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Lee Ready To Step Into The Void


When a player of Grady Jackson's stature is missing due to injury - as the Packers starting nose tackle and resident run-stuffer will be Sunday - it's not easy for his replacement to just step right in and take over his job.

Second-year defensive lineman James Lee will get the call in the middle of the line in place of Jackson, who was felled with a dislocated kneecap Monday, in Sunday's home opener against the Chicago Bears.

Lee, who was drafted by the Packers out of Oregon State in the fifth round in 2003, will be just six days removed from his NFL debut when he makes his first start. In fact, the 6-foot-5, 325-lineman will be in the starting lineup for the first time since junior college, when he played at California's College of the Redwoods.

A back injury sustained just days into his rookie training camp last summer put Lee on injured reserve and wiped out his first season in Green Bay. He had a productive preseason this year, and continued to impress GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman with his performance against Carolina in the opener.

"James Lee went into the game, and when you go in to replace Grady Jackson, that's a tough call for any young player," said Sherman. "I thought he did a marvelous job. Is he Grady Jackson? No, he's not, but he made some plays.

"The one play where got called for a facemask was a screen play 15 yards downfield. After he had rushed the quarterback, he turned and sprinted on the proper angle to make that play. He grabbed the first thing he could. Unfortunately, it was the facemask, but that is a great play by him. The fact that there was a facemask didn't detract from his effort on that play."

Lee noticed a marked difference in the level of play, making the transition from preseason to regular season action.

"I got out there and played, did my job," Lee said. "The games are a lot different in the season from the preseason. Everyone is out to get you. They don't care who you are, you've got to run and handle your business. Getting thrown in like that, you're a little bit nervous, but you just go in there and do what you have to do."

Lee will not be alone in taking over Jackson's position. First-year player Cullen Jenkins, who like Lee got his first taste of regular season NFL action on Monday, will be part of the rotation on the defensive line and help fill the void left by the injury.

Although he won't be able to make a physical impact on Sunday's action, Jackson will be working with the youngsters throughout the week to prepare them.

"The best thing for me to do is just grab them and watch film with them and try to teach them," said Jackson. "The young guys played well Monday. Hopefully they can go in this week play a great game. I'm sure (defensive line coach) Jethro (Franklin) is going to have them ready."

Defensive end Aaron Kampman is fully confident in Lee's ability to step in, and doesn't think he'll have to do any on-field coaching of the man who will line up beside him.

"He doesn't have to be reminded of his assignments," Kampman said. "The rest of it is just getting experience and playing, so there's not much you can tell him about that. It's hard to replace Grady. Grady's a great player. Between James and having Cullen Jenkins come in and get some reps, hopefully between the two of them they can fill Grady's shoes."

Lee is also confident that he'll get the job done in his replacement role, and is ready to go out and prove what he can do.

"I'm very excited about Sunday to get the start," he said. "I hope to have a good week of practice and come out Sunday ready to roll."

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