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Notebook: Collins Upgraded To Questionable; Bigby, Culver Ready To Fill In


Although safety Nick Collins on Friday was upgraded from doubtful to questionable because of a hamstring injury, the Packers still are unsure who will make the start on Sunday.

Collins sustained the injury in the fourth quarter against Seattle and missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He did return to the field Friday.

"I'm more interested to see what they say in the training room now," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following the team's Friday afternoon practice. "In talking with (head trainer) Pepper (Burruss) after practice, he felt good from what he saw. We'll see with the soreness probably tomorrow morning, but it was good to see him get out there and go.

"I didn't count the reps, but he didn't take the whole thing. He was limited. He felt good. Friday's practice as you know, particularly in the back end, they are taught to avoid the collisions. He looked like he broke on the ball well. I was more interested to see him make the adjustments and the things for the particular game plan. He looked like he moved fine."

Since being drafted in the second round in 2005 out of Bethune-Cookman, Collins has become a mainstay in the Packers' secondary, starting all 27 games, and hopes to continue that streak come Sunday.

"We're just taking our time and I'm going to groom myself back into it," Collins said. "I was hobbling a little (after the game on Monday night) but the pain doesn't last that long. If you're able to walk, I feel like you can play regardless of what the situation is.

"I feel like my body will let me know if it's ready to play and right now my body is saying that it wants to play. I'm willing to play, but it's not my decision."

"He's a starter," added McCarthy. "He's a playmaker, a decision maker for us back there. I think he's an up-and-coming player not only for our football team but in the NFL. He's a big part of our secondary."

Should Collins be unable to go, the Packers have two options - Atari Bigby and Tyrone Culver - each poised to make their first NFL start.

"Bigby had an excellent week in practice, and also Culver did a nice job," McCarthy said. "We're talking about all those guys. We're holding out to see if Nick (Collins) goes, but we haven't made a final decision on which way we'll go there."

Known as a bruising hitter, Bigby tried to make the Packers' roster during training camp but broke his hand during the Family Night Scrimmage and missed the entire preseason. He was released and re-signed to the practice squad, where he spent the first 10 weeks of the season.

But now in a span of three weeks he's gone from the practice squad to a special teams contributor on the active roster (he made two special teams tackles against New England on Nov. 19) to now a possible starter in the secondary.

"I feel good," Bigby said. "I've been preparing for this since training camp. I was hurt, but I was still in the meeting rooms and at practice getting ready for this.

"We'll see how it goes. I've been doing pretty good on special teams. I wasn't timid at all. I went out there and played like I've been playing for years."

Culver, a sixth-round pick in this year's draft out of Fresno State, has played in all 11 games, contributing as the team's dime back and also on special teams. He earned a place on the roster after a solid preseason performance that included a team-leading 21 total tackles, one interception, one pass defensed and one forced fumble.

Culver had a chance to demonstrate his ability with Marviel Underwood suffering a season-ending knee injury at San Diego (Aug. 12) and Marquand Manuel still recovering from a calf injury over the preseason's first two weeks.

"I think it was key for me to get a lot of the preseason reps," Culver said. "And I've been out there during the season when Nick (Collins) has gone down before, in the Buffalo game and then just this last week. I think I need to just turn to those reps and that experience.

"If my number is called, I feel like I'm ready. I've had a good chance to get in and watch some film and find out what's going to be expected of me this week. I'm getting adjusted to a team that does a lot of shifts and motions, but right now I just have to be ready if my number is called."

Added Bigby: "All I want to do is just play the way I've been playing my whole career. If I can just duplicate that, I'll be fine.

"I'm sure I'm going to be a little bit nervous, but hopefully I get over it real fast. Because once I step on the field, I'm not a backup anymore, I'm a starter."

{sportsad300}Barnett ready to go

A lot has been made this week about Nick Barnett's club. But, at least for now, the linebacker isn't referring to Five-Six, his downtown Green Bay night club, but instead the club cast on his broken right hand.

After missing just the second game of his four-year career last week, Barnett said the pain in the hand has subsided considerably and he has every intention of being on the field Sunday.

"I believe we are going," Barnett said. "I'm very confident in playing. I'm looking forward to seeing how (playing with) the club goes."

Barnett has put the cast to the test this week, taking opportunities to bat down passes and drag down teammates in contact drills to see how it feels and to see what he can get away with.

"He's clearly ahead of where he was last week," McCarthy said. "He feels good about it. We talked at the beginning of practice about it. He's more concerned with what it looks like as far as the way he's using it. Heck, he broke up another pass or two today, and he's moving very well. I think he's just got to get used to it because it is fairly large."

"I don't know what a penalty is as far as using the club," Barnett said. "Because without the club, I would swing with that hand or push people to the ground with it, so I'm just trying to see how far I can take it before receiving a penalty. I'm wondering if I can strip the ball out with it because if I had my regular hand, that's what I would do. But it would look like I'm trying to whack the guy with it.

"I'm excited about going to play with the club, I don't know about you guys, but I'm excited to see what happens with that thing. It's going to be a lot of fun. Today I batted down a couple balls with it. It kind of got me a little excited. I don't foresee anything as far as tackling goes as long as I'm in a good position. If I have to grab a guy down from the back it might be a little trouble but other than that, I'm looking forward to going out there and playing with it."

Ryan loses father

Punter Jon Ryan Friday morning received word that his father, who earlier in the fall was diagnosed with terminal cancer, had passed away. McCarthy said that he has spoken to Ryan and is leaving the option of playing on Sunday up to him.

"Jon is going through a tough time with his personal situation," McCarthy said. "He did practice today, and I hope you can respect where he's at today in lieu of what he's going through. I think he's held up extremely well. We had a conversation this morning, and we're doing everything in his best interests and his family's best interests."

The Packers earlier this season surprised Ryan with a visit from his father at Lambeau Field.

"In establishing a program and how you deal with situations, I stand up in front of players, and I've told them since day one, when it comes to personal issues it's clearly family first. That's how we approached Jon's situation. I can't speak for him, but I'm sure he appreciates what we've done. These are things that take a back seat to nothing. That's been our outlook during his struggle."

Should Ryan not be on hand Sunday, third-string quarterback Ingle Martin will assume the punting responsibilities. Martin punted 89 times at Furman, averaging 37.7 yards with 33 punts inside the 20-yard line.

"I'll be honest, I've been impressed with Ingle Martin," McCarthy said. "I didn't realize he was that good of a punter. Doing it in a game is a different story. We're all aware of that. He definitely has some natural punting talent and ability."

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