Packers pull safety switch
GREEN BAY Walking toward his new locker in Lambeau Field, Matt Giordano had to quickly glance up at the nameplate to make sure he was in the right spot.
As of Wednesday morning, Giordano was in and Aaron Rouse was out—the latest surprise shake-up to the Green Bay Packers’ secondary. And by Sunday’s game in St. Louis, Giordano needs to be ready to play for his new team in an unfamiliar scheme.
“It’s definitely an opportunity,” said Giordano, who played the previous four seasons in Indianapolis. “But the thing that I’ve got to do right now is just retain as much information, know the defense as quickly as possible and just execute my assignment right now.”
There are few, if any, teams more solid at cornerback than the Packers. Charles Woodson, Al Harris and Tramon Williams are perhaps the best coverage trio in the league.
But safety is a different story for Green Bay. And, surprisingly, one that’s still evolving more than two weeks into the regular season.
The Packers came into 2009 with a familiar starting safety tandem, Nick Collins and Atari Bigby. But Bigby hurt his knee in Green Bay’s Week 1 victory over Chicago and is expected to miss at least a month. Then Collins sustained a chest injury in Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati, and his availability for Sunday remains unclear.
And the group backing up Bigby and Rouse has been anything but stable.
The Packers signed former Pittsburgh Steeler Anthony Smith in the offseason but cut him at the end of training camp. They traded offensive lineman Tony Moll to Baltimore for defensive back Derrick Martin.
And with the surprise release of Rouse, a third-round pick by the Packers in 2007, Martin could start alongside Collins on Sunday with Jarrett Bush and Giordano in reserve and Woodson able to move from corner to safety in an emergency.
That’s assuming Collins, who was limited in Wednesday’s practice, will be ready to play.
“He was out there today,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I anticipate Nick will play but the week will answer that question.”
Rouse started Sunday’s game in place of Bigby but sustained a neck stinger, the latest in a series of nagging injuries for a player who might lack some of the instinct it takes to play safety in the NFL.
“I just felt that his ability to be consistent and the growth part of it is one of the reasons that we made the change,” McCarthy said of Rouse. “But there are other factors involved.”
The move definitely raised eyebrows in the locker room.
“It goes to show right now they’re not stopping the train for anybody,” linebacker Nick Barnett said. “They want to see results and we’ve got to get results. ... I’m sure that’s not a scare tactic, it’s just the direction they wanted to go.”
Giordano played in 55 games for the Colts, including six starts. He has close ties to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a teammate in college at California — and a junior-college opponent before that.
Giordano played at Fresno City, the only team to beat Rodgers’ Butte College team in 2002.
“It’s funny, though, because we put up 600 yards of offense against them and still lost the game,” Rodgers said. “So I remind him of that every time he reminds me they were the only team to beat us.”
Giordano reintroduced himself by picking off a Rodgers pass in practice Wednesday.
“I thanked him for that, and he told me, ’Be quiet,”’ Giordano said.
Clifton out two games
Green Bay Packers left tackle Chad Clifton is expected to miss at least two games because of a right ankle injury, coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday.
The veteran offensive lineman left early in the third quarter of Sunday’s home loss to Cincinnati. Daryn Colledge, normally the Packers’ starting left guard, struggled in Clifton’s absence.
Colledge is expected to start Sunday’s game in St. Louis, with Jason Spitz shifting from center to left guard and Scott Wells coming off the bench to play center.
-- Outside linebacker Aaron Kampman practiced with a club-like wrap on his right hand Wednesday, but McCarthy said it was just a bruise. Kampman said he did not anticipate playing with the wrap Sunday.
-- The Packers signed tackle Dane Randolph to their practice squad to replace Jamon Meredith, who was signed from the Packers’ practice squad by the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday.