Unable to sleep Friday night and unable to enjoy his day off Saturday, Will Whitticker came to Lambeau Field Sunday morning intent on self-improvement and self-flagellation.

The Green Bay Packers rookie seventh-round pick accomplished both when he watched the game film from Friday night's 27-3 loss to the New England Patriots.

In a game in which he could have locked up the starting right guard job with a solid showing, Whitticker watched himself allow Pro Bowl defensive tackle Richard Seymour a free shot on quarterback Brett Favre on a stunt, then saw himself fail to sustain several blocks in the run game.

"That's just not me, to play that bad," Whitticker said after practice Sunday afternoon. "It was a bad, bad performance. The pressure was on me, and I absolutely failed. But you have to come back and bounce back."

After a solid camp and two good games before Friday night's letdown, the Packers apparently expect him to do just that. While Whitticker still hasn't been named the starter, the team released his primary competition - veteran Matt O'Dwyer - on Sunday, as well as No.3 right guard Atlas Herrion.

Those moves sent a clear message that it's the kid's job to lose entering Thursday night's preseason finale at Tennessee.

"That tells me that this coaching staff has faith in me. They feel as if I can go in and do the job," Whitticker said. "(But) I don't want to be named the starter until I'm able to prove I can be the starter."

Whitticker probably should be cut some slack given the way he negated a Pro Bowl defensive tackle last week (Buffalo's Sam Adams) and Seymour has made plenty of guards look bad. But with two Pro Bowl tackles in the NFC North - Minnesota's Kevin Williams and Detroit's Shaun Rogers - Whitticker said he must be held to a high standard.

"Every week I'm going to be going against Pro Bowlers," he said. "It's time for me to get better and step my level up to where they play."

While Whitticker was intent on beating himself up, general manager Ted Thompson said wasn't worried about the way Whitticker played Friday night. O'Dwyer's release was hardly a surprise after he didn't play against the Patriots, but if the Packers were concerned about Whitticker, they could have kept O'Dwyer for another week as insurance.

But Thompson deemed that unnecessary and wanted to give O'Dwyer, an 11th-year veteran, a chance to catch on with another team.

"That was a pretty good team we were playing, and rookies are going to have their (bad) days," Thompson said. "We're not concerned with him."

In practice Sunday, veteran Adrian Klemm and Whitticker got slightly more snaps with the No.1 offense than Scott Wells, who remains in competition with Klemm for the left guard spot, and Grey Ruegamer, who worked at right guard for the first time in camp.

Ruegamer, who started 11 games at center last season, had worked at center and left guard until Sunday, and Packers coach Mike Sherman called him the interior line's "jack-of-all-trades."

Although he had said he wanted to set the guards after the second preseason game, Sherman said he has no problem letting the competition continue.

"I want guys competing to the bitter end," Sherman said. "You can figure it out, certain guys (Klemm and Whitticker) have gotten more reps than others. But, we're going to keep the competition open until the end of this thing."

The Packers still have the option of moving right tackle Mark Tauscher inside to right guard and starting Kevin Barry at right tackle, but offensive line coach Larry Beightol has said repeatedly he doesn't want to make such a move because it would weaken the offense's popular U-71 formation, in which Barry enters the game as a blocking tight end.

Until then, Beightol said Whitticker and Klemm will get every chance to earn their jobs. But they must earn them.

"You can't win the job by default. You've got to win the job with your play on the field," Beightol said. "We're making some progress, but we're just not there yet."


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