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Backfield Status Still Up In The Air


Two days before kickoff of their Monday night clash with the St. Louis Rams at Lambeau Field, it's still unclear who will be available at running back for GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman's Green Bay Packers.

Starter Ahman Green left last Sunday's game with injured ribs and was unable to practice all week. Second-stringer Najeh Davenport missed last week's game with a hamstring ailment, but returned to the practice field Friday and was out there again Saturday.

Walter Williams, who filled in for Davenport and then Green last week before leaving that game with an ankle sprain continued to be out Saturday, but the Packers did have some positive news when fullback Nick Luchey returned to work in a limited role.

With Luchey testing his shoulder that he separated in Houston by hitting the blocking sleds, freshly-signed James Jackson continued his work learning the playbook and becoming acclimated with his new team.

About the only certainties for Monday are that Tony Fisher and William Henderson - the team's only healthy backs at the end of last week's game - will be ready to go.

Sherman said that Green's status remains as day-to-day and he won't make a decision on the All-Pro's availability until just before game time. The coach said that there is no way to definitively test Green's ribs outside of game action.

"We certainly can't replicate the hit that he took," Sherman said. "We don't want to do that. I don't think you can do that exactly but you can tell pretty much by how he's functioning on a play-to-play basis. I think there's always that opportunity that if he takes a direct shot, it could be tough on him, but he's a pretty tough guy, he can handle quite a few things.

"I think the only thing we really can test is his ability to torque his body, twist and turn as a runner, fall on it, go through the blast drill, get banged on it, roll around on the ground, fall down and get up - those type of normal activities. But we can't replicate the unique hit right on the target."

The head coach said that he knows how much Green wants to be in the game, but that the back knows his limitations and what he will have to do if he is to take the field.

"He's not going to do anything that would jeopardize the team in relationship to his availability. Knowing how last week obviously we had no idea that was going to happen on the first play of the game and how we were handcuffed with all the other injuries, so he's very aware that if he suits up he's going to play."

If Green isn't able to go, Sherman stated that it was likely that Davenport would get the starting nod.

Davenport thinks he will be available for the game, even if he may not be 100%. The former University of Miami Hurricane is confident he'll be able to carry the load.

"I'm like 80-85% now, so whatever I can give can help us get the job done," Davenport said. "How many carries do I want? Maybe 25-30. How many would I be good for? 25-30. How many will I get? That's not up to me."

Luchey, who splits the fullback chores with Henderson, isn't sure if he'll be ready for Monday, but is pleased that it's even a possibility.

"It's definitely going to be a game-time decision," he said. "But I was pleased that I did feel pretty strong today. To go from a chance of being on IR to being able to play this week is already huge. I can't sit here and say an actual percentage, but I will say I feel good."

For Sherman to feel good, he's going to want to have his full stable of backs available to him Monday. If that's not possible, he can at least feel good about the solid corps of runners he's assembled and confident that any or all of them have the capability of taking a game over.

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