GREEN BAY, Wis. -- All season, Craig Newsome could do nothing but rehab his knee and watch from the sideline. Then came the Super Bowl, and he watched some more as the Green Bay Packers were upset by the Denver Broncos.
Sure, he was devastated, just like his teammates who hadn't bothered to consider the possibility of defeat. But Newsome knew something else: His lost season had finally ended.
"I mean, once that game was over, I was like, hey, now it's time to just really bust my tail and rehab and work out and just do whatever it's going to take to get back out there on the field," Newsome said. "And just be the same person that I was a year ago."
The hardest part for Newsome wasn't the grueling hours in the training room, working his reconstructed knee so hard it felt as if it would explode any minute.
"It was the standing on the sideline watching those guys out there playing," Newsome said. "And knowing I could be out there helping them win."
Harder still was watching the Super Bowl, a 31-24 victory by Denver that denied Green Bay a second straight championship.
"That was the worst," he said.
But Newsome is trying to forget that night in San Diego. Just like he's trying to wipe away his lost season.
A notoriously hard worker, Newsome, if he had his way, would be practicing every minute of every practice at training camp.
But coach Mike Holmgren cannot ignore the image of his best cornerback's left knee being shredded on the first play of the first game last year.
So, he's limited Newsome to one practice a day during two-a-days. That's about all the receivers can take.
"He'll still put a good lick on you," receiver Antonio Freeman said. "A bone-jarring hit. And he'll be smiling."
That's the only way Newsome said he can play the game.
"I go all out," he said. "I don't care if we got on shorts, I'm going to go all out. Just like you said, I like to hit. It's just something that I missed last year."
With Newsome returning to left cornerback, Tyrone Williams returns to his natural side at right corner, taking over for Doug Evans, who signed with Carolina.
With free safety Eugene Robinson also gone, the secondary is Green Bay's biggest question mark, although five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Terry McDaniel was added this week.
"We can be just as good or even better," Newsome insisted.
The Packers certainly foresee Newsome being as good as ever.
"We expect Craig Newsome to come back and pick up where he was last year at this time. We thought he was on the verge of having a Pro Bowl year," general manager Ron Wolf said. "He has gotten himself in excellent physical condition."
Newsome said all the rehab and the year away from contact has left his body refreshed.
"All-Pro, Pro Bowl, those are my goals still," he said. "And my No. 1 goal is to try to help us get back to the top and win it this time."
Newsome was counting on a Pro Bowl year in 1997 after a superb second season in which he allowed just three touchdowns, was never flagged for pass interference or illegal contact and was regarded as one of the game's hardest hitters.
That all changed in the opener when he heard a gruesome pop on his first snap as he tried to match Chicago's Ricky Proehl stride for stride. His anterior cruciate ligament was severed.
"You know, I've been planting on this leg 90,000 times, and just that one time I planted and it just popped on me," Newsome said. "It was just a freak thing that happened, and it could have happened to anybody. But it happened to me. I went through it all and now I'm back."
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