Sherman: 'When Javon gets here, we'll work with him'

Updated: July 27, 2005, 9:54 AM ET
Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No longer being general manager of the Green Bay Packers means coach Mike Sherman doesn't have to fret over expected holdouts anymore.

That's now Ted Thompson's job.

So, Sherman, who was bogged down by Mike McKenzie's protracted holdout last summer, insisted Tuesday in his first news conference of training camp that he's not worried about those players who are expected to be absent for roll call this week.

Chief among them is wide receiver Javon Walker but the list includes tight end Bubba Franks and possibly defensive linemen Grady Jackson and Cletidus Hunt.

"Obviously those are guys that are on the team and [we] want them back. But the guys that we really have to focus on right now are the guys that are here," Sherman said. "We have a lot of good guys that I'm anxious to work with.

"And when Javon gets here, we'll work with him and be excited about that."

Walker has two years left on his contract that calls for him to make $515,000 this season, and the Packers have refused agent Drew Rosenhaus's request for a hefty pay raise or a trade.

Rosenhaus, hired in the offseason after a breakout year in which Walker made his first Pro Bowl, said it makes no sense for a premier player to risk injury for a half-million dollars, so Walker will stay away.

When team president Bob Harlan stripped Sherman of his GM duties in January, he cited Sherman's worry over McKenzie's nasty holdout last summer as a big reason.

Sherman isn't about to let Walker's absence bog him down, and he insisted his team wouldn't, either.

"Distractions really have not been a problem for us," Sherman said. "... and I think it's a credit to the strength of our core leaders on this team. I just can't say enough about that core group of guys that I really, really trust."

That nucleus, Sherman said, includes quarterback Brett Favre, fullback William Henderson, running back Ahman Green, cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Na'il Diggs, among others.

Walker used to be in that circle of trust. Sherman drafted him in the first round in 2002, his first year out of Ron Wolf's shadow, and stuck with him through 1½ seasons of uneven play to help nurture him into one of the NFL's best deep threats.

But Sherman declined to say if Walker's actions stung him personally, repeating his intention of dwelling only on those players who will be reporting on time.

"The guys that are here are my focus, not the guys that aren't," Sherman said. "And that's the biggest difference between last year and this."

Now, it's Thompson's job to worry about holdouts, and he has declined to publicly discuss them.

Rosenhaus also represents Jackson, who could go AWOL just six weeks after criticizing Hunt for skipping all the team's offseason workouts. Jackson hired Rosenhaus to help him redo the final year of his two-year, $2.31 million deal. In May, the Packers advanced Jackson $65,000 of his $665,000 base pay for 2005.

Franks isn't happy that the Packers essentially kept him off the unrestricted free agent market by designating him a transition player in February. His agent, Gene Mato, and the Packers haven't been able to agree on a long-term contract.

Thompson didn't offer Sherman an extension, either, so the coach is heading into a lame duck year that could start with the absence of several key contributors who were expected to ease the free agent losses of Marco Rivera, Mike Wahle and Darren Sharper.

Again, no worries from the coach.

"I think every year in the National Football League you're in a one-year contract," Sherman said, "and you go out and prove yourself every year."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press