First-round pick Sherrod opens with first-team o-line

The Sports Xchange
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The learning curve is being accelerated for Derek Sherrod, the team's first-round pick (No. 32 overall) in the April draft.

With no rookie orientation camp, organized team activities and minicamp to fall back on after all of those were wiped out by the lockout, Sherrod will be relying on sheer ability and a high intellect at the start of training camp as he runs with the starting unit. Sherrod, a natural left tackle, had the No. 1 gig at left guard for the first two practices Saturday and Sunday.

"We thought we'd give him a chance," head coach Mike McCarthy said.

The early vote of confidence in Sherrod is telling as the Packers set out to find a successor for Daryn Colledge. The sixth-year veteran, who logged 83 starts in Green Bay, signed a five-year, $28 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent.

The Packers presumably took the 6-foot-5, 321-pound Sherrod to be 35-year-old Chad Clifton's heir at left tackle, but Sherrod's run-blocking prowess at Mississippi State should serve him well as he auditions inside in camp with Clifton still going strong. Sherrod will be up against T.J. Lang and possibly second-year Nick McDonald for the job.

Sherrod, who excelled in the classroom in college with a 3.5 grade-point average, hasn't been overwhelmed by the playbook after reporting to camp on time. He signed a four-year, $6.6 million deal with guarantees amounting to $5.3 million.

"Just looking at the playbook, I feel very confident in myself and feel confident in my teammates knowing that each one of us depends on each other," said Sherrod, who committed a false-start penalty and was promptly pulled off the line in Saturday's practice.

--Ryan Grant will turn 29 in December, but the fifth-year running back feels as though he turned back the hands of time after missing all but one game in the Packers' Super Bowl XLV-winning season.

"I probably gained a year back on my career just because of the wear and tear over the years," said Grant, who suffered a season-ending torn ligament in his right ankle in the Sept. 12 opener at Philadelphia.

Grant had surgery and felt he was back to being good again by the end of the season.

The team's medical staff didn't place any limitations on Grant for the start of camp, and he cut it loose with a few long runs down the field after plays ended in the first practice.

"This is the best my body has felt in a long time - no soreness, no tendinitis, nothing going on. I'm just ready to get back out there," Grant said.

Not being an on-field contributor to the Packers' march to the league title last season is added incentive for Grant as he battles young upstart James Starks for the lead role at halfback.

"Starks has done something I haven't done," Grant said with a knowing smile, alluding to the then-rookie's appearance in the Super Bowl.

--Fifth-year kicker Mason Crosby cashed in as a free agent for the first time, signing a five-year, $14.75 million contract with $3 million guaranteed to stay with the Packers.

Crosby, though, isn't allowed to practice with the team in camp until Aug. 4, the first day of the league year under the new collective-bargaining agreement. Until then, Crosby is kicking on his own at the football field at nearby St. Norbert College, which houses the Packers players the first few weeks of camp.

Green Bay doesn't have another kicker on the roster, so McCarthy and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum gave lone punter Tim Masthay a shot to kick field goals in Saturday's practice. Masthay, who holds on kicks for Crosby, made three of four attempts from 38 yards with rookie receiver/returner Randall Cobb as the holder.

McCarthy said the club will go without competition for Crosby and Masthay in camp. Barring a change before the Sept. 8 league opener against the New Orleans Saints, the Packers will have the same kicker and punter in consecutive seasons for the first time since Ryan Longwell and Josh Bidwell were a tandem from 2000-03.

"We like our specialists," McCarthy said. "That's why we've gone with the approach of not bringing anybody else into camp as far as another punter, another kicker, another snapper."

Fourth-year Brett Goode is the long snapper.

--Although the new CBA eliminates two-a-day practices in camp, McCarthy had already mapped out his schedule in having one practice a day this summer. When the players reported for the first official day of camp Friday, they received better news with a schedule that is chock full of evening practices - a total of 14 in the first 19 days.

The daytime hours are devoted to lifting in the weight room, classroom study and a walk-through in the Lambeau Field gymnasium.

"It's definitely a player's schedule," veteran safety Charlie Peprah said. "It's looking out for our health, and hopefully, we can turn that around and use it to our advantage."

--Practically a full day of team activities in camp with breaks worked in throughout means McCarthy will be operating on little sleep the next several weeks. His wife, Jessica, gave birth to the couple's second child - daughter Isabella - on the eve of camp late Thursday night.

McCarthy acknowledged before the first practice Saturday that the flurry of football-related activity in the first week after the lockout was lifted coupled with the newborn has been overwhelming.

"Professionally, it's been hectic for everybody in the league. Just to have everything come at you so fast has been a challenge," McCarthy said. "Personally, there's nothing like (having a baby). I don't want to start crying (at the podium) ... (but a) long night. (I) need some sleep. Emotional, but it's been awesome."

QUOTE TO NOTE
"Dang! It's bigger than my Bible." -- Rookie cornerback Davon House, on first impressions of the team's playbook.

Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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