Still, two of the Pack's QBs may not have long to reminisce
This is the fourth in a series of postcards Sports Illustrated's Peter King will e-mail from his annual NFL training camp tour.
Wednesday, July 25
Team: Green Bay Packers
Site: The Packers' practice facility at Lambeau Field and across Oneida Avenue at the Don Hutson Center. Football Americana at its best, but it won't be its bucolic self for the next two years. Construction on the stadium and office renovation is going full speed, racing against the clock to be ready for the 2003 season. Cranes everywhere. I'll just say this: If you've been saying to yourself that you have to make a pilgrimage to Lambeau sometime before journeying to that great gridiron in the sky, I'd wait a couple of years, unless you want to park very far away and get lots of construction dust on you. The artist's rendering of the "new" stadium looks nice. If you've already been here, picture a huge atrium that will house club offices and the Packers Hall of Fame and restaurants adjoining the stadium on the Oneida Avenue side.
Five observations from practice that you just can't get anywhere else:
1. In the past five years, I've watched some pretty good young quarterbacks develop behind Brett Favre here at Packers camp, most notably Matt Hasselbeck and Aaron Brooks. With Billy Joe Tolliver slated to backup Favre this season -- and that is not set in stone, believe me -- there's no quarterback of the future here.
CFL refugee Henry Burriss, likely to be No. 3 on the depth chart, showed a nice arm in the rookies-and-selected-veterans practice Wednesday, but look for Green Bay to use a pick in one of the first three rounds next April on a possible heir to Favre.
2. On successive plays Wednesday afternoon, second-round pick Robert Ferguson dove and lunged for Doug Pederson throws, catching both. Ferguson looks like a keeper, and this team badly needs him.
3. The vets aren't in yet, but there is a black cloud over Anotnio Freeman, suspended last year for the final game of the season for unspecified disciplinary reasons. He'll have to be squeaky clean to win his way back into Mike Sherman's heart -- and playbook.
4. Ahman Green got a great deal. Good for the Packers, too. He will be a very good back in this league for years.
5. Nice burst made in practice by Jamal Reynolds, the smallish first-round pass-rusher who was signed just this morning. Can't tell much, though, in shorts and T-shirts.
Opinion/factoid that might be interesting only to me: Channel 12 in Milwaukee reported Green "and general manager Ron Wolf" agreed to a four-year contract Tuesday. That would interest the retired Wolf, who these days is learning to pilot his boat on the Chesapeake while checking the minor-league Bowie Baysox schedule to see when he'll make another trip to watch his new favorite team.
The food: I don't mean to intimidate with my food reviews, but evidently I'm getting a bit of a reputation as the Galloping Gourmet With a Nasty Streak. "I'm a little scared," said Susan Broberg, the administrative assistant charged with putting out the spread for coaches, rookies, selected vets and the media at lunch on Wednesday. "I hear you're going to review our food."
Rest easy, Sue. You done good.
I'm not a gazpacho fan, but the cold soup was good. Very natural and tomato-ey. I'll give it an A-minus.
Terrific cold prime rib sandwich on a multigrain roll. Lean, medium-well, delicious. A no-doubt, straight A.
Green salad. Bottled water. And a homemade oatmeal raisin cookie. It'll take a lot to beat this meal, a perfect lunch.
Overall grade: A
Dear NFL Junkie ...
Billy Joe Tolliver is here. Hide the razors.
I met with Tolliver for a few minutes after practice this afternoon, and all I can say is that he's the closest thing to Billy Kilmer in this generation. He has six-day reddish stubble all over his face, a receding and messy hairline, and spits ceaselessly. There's no way to predict how long he'll stay, but the Packers signed him thinking either he or Pederson will be their backup quarterback.
Tolliver and Favre were together in Atlanta 10 years ago -- it was Favre's rookie season -- so I asked Tolliver what he remembers about that time. Aside from the bars in Buckhead.
"We're playing the Redskins and [offensive coordinator] June Jones decides to put Favre in the game," recalls Tolliver. "Well, his first play is a five- to seven-yard shallow cross to Mike Haynes, and he throws it about 100 miles an hour. Just goes right through Mike. I think Kurt Gouveia intercepted it and ran it in for a touchdown. Well, we go to the sidelines and Brett yells, 'Mike! Mike!' Finally he gets Haynes' attention. And Brett says to him, 'Mike, you learn to catch that ball, and I'll make you famous!'
"I hear that, and I say to June, 'The kid's got a chance.'"
After he signed with the Packers, Tolliver spoke to Favre on the phone. The first words out of Favre's mouth: "Bring your golf clubs up to Green Bay."
"Are you crazy?" Tolliver asked. "I ain't the one who just signed a contract for $100 million."
If Tolliver makes the team, it's going to be fun around the Packers this year.
And yes, on the way up from Bears camp in Platteville, I did manage a side trip to see Miller Park and its reeling denizens, the Brewers. Nice place. I have now seen all the new ballparks except Enron, and I rank them thusly:
1. PacBell. The sights, the sounds, the bay, the food, the kids' Wiffle ball field in left field ... state of the art.
2. Coors. It's an unfair advantage to be able to see the Rockies over the centerfield fence. The game's a debacle there, though.
3. (tie) Camden Yards. The game is what's most important there, not the bells and whistles. Great baseball feel.
Safeco. It's almost bright inside when the roof comes overhead. And it has the best name of a food stand in the business: The Japanese place behind home plate is called Intentional Wok.
5. PNC. I absolutely love the shallow row of outfield seats, making the Todd Helton homer into the Allegheny that I saw a thing of majesty.
6. Jacobs. The great, loyal fans who watch the action instead of planning their next Dippin' Dots run make every game in this comfy park a happening.
7. (tie) BankOne. Nice place, but a little airplane-hangerish.
Miller. Lots of seats very close to the field, which is a major plus. Wide variety of food, but the pork barbeque sandwich is six parts bun, one part meat.
9. Turner. Worlds better than the old dump, but strangely cold.
10. Comerica. I miss the smell of grass, brown mustard and stale beer at Tiger Stadium. A good place, but a bit impersonal.
11. Ballpark/Arlington. Improvement over the old minor league place, but still too hot, too monstrous for my taste.
12. Edison. Um, why the phony rocks?
DON'T LIKE THEM
13. Pro Player. Football, anyone?
14. Comiskey. Cheap, tawdry, no baseball feel. I'll take the better food and legroom-less seats of the old Comiskey any day.
15. Tropicana. Great idea! Let's build a dreary dome down near the equator with lousy air conditioning! Dynamite would help.
Next up: Cleveland Browns
Check back soon for more of Peter King's Postcards from Camp.