and running back Herbert Goodman under the microscope for 'tryouts' in the role of return man. Both provided reasons for their placement amongst the final 53-man roster by showing their ability to provide help on special teams.
Those who attended afternoon practice saw the results of a morning injury to center Mike Flanagan, who arrived clad in a cast covering his right hand and forearm. Flanagan broke his right thumb during the morning's routine one-on-one blocking drills.
Flanagan will attempt to snap with his left hand starting Monday, and the Packers will utilize veteran of 15 years Frank Winters as his replacement in the meantime.
"We have a 16-year vet behind Mike Flanagan that started a bunch of games and helped us win a Super Bowl, so there's a lot of comfort there with Frank Winters, I guarantee you," Sherman said. "We just have to play football regardless and Frank will do a hell of a job. I'm disappointed that it happened, but I told the guys last night, injuries are part of the game and how we handle injuries will be key to us, and we're fortunate to have a veteran like Frank Winters who can step in and play."
Saturday the team has only an afternoon practice, which will run from 2:45-4:10 p.m., at Clarke Hinkle Field, weather and field conditions permitting.
-- by Sarah Sherman