Packers' Beebe counted out for tomorrow Hamstring injury puts veteran on IR

Freeman expected to be full strength

January 24, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren's offensive picture looked clearer yesterday as he made final preparations for the Packers' attempt to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Wide receiver Antonio Freeman, who attended Thursday's practice as an observer while battling the flu, worked out yesterday and is expected to be at full strength for tomorrow's kickoff.

Holmgren also added receiver Ronnie Anderson from the team's practice squad to replace nine-year veteran Don Beebe, whom Holmgren placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

Beebe, primarily a kickoff return man during the regular season, did not perform during the playoffs after injuring the hamstring during the team's final regular-season game. He will not be able to play in what would have been his sixth Super Bowl. He lost four straight Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills before winning his first one after coming to the Packers as a free agent in 1996.

"While [Beebe] desperately wanted to be in this ballgame, as you might imagine, it was a very difficult decision we had to make, but we had to do it," Holmgren said. "What I couldn't have happen is, [Beebe] is active, he runs a few routes, the hamstring tightens up, and all of a sudden we're down to three receivers. He understood that."

Beebe had said at Thursday's media session that he felt "100 percent" healthy.

"I never talked to player that really wanted to play in a big game that didn't tell me he was a hundred percent," Holmgren said. "Don would never intentionally mislead me. But it's one of those tough coaching decisions we had to make."

Holmgren's long road

Holmgren thought back to his early coaching days in San Francisco -- where he taught high school history -- as he put the league's new $17.6 billion TV deal in perspective.

"It's an amazing thing to me. Keep in mind, my background. From Sacred Heart and Oak Grove High School, we made baloney sandwiches for our team during double days [two-a-day practices], to where we are now, it's mind-boggling.

"We understand we're in the entertainment business, and what it means to the players and coaches is, I think, [the new deal] will elevate everybody, salary-wise, and in every way."

The massive infusion of TV revenue could push the salary cap about $13 million above last year's limit of $41.45 million. That added cap room will make it easier for the Packers to retain a host of free agents, beginning with running backs Dorsey Levens and Edgar Bennett, who missed the season with an Achilles' tendon injury.

"If Edgar had not been hurt this year, they both would have played, they both would have done well. I suspect we would have still gotten here," Holmgren said. "We would like to have both of them back, and we've made that clear to both players. We're going to try real hard to keep them both, but you know as well as I do that is difficult."

Not news to him

Football coaches by nature become so consumed by their professions that they lose track of events in the real world.

Remember back in 1987, during the height of the Iran-Contra scandal, when former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs asked a reporter who Oliver North was?

Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who is busy preparing his team for the biggest game of his career, was asked if he had time to follow the hot, off-the-field news of the week, namely the pope's visit to Cuba and the latest scandal engulfing President Clinton.

"I have been aware of it," Shanahan said. "I was able to see a few of those things with the president and the pope going through some of the TV channels in my [hotel] room. I guess I'm supposed to say that I'm isolated and don't know anything about but I do read a little bit."

David vs. Goliath

While much has been made of Denver's offensive line, especially the rarity of a front without a 300-pound player in this age of behemoths, Broncos right tackle Tony Jones has taken notice of Green Bay's bigger defensive front four.

Ends Reggie White and Gabe Wilkins and tackles Santana Dotson and Gilbert Brown average 307 pounds, nearly 20 pounds more than the Broncos.

"We're trying to eat a couple of steaks this week and put on a couple of pounds," Jones said. "Their size and their physical play are going to be a problem. We have to go out and use our quickness. We have the endurance to go for 60 minutes. We play physical, despite our size. We don't make mistakes."

Jones will face one of the bigger challenges of his 10-year career against White, a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

"I have to watch out for that club [forearm shiver] he uses," Jones said. "I'm ready to sacrifice my body. I'll have plenty of time to heal after the game is over."

Nothing to kick about

Talk about unlikely journeys. When the Packers claimed rookie kicker Ryan Longwell off waivers from San Francisco last summer, they wanted to give rookie Brett Conway some competition. Mainly, they wanted to avoid overworking their third-round draft pick out of Penn State.

Then, after Longwell's superb preseason and a quadriceps injury landed Conway on the injured reserve list for the year, Longwell suddenly became a valuable commodity -- a No. 1 kicker.

Outside of a missed chip-shot field goal in an early loss to Philadelphia, Longwell has made the Packers look pretty smart. He made 24 of 30 field-goal attempts and all 48 of his extra-point tries to finish with 120 points during the regular season. And, after hitting five of six field-goal attempts in two postseason games, his confidence is riding high.

"That Philly kick was my first game-winner, and it wasn't a choke job or a shank. I slipped, fell and missed wide right," said Longwell, whose plant foot gave out on the wet turf at Veterans Stadium.

"I had made my 12 previous kicks, and it wasn't a time to panic. I came out the next week and made all three of my [field-goal attempts]. It's been a dream season for me."

Pub Date: 1/24/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.