Antonio Freeman wasn't ready for retirement. He ran every day, ate right, lifted weights, caught passes from friends and waited all through training camp and opening weekend for the right team and the right time.
Freeman, who caught 57 touchdown passes from Brett Favre between 1995-01, signed a one-year, guaranteed deal and got his old No. 86 jersey back from injured rookie Carl Ford.
``Same ol' Free,'' offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said after a closed practice. ``There are some routes he runs great. He's not going to run away from anybody. But he has some strong points and he has some weaknesses. And we're going to try to bring out the good part of him.''
Freeman is slated to start at split end Sunday against the Detroit Lions with Pro Bowl receiver Donald Driver out with a neck injury and Robert Ferguson hobbled by a sprained right ankle and knee.
Coach Mike Sherman, who banished Freeman from the season finale in 2000 after he showed up late for practice, said he is letting bygones be bygones.
The Packers released Freeman on June 3, 2002, in the middle of his seven-year, $42 million contract that included a $10 million bonus, after he refused a big pay cut. Freeman's productivity had slipped and his attitude soured after several run-ins with the law and Sherman.
Even before his arrival this week, Freeman counted $4.3 million against the team's salary cap this season. If Freeman's deal was for the veteran's minimum of $655,000, he would count another $475,000 against the Packers' cap.
The Packers lost Driver, Ferguson and backup Karsten Bailey (hamstring) in their opener Sunday. Bailey was waived Wednesday along with linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer to make room for Freeman and Chris Jackson, who could serve as the No. 3 receiver Sunday.
Before Wednesday's workout, Freeman, 31, hadn't suited up since the NFC championship game in January. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles last year, when he caught 46 passes for 600 yards and four touchdowns.
Freeman knows the West Coast offense and the Packers' playbook inside-out, but it will take some time to get back his timing with Favre.
The only problem with Thursday and Friday games are competition from the NCAA on TV, and local high school games on Friday nights. I know some places that take HS football more seriously than the NFL. Also, Thursdays are HUGE ratings for the networks.