Former University of Virginia standout Aaron Brooks has won a spot on the Green Bay Packers roster as the number three quarterback, and team officials believe he could develop into Brett Favre's backup next season and a long-term answer for the future.

The Packers' decision to trade backup Rick Mirer to the New York Jets last week for a future draft choice was a clear vote of confidence both for second-year quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who played on the Green Bay practice squad last year, and for Brooks, a fourth-round draft choice. Hasselbeck will open the season as number two.

Brooks, 6 feet 4, 205 pounds, has clearly impressed the Green Bay coaching staff with his powerful arm and his ability to move out of the pocket. They would like him to put on about 20 pounds, but offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis has been raving about him throughout training camp. "We think he has the chance to be a good one," Lewis said last week. "He's a great athlete and very conscientious. We're going to give him plenty of time."

Brooks, who started for Virginia the last two years, is ranked among the top five quarterbacks in all of the school's passing categories, including a school-record six career 300-yard passing games. He's more than willing to bide his time and learn the Packers' complicated offense.

"They've told me they want me to learn as much as possible," Brooks said. "The plan is not to force me in there earlier than we both expect. It's just learn the system, and learn as much as I can from Brett and then take it from there. I don't object to that at all. I'm enjoying myself, and Brett has really helped me a lot."

Brooks, a native of Newport News, was an all-around athlete at Homer L. Ferguson High School, playing quarterback and safety and also earning multiple letters in basketball and baseball. Asked if the Packers had attempted to use him at other positions the way the Pittsburgh Steelers utilized Kordell Stewart his first two years, Brooks laughed and said "we've got too many good receivers for me to even think about that. They'd probably take it as a slap in the face. But if it ever came down to that, if we had some injuries or something like that, I wouldn't object. I'd accept that role. Anything to help the team."

Brooks also has been stunned at the passion Packers fans have for the beloved green and gold, even fourth-round draft picks.

"It is a major culture shock," he said. "They say there are two seasons around here -- football season and winter. It's just overwhelming. The whole state is behind this team, and it's a great atmosphere to be around. I really enjoy that part of it."

Meanwhile, the Packers also are taking a close look at Matt Snider, a rookie fullback from the University of Richmond who has had an outstanding training camp. He's the backup fullback and is expected to make the final roster. Snider was signed as an undrafted free agent by Carolina after starting for the Spiders the last two years. Carolina released him on June 21, and the Packers plucked him off the waiver wires.

LT's Good Behavior

Lawrence Taylor astounded Hall of Fame officials in Canton, Ohio, two weeks ago by playing seven rounds of golf over the five days he was in town for his induction, and not missing a single appearance at various functions he was required to attend. . . .

Denver's Shannon Sharpe, the most loquacious tight end in NFL history, has taken a vow of silence with the media after he was quoted as being vehemently opposed to his team's preseason opener in Australia. Sharpe's older brother, Sterling, had a no-talk policy virtually his entire career with the Packers and now won't shut up as an ESPN announcer. Denver reporters believe there's no way Shannon can keep still and expect him to be chatting away by the regular season opener. . . .

Look for veteran Buffalo back Thurman Thomas to regain his starting job. Starter Antowain Smith has had groin problems all during camp and Thomas will have a chance to add to his totals as the team's all-time leading rusher.