Pack mentality

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Knocking 6-ft. 7-in. Steve Morley on his butt requires a mighty wallop.

Being drafted into the CFL first overall by the Calgary Stampeders 20 months ago admittedly sent the mammoth offensive lineman reeling ever so slightly, overwhelmed by the moment, although the fuzzy-cheeked Halifax boy remained on his feet.

But tugging a Green Bay Packers jersey over his broad shoulders, trotting onto the hallowed turf of Lambeau Field this summer, well, that pretty much provided the knockout punch to the sturdy 23-year-old.

"Putting a Packers jersey on for the first pre-season game was pretty amazing and playing in front of 70,000 people at Lambeau Field was cool," declares the 320-pounder over the phone from Green Bay's training facility.

"It's been awesome after growing up and watching it on TV all the time, to actually be in the stadium on game day with fans with their faces painted, yelling and screaming. It's just something you have to be here to believe and realize just how big it is and what goes on here.

"I was overwhelmed at the beginning but as each week goes on, I get more and more used to it and I feel right now like

I can play with anyone in this league. I feel a lot of confidence."

Morley signed with the Pack in January as part of the option-year agreement allowing CFL players to head south to cash in on their talents.

After his rookie season in 2003 in Calgary, where he won a starting job at left tackle, replacing injured Fred Childress for nine games, Morley is reaping the rewards in Green Bay despite still waiting patiently to be activated.

He reportedly netted a three-year, $1-million US deal topped off by a healthy $100,000 signing bonus. That will keep him in Packers colours through 2006, earning more than enough money to secure a nice apartment while plunking down some of that NFL cash for a spankin' new Ford Explorer.

"It's night and day, it's unbelievable," Morley attests of the financial windfall.

"I think I've made more here on my first two paycheques than I did my entire year in the CFL, so there is a huge difference there. I can't complain at all. It's pretty exciting. I can't get over it, the money difference. It's probably the biggest advantage over the CFL."

Morley played in four Packers pre-season games, twice earning the starting nod against New Orleans and Seattle. Huddling up while looking into the steely eyes of future Hall-of-Fame pivot Brett Favre underlined pocket protection as the obvious priority for the fresh-faced rookie.

"I started a couple of pre-season games and he was the quarterback and I said, 'OK, this is big.' " Morley understates.

"When I was out there, it was pretty awesome blocking for him but it's a lot of pressure, too, because of all that he's done as a quarterback. If you get a chance to block for him, it's pretty big. If you make a mistake, it gets noticed, too."

Morley has been travelling with the team as part of the

53-man roster, yet still hasn't dressed on the 47-man lineup for a regular-season tilt.

The Packers lost to Philadelphia last week, with Morley watching from the sidelines but a six-game win streak earlier this season has vaulted them into first place in the NFC North. At 7-5 and with division-rival Detroit Lions visiting Lambeau Sunday, Morley says a playoff berth remains the main objective.

Losing some 30 lb. since the start of training camp and moving from tackle to guard has impressed veteran o-line boss Larry Beightol.

"He has good quickness and feet," Beightol notes on the team website. "I think that he is going to be a really good football player for us when he gets a little more comfortable with the techniques we're teaching him, which are probably different than what he is used to."

While technique has been an adjustment, the work day also has offered a blow to Morley's system with NFL clubs demanding a full day's labour in exchange for that hefty paycheque.

"The time difference each day is huge," Morley concedes.

"In Calgary, I think it was a four-hour day. Here, you're at the stadium from seven in the morning until seven at night. It's just so much more time you put in. Meetings, film, workout, practice, meetings again and film again. It just goes all day.

"It's huge here. All our Hall-of-Fame guys have streets named after them. Everywhere you go, people are flying Packers flags. Everything is green and gold and the whole city is basically a Packers city, that's all there is."


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