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Notebook: Barnett Out For Season

Starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett is out for the season with a torn knee ligament suffered in Sunday’s game in Minnesota, Head Coach Mike McCarthy announced during his Monday press conference from Lambeau Field. McCarthy said Barnett will undergo surgery, which has yet to be scheduled. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 10


Starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett has a torn knee ligament and is out for the season, Head Coach Mike McCarthy announced during his Monday press conference.

Barnett injured his knee on the opening series of the second half of Sunday's game against the Vikings at the Metrodome. Attempting to make a tackle on running back Adrian Peterson, Barnett's leg stuck awkwardly in the turf as he tried to cut back, and he did not return to the game.

McCarthy said Barnett would need surgery, but that hasn't been scheduled yet. He didn't get into a timetable for Barnett's rehab and return to football, because the surgery needs to take place before that can start to be formulated.

"He's very disappointed," McCarthy said. "It's unfortunate, but we need to have the other guys step up."

Those other guys could be a few different options. Second-year pro Desmond Bishop filled in for Barnett for the rest of Sunday's game and would be the most natural fit position-wise. Outside linebackers A.J. Hawk or Brandon Chillar were also mentioned as possibilities by McCarthy, and he and the defensive staff plan to make their decision in the next day or so.

Hawk played middle linebacker in high school as well as some inside linebacker in college at Ohio State. Chillar has played all three linebacker spots during his career but was inactive for Sunday's game because of some shoulder soreness that flared up on Saturday night, and he's having some tests done on that shoulder this week.

"Whoever we put in the middle is going to have to get it done," assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss said.

Bishop's play was a bit uneven in Barnett's place on Sunday. On the first snap after he went in, he was juked by running back Chester Taylor after a short reception, and Taylor raced 47 yards for a touchdown. On special teams, Bishop was also called for a 15-yard penalty for a late hit out of bounds on punt returner Aundrae Allison.

But Bishop bounced back to make one of the defense's biggest stops of the game, forcing a fumble by Adrian Peterson on a fourth-and-1 with just under 9 minutes left. The play led to a field goal for the Packers.

"I think I played fair," said Bishop, who had a career-high nine tackles in all. "You always could do better. There's always something you could have done better or a play you could have made. I think you all know which one I'm talking about in particular. But it happens. I'm looking to step up next week."

Losing Barnett is a big blow to the defense. Considered the heart and soul of the unit by many teammates, Barnett had missed only two games in his six seasons until now - one as a rookie in 2003 due to a sprained ankle, and one in 2006 because of a broken hand. He played the rest of that season with a club cast on his hand.

Barnett was the team's leading tackler in four of his first five seasons, and his 68 tackles (49 solo) this season are leading the team again.

"Obviously it's a tough situation for us," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "I just feel horrible for Nick. He loves to play this game, he loves this team, and now he just has to take a different leadership role."

History lesson

McCarthy was asked whether he had any regrets about the plays he called at the end of the first half, when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked for a safety, and at the end of the game, when the inability to get a first down left the potential game-winning field goal longer than 50 yards.

In defending his decisions, McCarthy pointed to the team's recent history against the Vikings in both instances.

First, with the Packers backed up to their own 9-yard line and trailing 12-7 with 52 seconds left in the half, Rodgers attempted two passes and was sacked on second down for a safety.

McCarthy recalled a similar situation two years ago in the Metrodome, when the Packers trailed 14-10 with under two minutes left in the half and were backed up to their own 3-yard line. A quick 12-yard completion to Greg Jennings was followed by an 82-yard catch-and-run by Donald Driver for a touchdown with 48 seconds left in the half, the key play in a 23-17 victory.

{sportsad300}"Frankly, we didn't do the job we expected to do in pass protection," McCarthy said of the aggressive approach this time. "I think that's well-documented. I don't have any problem with (the calls)."

As for the end of the game, with the Packers at the Minnesota 40-yard line and nearing field-goal range, McCarthy called a Ryan Grant run that lost a yard. But that was basically the same play the Packers ran in the fourth quarter of the season opener against the Vikings at Lambeau Field that Grant took 57 yards, his longest run of the season.

Another Grant run gained 4 yards and a short pass to Driver was not enough for the first down. On the third-down play, McCarthy said the Vikings brought "empty pressure," which means they rushed more players than the Packers had blockers, so Rodgers went to his hot read to get rid of the ball, leaving Mason Crosby with a 52-yard field goal instead of something shorter.

"Yeah, definitely, you'd like to be closer," McCarthy said. "There's no doubt about it. We were planning to get the first down on that series, but I was also planning to get the first down and take all the time off the clock. That was my goal."

Tough to overcome

One of the most glaring statistics in the offense's poor performance on Sunday was its 1-for-11 conversion rate on third down. But, as is often the case, that was driven more by what happened on first and second down.

Of the Packers' 11 third downs, five of them required 11 yards or more for the first down. That's because the offense was hurt by a total of 15 negative plays in the game - seven negative yardage plays via sacks or tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and eight offensive penalties.

"That's a lot. That's too many," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "It makes it too difficult to function.

"You get tired of third-and-13, my gosh. It's hard. Those are tough things to convert. For sure, we got ourselves in some bad down-and-distance situations, but we were at times our own worst enemy getting ourselves in that situation."

Injury update

Cornerback and special teams regular Jarrett Bush has an ankle injury, and McCarthy said he would be "challenged to play this week."

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