After battling through the first three games of the season with painful patellar tendinitis in his left knee, Packers Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan will undergo surgery next week and be out of action for the remainder of the 2004 season.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman made the announcement after Friday's practice.
"Mike has experienced tremendous pain with this, has played with it, and it's just been debilitating in regard to him," Sherman said. "He's going to have to have surgery in the next 10 days and it will probably take about six months for recovery."
Flanagan's patellar tendinitis caused him to miss nearly all of training camp and three of the team's four preseason games.
Since returning for the final preseason contest against Tennessee, the nine-year veteran has been able to stay on the field for the full game in just one of the Packers' three games. He was replaced late in both the opener at Carolina and again the next week against Chicago by Grey Ruegamer, who now will take his place in the starting lineup.
Apparently, the pain in his knee has been around since the latter stages of the 2003 season, but Flanagan thought it was the usual soreness that all NFL players feel as the season wears on.
Flanagan said that the pain became overly intense around the time of the Packers' June mini-camp, and then was diagnosed with tendinitis.
Speaking before the start of the season opener, Flanagan acknowledged that surgery was in his future, but hoped to be able to put the procedure off until after the season.
"You have to cut it open," said the lineman. "It would seem like the last thing. There's nothing left to do. We've exhausted all attempts.
"They'd have to cut into the tendon to tear it open and cut out the (affected) part of it. Part of my tendon is not getting blood flow so it can't recover. That's what tendinitis is. It's one of those things."
Sherman has been resting Flanagan in between games, holding him out of practices on Wednesdays and reducing his activity on Fridays in hopes of keeping his Pro Bowler on the field for the duration of the season.
However, the condition of Flanagan's knee did not improve, leaving immediate surgery as the best option for his long-term health.
"We're trying to avoid a rupture of the patella tendon and this is one way to settle it down," Sherman said Friday. "We've gone back and forth over this numerous times. It has not gotten any better and has gotten progressively worse.
"To avoid a possible career-ending injury, this is the best option. It's unfortunate. He's very disappointed, as am I."
With Flanagan unavailable for the remainder of 2004, he will be placed on injured reserve, leaving a roster space that likely will be filled by seventh-round draft choice Scott Wells, who has been on the practice squad since being waived at the conclusion of the preseason.
Wells, who has worked both at center and guard and played well during the preseason, would assume the backup center role behind Ruegamer.