Flanagan Will Continue To Tough It Out

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Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan, like the rest of his Packers teammates and Packer fans everywhere, hurt after the loss to Chicago on Sunday.

Flanagan, unlike most of the previously mentioned group though, also hurt after the win in the opening weekend at Carolina.

The ninth-year pro is playing through pain every time he steps on the field, but he's doing his best not to let it affect him. Suffering from patella tendinitis in his left knee, Flanagan had all but the final week of his training camp wiped out as he rehabbed the injury.

After getting a handful of snaps in the final preseason game, Flanagan was expected to be rusty heading into the regular season. Judging from his play, along with that of the rest of the offensive line, the quality of the 30-year-old's performance hasn't been hurt.

Through two weeks of the season, Flanagan and his mates have helped lead the way for Ahman Green's NFC-best 247 rushing yards. They've also allowed just two sacks of quarterback Brett Favre, which ties for second-lowest in the league.

While the quality of Flanagan's play hasn't noticeably changed, the quantity has taken a bit of a hit.

In each of the Packers' first two contests, the former third-round pick out of UCLA has been forced to come to the sideline due to pain in the knee. That's saying something for a player who has been on the field for 81 consecutive games, a streak dating back to September 1999.

Flanagan hasn't given a second thought to not being the man snapping the ball to Favre when the Packers take the field.

"You've got to play," the center said Monday in the Lambeau Field locker room. "I missed five or six plays Monday night and the last few yesterday. The rust is coming off slowly. It hurts like hell sometimes. It's just frustrating to have to deal with it."

He was grudgingly forced out of the action against the Bears late in the game after taking a hit on the knee.

"The tendon is right on the front of my knee, so every time I hit it squarely, it hurts," he said. I just happened to hit it again yesterday, so it was tough running across the field to get off the field."

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman knows that how valuable Flanagan is to have in the middle of the offensive line. Given that, the coach said he will most likely limit the player's workload heading into games for the foreseeable future.

"It is going to bother him all year," said Sherman. "We rested it in the preseason. I think that helped give him some time, but it probably will bother him most of the year. He's playing with it right now. We're going to figure out a way to rest him - maybe at the beginning of the week. I'm probably going to let him avoid the heavy Wednesdays that we have and practice him more on Thursdays, and moderate on Friday. We'll keep an eye on him."

Flanagan wasn't particularly pleased with his play Sunday, but Sherman didn't necessarily agree, acknowledging that the center is a tough critic.

"He's very critical of himself," Sherman said. "He's very critical of his play. He gives us the best chance to win. He's still a very talented player.

"It's a little like (offensive tackles Mark) Tauscher and (Chad) Clifton were last year. They're both so much better than they were a year ago coming out of injuries. Mike's in the same boat. His expectation level is very high, as is mine of him. He's a little bit limited this year. He doesn't have quite the strength he had last year, but that will get better."

Flanagan will continue to push himself and continue to be in the starting lineup. When asked if he is worried about playing on the notoriously hard artificial surface of the RCA Dome when Green Bay travels to Indianapolis to face the Colts there this Sunday, he assumed that it might, but no more than any other venue.

"It's something I'm going to have to worry about everywhere. Turf, grass, asphalt - it doesn't matter. It's just a matter of dealing with it."

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