Packers throw both starting guard spots up for grabs
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that the team is rotating three players – Daryn Colledge, Jason Spitz and Junius Coston – at both guard spots in practice this week and will wait until the end of the week to decide who will start against Minnesota on Sunday.
It’s an odd situation for the Packers, as most contending teams have figured out their starting offensive line by the end of training camp.
“It’s not ideal,” McCarthy said. “You’d like to think that you’re beyond that at this point in the season, but that’s where we are. The productivity and performance level of that position needs to improve. We’re going to give the three guys an opportunity and see where we are at the end of the week.”
Coston took snaps at guard on Wednesday despite a lingering ankle injury. McCarthy said rookie Allen Barbre also was in the rotation at guard in practice, but isn’t getting as many repetitions in practice as the other three players.
Second-year player Tony Moll started the past three games at right guard, but was limited in practice with a nagging neck injury and wasn’t part of the regular rotation.
Spitz said players didn’t have a problem with an open competition for starting spots so late into the season.
“We’re just trying to get better as a unit,” Spitz said. “It’s always competitive. You can never relax. Obviously, it’s a highly competitive profession. We don’t take offense to it or (anything). It is what it is.”
SAFETY DANCE: With Packers starting free safety Nick Collins out indefinitely with a knee injury, rookie Aaron Rouse will likely start on Sunday.
Rouse, a third-round draft pick out of Virginia Tech, said he wasn’t nervous about starting.
“It’s all confidence,” Rouse said. “Going into our ninth game of the season and my first career start as an NFL player, of course I’m excited, but I’m more focused. I’m looking forward to going out there with my team and making sure we come out with a victory.”
Rouse was limited in practice on Wednesday with a shoulder injury, but said it wasn’t serious.
Rouse has good size for a safety – 6-4, 223 lbs. – and hits hard, but McCarthy said the rookie will need to communicate with the rest of the Packers’ defensive players on Sunday to make sure he’s in the right place at the right time.
“He needs to make sure the communication is clear, that he’s vocal and that we’re lined up and ready to go,” McCarthy said.
Charlie Peprah and cornerback Tramon Williams will likely back up Rouse and Atari Bigby at safety on Sunday.
SHARPER IMAGE: Although Brett Favre has beaten two straight opponents with deep passes late in the game, Minnesota safety Darren Sharper said he hopes Favre tries to go deep again on Sunday.
“I can’t remember him playing any better than he’s playing right now,” said Sharper, a former Packer. “Just some of the throws he’s making, I hope he tries that against us. Those 50-yard balls over the middle of the field – we’ll see how much success he has.”
Favre claimed he was hunting earlier this week and hadn’t read Sharper’s comments, but didn’t seem to think it was particularly noteworthy that a defensive back said he wants a chance at an interception.
“Last I checked, that’s his job,” Favre said.
NOTES: As part of its midseason all-pro team awards, Pro Football Weekly magazine named McCarthy its coach of the year. “It’s a good magazine,” McCarthy quipped. ... Packers left tackle Chad Clifton sat out Wednesday’s practice to rest a sore knee. LB Tracy White (ankle) and DT Justin Harrrell (ankle) also did not participate in practice on Wednesday. ... Among those limited by injuries in practice on Wednesday were Coston, Moll, Rouse, DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (illness), RB Ryan Grant (concussion), CB Al Harris (back), WR Ruvell Martin (back), DT Ryan Pickett (knee), LB Brady Poppinga (shoulder), DT Corey Williams (knee) and CB Charles Woodson (foot). ... Collins, TE Bubba Franks (knee) and CB Will Blackmon (foot) have been ruled out for Sunday’s game.