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Day-After Notes: Tauscher Gets A Look

The Packers may soon be getting some reinforcements at the offensive tackle position. First, the team worked out veteran Mark Tauscher on Tuesday and could potentially sign him. Second, Chad Clifton could be back from his ankle injury following the bye.


The Packers may soon be getting some reinforcements at the offensive tackle position.

First, the Packers worked out veteran Mark Tauscher on Tuesday and could potentially sign him if everything falls into place. Tauscher, the Packers' starting right tackle for nine seasons from 2000-2008, tore an ACL in his knee in Week 14 vs. Houston last season and was in the final year of his contract, so he's been rehabbing since then and looking to get back into the game.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said that team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie's timeline for Tauscher's rehab was that he could potentially be ready to play again in October, so the Packers brought him in for a visit. Tauscher had worked out for the Kansas City Chiefs last week.

"He's played a ton of football for us in this scheme from Day One," McCarthy said. "So just to have his experience and everything back in the (locker) room I think is definitely an asset."

If Tauscher is signed, how soon he could be ready to play in a game can't be determined at this point. Following the bye this week, the next time the Packers take the practice field will be Monday, and they will practice four times before the Detroit game on Oct. 18.

McCarthy did say that Allen Barbre remains the team's starting right tackle, but Tauscher would be given the chance to compete for the spot provided he's healthy enough.

"We'll see, we'll have to see how he responds to practice obviously," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "It's been a while since he's played a game of football, and we all know that's a lot different than working out in the gym or doing some drills. If that does happen I'm sure we'll get him on the field, see where he's at and take it from there."

The other potential boost at offensive tackle could come from the return of Chad Clifton from his ankle injury. Clifton has missed the last two games since injuring his ankle on the first play of the third quarter of the Week 2 contest versus Cincinnati.

McCarthy said the medical staff is optimistic Clifton could return for the Detroit game following the bye.

The Packers' protection problems haven't been solely at Clifton's left tackle spot, but the protection unit has surrendered 14 sacks in the 2 1/2 games that Clifton has missed.

"Your left tackle has to block the Jared Allens of the world," said McCarthy, referring to Minnesota's defensive end who recorded 4 1/2 of the Vikings' eight sacks in Monday night's game. "That's the way we're designed. I think it will definitely help. But it's just not one guy."

The thought of having veterans Tauscher and Clifton back together as the bookends on the offensive line certainly has appeal, though. Last year in the 12 games Tauscher and Clifton started together at right and left tackle, respectively, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked 23 times. This season in four games, with Tauscher not on the team and Clifton playing only 1 1/2 contests, Rodgers has been sacked 20 times.

Still, it's dangerous to think the potential returns of Tauscher and Clifton are going to cure what ails the pass blocking on their own. Elements like cohesiveness, fundamentals, and offensive rhythm in general also come into play.

"This is a joint effort of a lot of guys," Philbin said. "To think that one person is going to fix our protection problems at this point is a fallacy. We've got to get better in a lot of areas, and we've got to do it quickly."

Bigby returning too?

The defense has suffered its problems at safety since Atari Bigby injured his knee in the season opener. Bigby's original replacement, Aaron Rouse, was released after starting the Cincinnati game, and the next in line, Derrick Martin, was benched early in the third quarter on Monday night in Minnesota after repeated coverage breakdowns.

Bigby's return following the bye is far from certain, but McCarthy said one of the residual benefits of getting Bigby back in the starting lineup would be to move fellow safety Nick Collins back into more of the deep safety spot where he thrives. Bigby is more of an in-the-box, run-support safety, whereas Collins and at times cornerback Charles Woodson have had to take on that role in his absence.

"Having Atari back would definitely give us the experience there in the communication aspect of it," McCarthy said.

Martin, who was acquired in a trade the week before the season opener, and Matt Giordano, who was picked up when Rouse was released, have both been working at safety but have some obvious limitations because of their reduced time on the roster.

"We're going through a little bit of a transition there," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "We brought two new guys in, and when you do bring new guys in you kind of give them a crash course and see how much they can handle. When they haven't been here through all the steps of the process, then you're playing a catch-up game. What I'm hoping is the longer they're here and the more comfortable they get, then the more things they'll be able to do and do efficiently."

When Bigby was initially injured, the prognosis was that he'd be out at least a month. The Detroit game would be one month and five days since the injury.

"One thing about Atari is he's been here through the whole process," Capers said. "Obviously we thought enough of Atari that when we started the season he was our starter out there in the first game. Unfortunately he had the injury hasn't been able to do anything since then."

Return game

Punt and kick returner Will Blackmon is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in Monday night's game at the Metrodome. Receiver Jordy Nelson filled in for Blackmon as the top return man and is a candidate for both jobs.

When Blackmon missed the season opener with a bruised quad, Nelson did well in his absence, returning the opening kickoff against Chicago 46 yards. He averaged 31 yards on four kickoff returns in all, and also had a 14-yard punt return.

In Minnesota, Nelson wasn't quite as productive, with a 26-yard average on two kickoff returns. But his second one was an impressive return out to the 44-yard line that was called back by a holding penalty on Spencer Havner, an infraction special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum confessed he didn't see on the game film.

Nelson muffed a punt late in the game as well, a situation Slocum characterized as normally calling for a fair catch. But with the Packers down by 10 points with three minutes left, he was being over-aggressive and trying to make something happen.

{sportsad300}Nelson is definitely the top kickoff returner at this point, but Slocum said he would also look at Tramon Williams, Woodson and Brett Swain on punt returns. He didn't dismiss Nelson as the best option for that job either, though.

"He has a tendency to make guys miss and I think he's got some strength," Slocum said. "He ran through an arm tackle on the 43-yard kickoff return that was called back that I thought was a pretty impressive run.

"The thing that I recognized on tape is once he put his foot in the grass and made the cut, he was outrunning the coverage. You could see the guys converge on him and his play speed was greater, so I think that can be an advantage on punt returns as well. If he can get started, then he can be productive."

More on injuries

Martin spent the night in a Minneapolis hospital for a throat contusion, but he returned to Green Bay on Tuesday and is expected to be fine.

It is anticipated that offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, who sprained his knee in the fourth quarter in Minnesota, will be able to play following the bye, along with linebacker Desmond Bishop (rib bruise) and running back DeShawn Wynn (wrist).

In addition to Clifton and Bigby, running back Brandon Jackson (ankle) and linebacker Jeremy Thompson (knee) could be back after the bye week as well.

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