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Day-After Notes: Offseason Brings Uncertainty For Some


With the Packers' 2009 season coming to an end on Sunday in Arizona, everyone on the team knows that it won't be the exact same roster taking the field for Green Bay in 2010.

The Packers have four veteran starters that will be unrestricted free agents this offseason, two on each side of the ball with tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher on offense and nose tackle Ryan Pickett and outside linebacker Aaron Kampman on defense.

"The tough part if we have a lot of guys with uncertain futures, and guys you care about, guys you work with for a number of years," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "So you never know what the next season is going to look like, each season is an individual season in itself and there's always change."

Clifton and Tauscher were part of a line that came together as the season went on. After Rodgers was sacked a league-high 41 times in the first nine games, the line gave up just 10 sacks in the final seven contests, a stretch that saw the Packers go 6-1 to put them in the playoffs.

Tauscher, who sustained a torn ACL last season in Week 14, re-signed with the team on Oct. 12 and began to take the majority of snaps at right tackle in Week 11 vs. San Francisco.

"I think he was a big part of our success on offense," Rodgers said. "You love his attitude and his character in the locker room, and the way he played, it speaks for itself. He had a great season in the games he was able to play, and I think he can still do it. As long as his body is holding up and mentally he's in a good spot, then I think he should be back.

"I'd love to see (Clifton) back as well. Now obviously those are both decisions that are out of my control. I get paid to play. I don't get paid to make those decisions. But I think 'Cliffy' proved that he can still play at a high level."

Pickett, who signed with the Packers in 2006 after playing his first four seasons with the Rams, will be heading into unrestricted free agency for the second time in his career but left no doubt as to where he hopes to be next season.

"I don't want to go nowhere," Pickett said. "We have a chance to be a good team for years to come, so I want to be a part of that, most definitely.

"They have been talking, but nothing really came up yet. I haven't been worried about it during the year. My focus was playing ball, so now hopefully we get something done because I would love to stay here. I really don't want to go anywhere."

Pickett was part of a defensive line that helped the Packers lead the league in rushing for the first time in the history of the franchise. Green Bay's average of 83.3 rushing yards allowed per game also set a team record for any season.

"He's big for us," defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. "He's the anchor of our defense up front. He's a heck of a run player. He is going to stuff up and take up blockers. It would be nice if we could keep him around, but that's the business part of the game.

"I'm not going to really say much more than that because that is between him and the organization, but hopefully it works out in a good way."

Kampman started the first nine games of the season at left outside linebacker before suffering a season-ending ACL injury in Week 11 against the 49ers. He posted 51 tackles, 3½ sacks and 28 quarterback hits.

Kampman's transition from defensive end to outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme was one of the main storylines last offseason.

"Obviously I have gotten used to this 3-4," Kampman said. "I didn't get a full year to critique and say, 'Hey, this is great,' but I was starting to get more comfortable in it. Having said that, I've got a lot of experience in the 4-3 so I think I can do both."

Kampman said his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule, adding that he was "very encouraged by the health of his knee." He said he had no doubt that he would be ready in time for training camp, but where that will be is the question.

"I've never really commented on contract stuff, but obviously this is the only place I have been and it would be great to continue my career here," Kampman said. "We'll see what happens."

With the uncertainty of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, the Packers also have some players who don't know what their status is for next season as far as free agency. That group includes defensive end Johnny Jolly, guard Daryn Colledge, center Jason Spitz, and safeties Nick Collins and Atari Bigby.

{sportsad300}If the league and the players association don't reach a new CBA, six years of service would be required for unrestricted free agency. Those five players are all finishing their fourth or fifth seasons in the league, so they would be restricted free agents if 2010 is an uncapped year, meaning the Packers would be able to match any offer they receive from another team.

"That's out of my hands," said Collins, who was named to his second straight Pro Bowl this season. "All I know is if things don't work out, I'll still be here. If the CBA doesn't work out, I'll still be here so that's what I'm looking forward to. I'm a Packer in heart, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

"I just laid it out on the line. I had great teammates and coaches to help me get through the situation (father passed away in offseason). I couldn't even play any better. I felt great about myself, what I accomplished this year, and I'm going to try to move forward."

Strong start

Offensive lineman T.J. Lang was one of only two Green Bay rookies to play in every game this season, and he added some postseason experience on Sunday in Arizona.

Clifton left the game early in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury, and Lang took over at left tackle for the rest of the game.

Lang had some familiarity with an in-game injury situation like that one, having come in for Clifton in the fourth quarter in Week 4 at Minnesota when he hurt his ankle and again in Week 6 against Detroit when Clifton re-injured his ankle.

Lang, who saw time primarily at left guard during the preseason, wound up starting three games on the season, two at left tackle when Clifton was out due to his ankle and one at right tackle when Tauscher injured his knee.

"I'm glad I got the opportunity to play at so many different positions because it's a business where you can move around," Lang said. "One injury and you're bouncing around. I'm happy I got some experience at each different position. I still don't know where my best spot is going to be, but I think I learned a lot this year.

"I kind of got thrown into the fire early there and I think it was good for me. It helped me mature a little faster. I'm happy with how I started and I'm excited with where I am going."

With several starters on the line hitting free agency in some form this offseason, Lang can be expected to compete for a starting position in 2010.

"You never know who is going to be here and who is going to be gone," Lang said. "Whatever the situation comes to be, I'm going to be ready to play. I'm a competitive guy. I want to get on the field and I'm going to do that whatever way I can.

"If it is where I have to play all four positions again, I'm going to do it. But I would like to eventually settle into one spot and perfect my skill at one spot."

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