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Happy To Return, Tauscher On Verge Of Second Comeback

The first time he went through rehabilitation for a surgically reconstructed knee seven years ago, Mark Tauscher didn’t have any doubts about his football future. That wasn’t the case this time around, because while Tauscher was confident he could come back from a torn ACL for a second time, he had no idea where he’d end up. - More Press Release: Packers Sign T Tauscher, Place CB Blackmon On Injured Reserve

The first time he went through rehabilitation for a surgically reconstructed knee seven years ago, Mark Tauscher didn't have any doubts about his football future.

That wasn't the case this time around, because while Tauscher was confident he could come back from a torn ACL for a second time, he had no idea where he'd end up.

It turns out he's back in a familiar place, and players and coaches welcomed the sight of Tauscher's familiar face on the practice field and in the locker room on Monday in Green Bay. Tauscher, three days shy of nine months removed from the Jan. 15 surgery on his left knee, re-signed with the Packers and is presumably going to make a run at regaining his starting right tackle spot.

How soon he'll do that remains up in the air at this point, but as through his rehab, Tauscher is taking things one day at a time and seeing what happens from there.

"The biggest difference was there were more unknowns," Tauscher said of his comeback this time compared to the one in 2002.

"When you blow your knee out for a second time ... there's a lot of things that go into your mind. For the most part, I just tried to stay on task and not worry about the things I couldn't control. I figured if I put in good effort and did what I needed to do to get my knee back to be strong, I felt like that's all I could do, and everything else would fall into place."

The Packers' starting right tackle for the past nine seasons since being drafted in the seventh round in 2000, Tauscher injured his knee in Week 14 last season against Houston. In the final year of his contract at the time, Tauscher had surgery in January and began his rehab at the Packers' facilities before leaving at the end of February to continue rehab at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin.

With no destination determined for his football future, Tauscher always felt there was a chance he could come back to Green Bay, but there were no guarantees. He simply stayed focused on his rehab, and he credited and thanked the Wisconsin training staff, as well as Packers team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie, for all of their help during the process.

Tauscher said by mid-summer, he felt he was on track to return in 2009, though he knew he wouldn't be ready for training camp. But he kept plugging away and eventually got a workout with the Kansas City Chiefs a couple of weeks ago.

Then the Packers brought him in for a workout last week, and the interest was mutual. Tauscher had no other NFL offers on the table, while the Packers have experienced both performance and injury issues on the offensive line, which have contributed to a league-high 20 sacks of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"It's been interesting," Tauscher said. "There's been kind of different emotional levels but for the most part always I just kind of stuck to the plan, set benchmarks as far as where I wanted to be, and the rehab went smooth. No major setbacks.

"I had great care down at the University of Wisconsin. They did an outstanding job. I had a lot of great people that helped with the rehab, and that's something I had to stay diligent with day in and day out."

Tauscher said he had kept in touch with some Green Bay teammates, and he did watch the season opener against the Bears, which he described as "weird" and "difficult" - the first Packers game in a decade without Tauscher on the roster - as his replacement, Allen Barbre, gave up a couple of sacks. He also watched last Monday's game at Minnesota, for obvious reasons, and again watched the Packers struggle in pass protection, this time with left tackle Chad Clifton out with an ankle injury.

"I think he's excited to be back," veteran center Scott Wells said. "He's played a lot of football. He's a good player, and I think he's anxious to get out there and show everybody what he's got and how he's come back from that surgery."

As for the problems the Packers have experienced up front, Tauscher doesn't consider himself a savior and doesn't know when he'll actually be ready to play in a game. On Monday, Clifton was back at his customary left tackle spot and Tauscher watched the opening jog-through portion of practice with assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot before taking part in individual drills later in practice.

He did not participate in the team (11-on-11) portions of practice, and Head Coach Mike McCarthy indicated he likely wouldn't all this week.

"Today was a good start, just going out and dong some drills and getting the pads on and hitting again," Tauscher said. "It's been obviously a long layoff. I don't know how many days, but it's been about 10 months, so obviously to come back and get back into it, I think there's going to be a little bit of time that's needed. I don't think (a timetable) has been determined.

{sportsad300}"Right now it's just kind of getting the rust off and getting back into it. I'm not sure how it's going to play out. It will come down to how I'm playing and how the group's playing. I'll just kind of go day to day and we'll see how things fall into place. There's no expectations. It's more getting back into it and trying to do whatever I can to help the team win."

McCarthy reiterated that Barbre is currently the starting right tackle, but while he's been pleased with some of Barbre's work in the running game, his technique in pass protection still needs improvement.

"It's his responsibility to keep that job," McCarthy said of Barbre. "That's where we're at today. Mark Tauscher is someone that we're going to bring along as fast as we can, but right now I am just looking at Mark to get back in football shape."

Tauscher is looking for the same thing, and at that point he can look at what opportunity there may be for him to play and contribute. He emphasized he just wants to help the team in whatever role he fits.

"I hope sooner rather than later, but there's going to be a little window here where I need to get my feet back under me," Tauscher said. "There's a reason you have training camp and things, to do things to get yourself fundamentally back into it. I'm in good shape but there's a difference between football and just jogging-down-the-street shape. There's a difference and that's what I'm trying to get to."

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