Underwood Showing He Belongs

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Give him a chance, and Marviel Underwood usually finds a way to get noticed.

The second-year safety out of San Diego State has been working with the No. 1 defense throughout training camp with free-agent acquisition and projected starter Marquand Manuel nursing a calf injury.

While there's no expectation Underwood will take the starting job, and every belief Manuel could return any day, the 2005 fourth-round draft pick is using these practices to prove he belongs on the field in some capacity.

Earlier this week, Underwood intercepted a Brett Favre pass and shortly afterward deflected another throw to prevent a touchdown pass.

"It's a good opportunity for me to show what I can do," Underwood said. "My partner is out right now, but I'm just working hard, trying to be seen."

That's the same approach he took last year as a rookie, when he quickly made an impact on special teams and led the team in special teams tackles with 23. He eventually worked his way into the "dime" defense as the sixth defensive back, and in the season finale against Seattle he forced the only fumble lost by NFL MVP Shaun Alexander all season.

The Packers hope his growth as a young player will produce more of those impact plays. Now in his second training camp, Underwood feels light years ahead of where he was at this time last year, when he and fellow rookie safety Nick Collins were just trying to keep pace.

"Last year everything was going fast," Underwood said. "There was a lot of pressure on me and Nick, both rookies. They were throwing the defense at us. Coming out of college you're not used to that.

"Now I feel like I know the defense in and out, I'm used to studying it, going over it in OTAs, coming in every day and getting a head start on everything. It makes it so much easier."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy often talks about the progression of good, young players being a natural process. For Underwood, the chance to fill in for Manuel with the No. 1 defense has accelerated the learning curve a bit.

"I thought he showed up, particularly the last two padded practices," McCarthy said. "For all the young guys it's a great opportunity. That's why we went the direction we did at the safety position, because the young guys, we want to get a good look at them and we're excited about their potential."

Experience has allowed Underwood to relax and feel more comfortable on the field, and though he knows big plays are expected from his position, he views a safety's leadership role as equally important.

"Anytime you can get a turnover or stop a touchdown from happening, that's always a big plus -- everybody can see that," he said. "But on top of that, just making the calls. That's the biggest thing for a safety, to get everybody aligned in the right position."

That knowledge should get Underwood a position on Sundays, whatever that may be.

"I always want to be a starter, that's how I work," he said. "But you can't get everything you want, so I'm going to try to do whatever I can to get on the field any kind of way."

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