<
>

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

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."