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Training Camp Report: Boger's Father Gets Official Promotion


Packers safety Tra Boger is on a tough road in training camp, trying to make the long climb from non-drafted rookie free agent to NFL player.

But if he needs any inspiration, he can always talk to his dad.

Boger's father Jerome has now worked his way to the top of his profession as a football referee. A longtime college official who spent the past two years as an NFL line judge, Jerome Boger is one of two officials promoted to referee for the 2006 season.

He and Gene Steratore will replace retired officials Bernie Kukar and Tom White this year. Though he's only been in the NFL for two years, it's been a long, steady climb for the elder Boger as a referee in Conference USA, the Arena Football League and NFL Europe.

"I always remember going to high school and college games with him since I was in elementary school," Tra Boger said. "It's something he's always had a passion for. He was a quarterback himself so it was a way for him to stay around the game."

Jerome was a four-year starter for Morehouse College in Atlanta before getting into officiating. He saw his share of up-and-coming talent as an official.

"One that really stands out, a long time ago, Shannon Sharpe was in college at Savannah State," Tra recalled. "I just remember him shredding whoever they were playing, shredding them to pieces, and I remember my dad saying, 'He's going to be good, you'll see him on Sunday,' and I did for several years."

Tra, who signed with the Packers in May as a non-drafted rookie out of Tulane, said his dad's thorough understanding of the game as an official has helped him throughout his career. The league felt Jerome was well-prepared for the NFL in part because the supervisor of Conference USA officials is NFL referee Gerald Austin, so he was getting professional training all along.

"Jerome was a guy we had been watching for a long time," said Mike Pereira, vice president of officiating. "What we are doing is looking at successful college referees, bringing them into the NFL for a minimum of two years experience at another position.

"We put him on two different crews to give him experience with different people before we gave him his crew this year. You never know when you're going to have an opening, but we had two openings this year."

If Tra makes the Packers' 53-man roster, his dad won't be allowed to referee any Green Bay games. It's the same arrangement the league has for line judge Byron Boston, father of seven-year veteran wide receiver David Boston, now with Tampa Bay.

Spitz goes down

Rookie guard Jason Spitz dropped out of practice Tuesday with what Head Coach Mike McCarthy called a bruised lower right leg. At the end of practice, Spitz was walking around under his own power with ice wrapped on his leg.

"I'm not exactly sure (what happened)," McCarthy said. "I don't know if he got kicked or rolled up on."

Spitz was replaced at right guard by Siitupe Peko.

In other injury news, receiver Greg Jennings missed practice with a sore hip/groin and is day-to-day. Safety Atari Bigby has a fractured hand and is scheduled for surgery in the next couple of days. Guard William Whitticker has been diagnosed with a hamstring injury and could be out "a while," according to McCarthy.

McCarthy noted he didn't feel the injury situation was problematic at this point, just the normal bumps and bruises a team must cope with.

"From my experience in training camp, this is kind of what you go through," he said. "You just hope they're not serious injuries. I actually feel we're in pretty good shape from a health standpoint.

"This is a period of training camp we have to fight through. We have to take these next couple days to let them get their bodies back and get ready for San Diego."

Schedule variation

For the first time in training camp, the Packers will follow a one-practice day with another single practice on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Thus far, the team has alternated between two practices and one per day, but the break Wednesday allows them to have two practices on Thursday before a jog-through on Friday in preparation for the first preseason game on Saturday.

Tentative return

Much like running back Ahman Green, linebacker Brady Poppinga says he's targeting the third preseason game at Cincinnati on Monday, Aug. 28, for his return to the field.

Poppinga practiced on a limited basis for the first time on Monday since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last December.

Between now and the Cincinnati game, Poppinga said he will work his way up to full duty gradually and heed the advice of the medical staff, even as badly as he may want to push it.

"It's going to be a collective decision," he said. "If it was my decision, I don't know if I'd be doing this. I'd probably just go, go, and go all-out. We're going to put our heads together and see how things are and when we feel it's right, we'll keep adding to the drills as time goes on. With in the next two to three weeks I'll be full-go."

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