Clifton Quietly Provides Stability Along O-Line

Chad Clifton is best known as the Green Bay Packers’ starting left tackle and as Brett Favre’s blindside protector. But did you know that he is also a champion fisherman? Or, at least, he would like to believe so. - More | Packers-Bears Game Center


T Chad Clifton blocks San Diego LB Shawne Merriman, who led the league in sacks in 2006 but did not have one against the Packers on Sept. 23.

Chad Clifton is best known as the Green Bay Packers' starting left tackle and as Brett Favre's blindside protector.

But did you know that he is also a champion fisherman? Or, at least, he would like to believe so.

"He thinks he's a great fisherman," fellow tackle Mark Tauscher said. "When the offensive line went on a fishing trip, he, with the help of three other people and four breaks to get water, rolled in a 90-pound halibut and he thought that was awesome."

Clifton, however, pointed out that it was 92 pounds and that he, alone, pulled the fish up to the boat in 10 minutes.

"I'm an angler. It's what I do. It's my life," Clifton joked.

Though he may have a future as a professional fisherman, for now Clifton will stick to his current day job. Which, by the way, he is also quite good at.

"He's an outstanding pass blocker," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "He's a solid run blocker. He uses good footwork. He's quick out of his stance. He's got good balance. There aren't many players as productive as he is."

Clifton has quietly been one of the most productive and steady tackles in the National Football League, recognized as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2004 and '05.

"He's a valuable member of the offensive line," said Philbin, who coached the offensive line in 2006. "He gets along with his teammates well. They respect him. He's done well for many years and the young guys can look to him."

Clifton, an eight-year veteran, provides stability to a very young offensive line. He and Tauscher, both of whom started together as rookies in 2000, anchored last year's group of linemen that included as many as three rookies at times.

"I just lead by example," Clifton said. "I'm not a big rah, rah guy. Hopefully, they can see the way I do things on the field and pick up on some things."

That type of leadership is what the Packers were hoping for when they made Clifton the 44th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. However, things got off to a rocky start.

During his rookie campaign, Clifton suffered a mild sprain to his right knee. He missed the final two preseason games and the first two regular season games. The injury slowed his progress and he didn't become a full-time starter until the seventh game of the year, a position he has held to this day.

There was also that nagging ankle injury during the final games in 2005. A left ankle injury in 2001 caused him to missed three starts and two games. Not to mention the three straight years of offseason surgery for his ankle, both knees and elbow.

And of course, there was the now infamous hit by Warren Sapp that separated ligaments in his pelvis, sprained his back and caused internal bleeding on his hip, forcing him to miss the final five games of the 2002 season.

"I spend a lot of time in the training room," said the 6-foot-5, 320 pound lineman. "It's been a lot of rehab and rehab, lots of strengthening exercises."

Through it all, the Martin, Tenn., native has persevered, and since his difficult rehabilitation following the Sapp incident, Clifton has missed only one game in the past four years, starting 63 of 64 games, including a streak of 53 consecutive starts (56 including playoffs).

On Sunday night against the Chicago Bears, Clifton is expected to make his 100th career start.

"He's a guy that is just so solid that you kind of take him for granted," Philbin said.

{sportsad300}With his low-key personality and quiet demeanor, it's sometimes easy to forget that he's even there. Clifton doesn't seek out attention, preferring to avoid it. He'd rather just go work, do his job and go home.

A perfect example came in Week 3 this season. Matched up most of the game against San Diego outside linebacker and pass-rush specialist Shawne Merriman, Clifton essentially pitched a shutout. Merriman led the NFL in sacks in 2006 but was practically a non-factor for the Chargers defensively in the Packers' 31-24 win, recording just two assisted tackles, and no sacks or quarterback hits.

On Sunday, he'll likely get the assignment of blocking Mark Anderson, Chicago's top pass rusher who recorded 12 sacks as a rookie and has four already this season.

Flying under the radar, Clifton doesn't get the attention of a Jonathan Ogden or Walter Jones even though he has been just as productive. However, he doesn't seem to mind.

"It doesn't bother me," he said of not getting the attention. "I know I do a good job and I'm alright with that."

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