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After Slow Start, Wells Returns To Form


Until this season, center Scott Wells had not missed significant time due to an ordinary football injury in, well, seemingly forever.

He started 49 straight games as a collegiate standout at Tennessee, and in 2005 and 2006, he played in every game for the Packers upon becoming a regular on the offensive line.

He did miss two games in 2007, but that was after a poke in the eye fractured his eye socket, and it didn't require the sometimes long detour from football known as rehab. He just waited a couple of weeks, let it heal up, and was ready to go.

But 2008 has been a different sort of year for Wells. When an aggravated nerve in his back - which took some time to pinpoint and receive the proper treatment - forced him to the sidelines for all but one preseason game and the first three games of the regular season, he wasn't exactly the old Scott Wells when he finally took the field at Tampa Bay in Week 4.

But now with roughly a half-season under his belt, Wells is back to playing like the consistent, dependable center the Packers have counted on during the Mike McCarthy era. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said last week's outing against Chicago was a "very, very solid game," and probably his best showing of the season.

"It took a couple of weeks for me to get back into my flow," said Wells, who is listed on the injury report this week with a shoulder problem, but he's probable for Monday's game. "I missed pretty much all the preseason, and maybe all but like six practices of training camp, and that was the first week I was there. And then the first two weeks I didn't really practice. Dallas (in Week 3) was the first time I really practiced, and I didn't play in that game.

"It does take a little bit to get used to the speed, break the rust off, and I feel now that I've gotten all that off. I feel fairly fresh. I think my performance is demonstrating that."

The last three weeks, Wells has been seriously tested by some of the game's top defensive tackles - Tennessee's Albert Haynesworth, Minnesota's Pat Williams, and Chicago's Tommie Harris. While Wells finds it difficult to talk positively about any individual performance when the team loses, like at Tennessee and Minnesota, he did feel he's been playing pretty consistently, and his own outing against Chicago was right on par with his other linemates in producing a 200-yard rushing, no-sack game.

"We got pretty good movement inside there," Philbin said. "He was moving his feet, staying on his blocks, finishing blocks. We were really pleased with what he did last week."

Which brings us to this coming Monday, and the team's second road game in a dome this month. As the linemen have admitted, their performance two weeks ago in the Metrodome was collectively their worst, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked four times and knocked down at least a half-dozen others.

The center has the responsibility of making certain pass-protection declarations at the line of scrimmage, a task that can be more difficult inside a noisy dome. While that wasn't the heart of the problem against the Vikings - Wells and Philbin both said those struggles were more about recognizing stunts and adjusting after the snap than the communication pre-snap - this week's return trip to a dome will truly test the offense in getting on the same page the way it was against Chicago.

"Aaron and I both have to make sure that we're visual with our declarations, because in all likelihood if the fans are at their peak with the noise, people aren't going to hear what we say," Wells said. "So we really have to be clear with pointing at who we're going to block. One leads to the other. He has to see who I'm pointing at, so he can turn around and tell the running back who he's supposed to block.

"Every week we have a road game we work on the declarations to be both verbal and visual. We want everybody concentrating and paying attention to it. You can't have one guy not looking at you when you're making your call or pointing at the guy because then they'll miss it, and you only have so much time."

{sportsad300}That time factor is also high on the priority list. McCarthy preaches to the offense to play at a fast pace, getting to the line of scrimmage with enough time left on the play clock to read the defense, see any adjustments the opponent is making, and counter them before the snap.

"The other key would be pressing the tempo," Wells said. "At Minnesota, we were late getting out of the huddle. That's something that has been overly emphasized since that game, and we went out against Chicago and had a much better tempo and that led to a lot of our success. We were able to keep the defense on their heels."

As the key communicator on the offensive line, Wells and his play have a lot to do with that. His returning to form along with his linemates staying healthy and continuing to work as a unit should bode well for the offense in the push for a playoff spot.

"I think he's settling in," Philbin said. "Again, I think it goes back to some of it's practice time, some of it's continuity, guys getting comfortable with the guy next to them. I think there's something to be said for that. The more we're getting these guys to work together, the better."

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