Sherrod still waiting his turn

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Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, November 23, 2013

GREEN BAY—Don Barclay is hurting and Marshall Newhouse is failing, but the Green Bay Packers appear to have no immediate plans for Derek Sherrod to become their starting right tackle.

Eager to return from leg and ankle operations that almost ended his career, Sherrod completed his sixth week of practice Friday since being summoned from the physically unable to perform list.

Newhouse, however, will be making his second start at right tackle Sunday when the Packers meet the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.

Offensive coordinator Tom Clements was asked Thursday if it was time to play Sherrod.

“I’m not going to answer that,” he replied.

James Campen, who coaches the offensive line, declared Sherrod physically and mentally ready to play but wouldn’t say if he wanted to play him.

“I’m not answering a question like that,” said Campen. “The other guy is starting right now and we’re hoping to get Donnie back. We’ll see how it goes.”

Barclay suffered an unspecified knee injury Nov. 10 and hasn’t worked since. Based on how gingerly Barclay was walking in sweat clothes as he observed practice Friday, it’s a good bet he won’t play against Detroit on Thanksgiving, either.

Newhouse, who played just three snaps in the first seven games, has been the next man in the last three games when injuries struck T.J. Lang, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Barclay.

In 127 snaps, Newhouse has allowed three sacks, 3 knockdowns and three hurries. His pressure per snap rate of one every 13.4 is far worse than David Bakhtiari’s (one every 29.7) and Barclay’s (one every 25.6).

“(Expletive), he looked bad,” an NFC personnel director said Thursday after watching Green Bay tape. “What happened to Newhouse? He was a functional left tackle and now he can’t play right.”

Clements also wouldn’t comment when asked if he was surprised by Newhouse’s pass blocking. For his part, Campen said he was hard on Newhouse just as he has been on all his players.

“(Newhouse) improved in a couple areas last week,” said Campen. “He needs to be consistent and be confident in what he’s doing out there.

“We forget. He started 30-plus games.”

The last time Sherrod was on the field it was December 2011, the Packers were 13-0 and he was just starting to play on a rotating basis with Newhouse at right tackle.

Then came the emergency surgery in Kansas City for a broken tibia and fibula followed 14 months later by ankle surgery in Charlotte, N.C.

Sherrod, 6 feet 5 inches and 318 pounds, said Friday that his body was in far better condition than it was upon arrival as a first-round draft choice in 2011. There are no physical limitations, he said.

“All the different techniques it takes to be a great offensive lineman, I’ve been working very hard at all of that,” said Sherrod. “I feel like I am a great offensive lineman right now.”

Sherrod, who bench-pressed just 23 times at the combine, has improved his strength precipitously, according to Campen.

“I mean, he’s a strong kid,” Campen said. “He’s 100 percent assignment-sure. Based on where he’s come from to get here, it’s exciting.”

Nevertheless, the only regular-season tape of Sherrod wasn’t pretty. In 112 snaps (39 at left tackle, 73 at right tackle) two seasons ago, he allowed one sack, two knockdowns and four hurries for a pressure per snap rate of one every 16.0.

That isn’t much better than Newhouse has been protecting the past three games.

If Sherrod played this week, would the results be all right or a disaster?

“I think it’d be all right,” said guard Josh Sitton. “No.1, I think he’s healthy. He’s looked good at practice.

“I mean, he’s huge. He’s got those long arms so that makes his job easier.

“But it just takes time to come back from something like that when you haven’t played football for a year and a half. Honestly, he doesn’t have a whole lot of experience having basically two years off.”

Defensive end Mike Daniels had never seen Sherrod in pads before his first day back Oct. 16. Unfortunately for Sherrod, he has had only four or five padded practices.

“Put it like this: I have to be at the top of my game whenever I’m lined up across from him,” said Daniels. “I already knew he was going to be strong because he’s a big guy, but he’s a lot faster than I thought.

“I’m talking about getting off the ball. He’ll cut you off and reach you in the run game.

“Now, it’s practice. We’re going hard but we’re not trying to kill each other. I guess I haven’t felt him go 110 percent like in a game but I do feel he definitely has that drive to him. He’s a good, solid football player.”

Added nose tackle Ryan Pickett: “He’s starting to get his confidence back. I don’t know what their plan is, but he’s constantly getting better.”

Defensive end Jerel Worthy, who underwent reconstructive knee surgery Jan. 15 and resumed practice last week, has put in many grueling rehabilitation days alongside Sherrod.

“You could tell he’s really hungry,” said Worthy. “As far as practice goes, he moves as well as any other offensive lineman we have. Everything you’d ask him to do as an offensive lineman he virtually can do right now.”

So Sherrod plays the waiting game. It’s Mike McCarthy’s call to make, and for at least another week he has gone with Newhouse.

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