Flanagan Breaks Thumb

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The Packers suffered their first significant injury of training camp Friday, when center Mike Flanagan broke his right thumb during the morning practice.

Coming up on his seventh NFL season, Flanagan is expected to be out 2-6 weeks, although GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman suggested that the Packers faithful could help speed up the healing process.

Said Sherman, "Two is very optimistic, that means if everyone is going to church and saying their prayers, two weeks. If we have some guys who are skipping Mass, then six weeks to eight weeks."

Beginning Monday, Flanagan will begin a trial at snapping the ball left-handed. In the meantime, he will be replaced by veteran Frank Winters, who is entering his 16th NFL season.

"We have a 16-year vet behind Mike Flanagan that started a bunch of games and helped us win a Super Bowl, so there's a lot of comfort there with Frank Winters, I guarantee you," Sherman said. "We just have to play football regardless and Frank will do a hell of a job. I'm disappointed that it happened, but I told the guys last night, injuries are part of the game and how we handle injuries will be key to us, and we're fortunate to have a veteran like Frank Winters who can step in and play."

Flanagan's injury is less severe than the one suffered by fellow lineman Marco Rivera last season, which resulted in his playing with a severely bandaged hand three days later against the Chicago Bears.

"My injury is different from Marco's, where his was a tearing of ligaments, mine is just a break," Flanagan said. "As a result, there is no surgery and the recovery length is shorter. As soon as the doc gives me the okay, I'll be back again."

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NFL referee Bill Carollo and several other league officials have attended Packers practices over the past two days in part to familiarize the team with some of the rule changes for 2002.

Many of the changes are designed to protect the quarterback. Among them, the 'box' out of which a quarterback must exit to intentionally ground a pass has been changed from within the tight ends to within the tackles.

Similarly, the quarterback will have more flexibility to ground backfield passes, which should go un-flagged so long as the football travels near its 'intended' target.

Another change regards end zone pylons, which are no longer ruled out of bounds upon contact.

On the other hand, 2001's most infamous rule, the quarterback 'tuck' rule has not been modified in any way from last season.

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The Packers ended Friday's afternoon practice by honoring current scout/advisor and former assistant coach John "Red" Cochran, who turned 80. Cochran was the running backs coach for Vince Lombardi from 1959-66, before later returning to fill the same role under Dan Devine from 1971-74.

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