Sherman addresses ‘State of the Packers’


Sherman addresses ‘State of the Packers’

Coach-GM optimistic about coming season

By RICK BRAUN Packer Plus Writer

Thursday, July 17, 2003

The economy’s not growing at a very fast rate, the stock market goes up one day, down the next and unemployment is still a bit high.

But when it comes to the Green Bay Packers, Mike Sherman likes all the leading indicators.

With the first full-squad workouts of training camp a week away, Sherman gave his annual “State of the Packers” address to team shareholders Tuesday at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

In his opening remarks, Sherman noted that he began making the address three years ago and notices his hair has much more gray than it did in his first address.

Sherman noted that in the 1960s, roster turnover was at approximately 20%, and it’s about 33% today.

As has become his custom, Sherman addressed the team overall and then broke it down position by position.

And as he wrapped up the talk that ran 53 minutes, he made a quite succinct observation about his view of football in Green Bay.

“We’ve been a good football team,” Sherman said. “I don’t want you to ever think as shareholders, or as fans, that good is good enough. It’s not good enough.

“We want to be a great football team, and I will never, ever rest until we become that. I thought we had a chance at that this past year during one part of our season and we kind of lost that. We certainly have not played a great season.

“Good teams win games. Great teams win championships. And we’re on a mission to become a great football team.”

In his earlier remarks, Sherman spoke of the new free agents, the team’s draft picks, returning players who need to improve, staff changes and players lost to free agency. He talked about areas the team needs to improve, and players who are coming back from injuries.

His most pointed remarks centered on the Packers’ dismal return game and the poor season that backup tight end David Martin had last year.

“I’ve received all the letters regarding the return game and I understand,” Sherman said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “I know you people don’t think that I know that when the ball is on the ground, that when they punt it and we don’t catch it that that’s bad. I think it’s bad, too.”

At that point, the crowd again broke into laughter, then applause. When quiet returned, Sherman continued.

“We have to block better on that team,” Sherman said. “I thought our coverage teams got better through the course of the year. The return game was pathetic. Our starting position for the offense was pathetic.

“And that’s demoralizing at times and that has to improve.

“We’ve tried real hard as a personnel staff to get guys, and if you knew how many people we’ve called to try to get players from their team to our team, it happens. We’re not just waiting for things to fall to us, we’re trying to make things happen. But sometimes they just don’t happen.

“So right now what we’re working with is (Antonio) Chatman, who was the No. 1 guy in the Arena League. . . . He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to (Allen) Rossum. He doesn’t have the speed that Rossum has, but he has great quickness.”

Sherman said the team is also looking at Brian McDonald, whom the Packers signed from NFL Europe, Robert Ferguson, Karsten Bailey, Eric Crouch and rookie draft picks Carl Ford and DeAndrew Rubin.

As for Martin, Sherman put him in with a list he handed to assistant coaches at the end of last season with the charge of improving each of them.

“Every year I give the coaches a list of players and say, ‘These players have got to get better. These players will make the difference,’ ” Sherman said. “It’s not the Brett Favre’s and the (Darren) Sharpers, it’s the other players, the players from 30 to 53 that make the difference in your team.

“Because you’re going to get injuries, someone has to step in and the job cannot be detracted just because of a new player stepping in.

“So these players right here, some of these players are younger players that have a chance to be starters or are starters and others are guys I want to develop. But this is a list of players that I give our coaches at the end of the season and I say, ‘These players have to get better.’ Whatever we’re going to do between now and our first ballgame, they have to be better tomorrow than they are today.”

Names on that list include Martin, tackle Kevin Barry, defensive end Jamal Reynolds, receivers Javon Walker, Robert Ferguson and Karsten Bailey, running back Najeh Davenport and defensive end Aaron Kampman.

His most pointed remarks concerned Martin and Reynolds.

“David Martin I thought had a disappointing season last year,” Sherman said. “He was a no-show for the most part and then I benched him and didn’t play him the rest of the year.

“In minicamps so far, he’s been outstanding. He’s been outstanding. I can’t figure out why a young man would have an opportunity in the National Football League and not show up and do his best, but he didn’t.

“But he’s figured it out so far and hopefully he’ll continue to figure that out. But he has had an outstanding — I’m not saying good, outstanding — minicamp.”

Reynolds was the Packers’ first No. 1 pick in the Sherman regime, although Ron Wolf’s retirement hadn’t yet taken effect. The 10th pick in the draft, Reynolds has done little in two seasons.

“Jamal Reynolds, a player that obviously hasn’t lived up to expectations, had an outstanding minicamp,” Sherman said. “I’ll qualify that again by what I said previously: minicamps don’t mean much until you have pads on.

“But he (did) better in the minicamp than he’d ever done in previous minicamps, so I’m encouraged by the fact that he may come and show up and help us this season.”

Sherman also assessed his draft strategy. He said this year he needed to address linebacker and defensive line, which the Packers did with first-round pick Nick Barnett at linebacker and third- and fifth-round picks Kenny Peterson and James Lee on the line.

He also revealed an interesting nugget, saying that every year he intends to draft an offensive lineman and a cornerback. That doesn’t always happen, he said, but he enters each draft with that intention.

In his opening remarks, Sherman was able to look back at the 2002 season in a more satisfying light with six months of salve after the incredibly disappointing finish.

“I thought we had an excellent season last year at 12-4, and that’s what I told our team when they came back for the first minicamp,” Sherman said. ” ‘You guys had a great season and did an excellent job.’ We were on the road to begin the season, we answered a lot of challenges with a seven-game winning streak. I thought there was a time there during that seven-game winning streak, particularly our third, fourth and fifth games, that we were starting to become a great football team.

“And then, obviously, we didn’t have an excellent post-season. We had a horrendous post-season game. It was embarrassing to me and our players.

“We did have an excellent season, but what we’re measured by is our post-season play and we didn’t do what we had to do.

“We get another chance to do it this year, and we’ve got to do it better.”

And Sherman assures he won’t rest until the Packers do just that.

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