Work in Sports
Green Bay Packers
Favre, Freeman returning to All-Pro form key to hopes
The Green Bay Packers opened their training camp at St. Norbert College in DePere, Wis., on July 18. Here are a few questions from Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z, followed by CNNSI.com's perspective on some of the issues facing the Packers this season. SI's season preview will post Aug. 23.
Dr. Z wants to know:
1.) Who is Mike Sherman?
2.) If you answered, "The New Coach," I'd have to grade you A-plus, but the question remains.
3.) Am I wrong or did people say the same thing about Vince Lombardi when he first came up?
4.) O.K., you want to know about the Xs and Os and little hollow squares, and I don't blame you. But first, tell me if Brett Favre's collapse last season, after his brilliant start, was due solely to the thumb injury, or did he miss Mike Holmgren's tutelage?
5.) Lots of turnovers last year, lots of penalties -- sounds like a discipline problem, doesn't it? Can Sherman turn all that around in one season?
The Packers can make the playoffs if ... Brett Favre doesn't take it upon himself to shoulder the team's postseason hopes. Favre threw more interceptions (23) than touchdown passes (22) last season, and many of the INTs came because his gunslinger mentality won out. Antonio Freeman and Dorsey Levens remain at the top of the go-to list, and Favre should rely on their fancy footwork instead of trying to thread an impregnable needle.
Pivotal games: The Packers wrap up their season with four NFC Central matchups: Dec. 3 at Chicago, Dec. 10 vs. Detroit, Dec. 17 at Minnesota and Dec. 24 vs. Tampa Bay. Throwback-fans should love three-fourths of that scenario -- football, played in the cold of winter, on grass. If the Packers can make hay through the first 13 weeks, imagine the festive reception awaiting the Bucs on Christmas Eve.
On the hot seat: After back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons, Antonio Freeman signed (at the time) the largest contract for a receiver. To celebrate, he stumbled through a trying 1999 with just six touchdowns (after totaling 26 the previous two seasons). If first-year coach Mike Sherman's offense is to flourish, Freeman must regain the All-Pro form of recent memory. A return to the "true" West Coast offense may be just the ticket.
Up-and-comers: As general manager Ron Wolf and now three coaches in as many years have found out the hard way, 6-foot-1 cornerbacks do not become superstars in the NFC Central. With that in mind, Antuan Edwards (the team's No. 1 draft pick in 1999) has been moved to safety. He'll compete against strong safety LeRoy Butler, who's entering his 11th season, and free safety Darren Sharper, a fourth-year player who has not lived up to expectations. The Packers' brass is likely to give Edwards every opportunity to earn a starter's job somewhere in the secondary.