Packers CB Williams questionable for Carolina
GREEN BAY The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl last February after they lost two of their top cover men before halftime.
Depth at cornerback remains one of the Packers' strengths at the start of this season, giving them some comfort when faced with the prospect of being down a man Sunday at Carolina.
Pro Bowl cornerback Tramon Williams didn't practice this week after sustaining a bruised shoulder in the Sept. 8 opener. He is questionable to play against the Panthers.
Coach Mike McCarthy indicated after practice Friday a decision on Williams won't be made until before the game.
"We'll give him the next 48 hours to still have a chance," he said.
Williams led the Packers with a career-high nine interceptions last season, including three in the playoffs.
"If he's out there on the field (Sunday), I expect him to play," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "If he tells me he can go, we're going to put him out there, and he better rock and roll."
But the absence of Williams in practice the last three days had the team focused on getting other guys ready to contribute against record-setting rookie quarterback Cam Newton and the Panthers in their home opener.
In fact, McCarthy alluded to Williams as being an afterthought in Green Bay's game plan.
"We feel good about our plan and really planned all along to play without Tramon," McCarthy said. "You have to do that as a coaching staff. So our defense is ready."
Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins talked Friday about the importance of having the next guy or guys ready to play.
Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee are next in line on the depth chart at cornerback after starters Williams and Charles Woodson and nickel back Sam Shields.
If Williams can't play Sunday, that would probably mean a promotion for Shields to the starting lineup and plugging Bush or Lee into the nickel alignment (five defensive backs) that Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers tends to use a lot.
"I'm confident with the group," Whitt said.
Bush and Lee were pressed into service against Pittsburgh seven months ago. They had significant playing time in the Packers' 31-25 victory after Woodson (broken collarbone) and Shields (shoulder) were injured in the first half. Bush remembers the game fondly, intercepting a pass by Ben Roethlisberger when the Packers' veteran backup was playing as a sixth defensive back.
"I did what I was supposed to. I played how I was supposed to," Bush said Friday. "I studied hard for it. I just had to keep going, keep going upward and take advantage of my opportunities and play to the standards that we're held accountable to, that Dom holds us to."
Bush is eager to be a major contributor again Sunday, when he will be back at Carolina for the first time since the Panthers cut him as an undrafted rookie before the 2006 season. The Packers claimed Bush off waivers the next day. He has been in Green Bay ever since as a core special teams player with periodic duties on defense.
Any hard feelings Bush may have had for the Panthers after they let him go vanished a long time ago.
"I've got my own self-gratification," he said. "The Super Bowl definitely is one of those.
"Everything happens for a reason, I feel like. It's just fortunate I did get cut," Bush added. "It might have been the best thing that ever happened to me. It's part of the business. There's no personal vendetta. Let's just go play football."
NOTES: Packers rookie RB Alex Green was pulled from practice Friday after he aggravated an Achilles' injury. "I was watching him go through the ball-security drill, and he was dragging his leg," said McCarthy, who didn't know the extent of the injury. Green is questionable for the game. . Among the Green Bay players who are probable to play are TE Jermichael Finley (ankle) and LT Chad Clifton (knee). Rookie LB Vic So'oto, who aggravated a back injury earlier in the week, won't play for the second straight game. DE Mike Neal (knee) and LB Frank Zombo (shoulder) were previously listed as out.