Notebook: Coston's Health Could Factor Into Guard Decision

text - More Audio | Video | Packers-Vikings Game Center Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 9

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Head Coach Mike McCarthy might have his decision on which two guards to start on Sunday made for him.

With Junius Coston still limited in practice by an ankle injury, McCarthy said on Friday that "if we had played the game today," Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz would have started at left and right guard, respectively.

Coston is listed as probable on the injury report and McCarthy wants to see how he's feeling on Sunday before making a final decision. But he did indicate the health status of Coston likely would factor into who starts, saying in essence he wouldn't start Coston if he's not at full strength.

Coston is a right guard while Colledge is a left guard, and Spitz plays both. So if Coston, who was the starter from Week 2 through Week 5 before injuring the ankle, is healthy enough and gets the nod, it's unclear who would start at left guard.

In any case, it's been a frustrating week for Coston, who would have been given every opportunity to reclaim his starting job had he not still been nursing his nagging ankle injury, which started bothering him again during the full-pads practice on Thursday.

"Especially when you see jobs are there for the taking, you want to go out there and compete and win it of course," he said. "But I'm just going to keep trucking along, and everything will be all right in the end."

No matter who starts, McCarthy feels the message has been clear for several weeks now that the guard play needs to improve. But he isn't inclined to be rotating players in and out during the game, barring injury concerns.

"We're going to line up and play, and I'm thinking positive," McCarthy said. "Every one of these guys has played before. I'm not trying to hold a guillotine over their head or anything like that. That's not the purpose. We need to play better, and we're looking for the right combination."

And McCarthy would just as soon find that combination sooner rather than later.

"It's important for us to be hitting on all cylinders as we move forward," he said. "The challenges ahead are going to get tougher, not easier. We talk about every aspect of our football team on a daily basis, and that's one area we feel we need to improve on."

Injury update

Coston is one of 12 players on the Friday injury report listed as probable (virtual certainty player will be available for normal duty) for the game.

The others are offensive linemen Chad Clifton (knee) and Tony Moll (neck), cornerbacks Al Harris (back) and Charles Woodson (foot), running back Ryan Grant (concussion), receivers Ruvell Martin (back) and Koren Robinson (knee), safety Aaron Rouse (shoulder), linebacker Brady Poppinga (shoulder), and defensive tackles Corey Williams (knee) and Ryan Pickett (knee).

Linebacker Tracy White (ankle) missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday and was limited on Friday, so he is listed as questionable.

Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila was removed from the injury report, having recovered from the illness that limited him on Wednesday and Thursday. He will play.

Defensive tackle Justin Harrell (ankle), cornerback Will Blackmon (foot), tight end Bubba Franks (knee) and safety Nick Collins (knee) are out for Sunday's game.

McCarthy said it appears Collins will be out three to four weeks. He also said the running back rotation would stay the same as last week, with Grant starting, Brandon Jackson backing him up, and Vernand Morency taking the third-down role.

{sportsad300}Ball security paramount

In the first meeting with Minnesota this season, the Packers put the ball on the turf a handful of times and lost two fumbles. They were both significant plays, as the first one was by tight end Donald Lee inside the Minnesota 10-yard line after a long reception.

Safety Dwight Smith stripped the ball, taking away a potential touchdown, and McCarthy said the offensive skill players need to be alert for Smith and fellow safety Darren Sharper, who are adept at ripping the ball out.

The second one was late in the game on a fumbled handoff by Grant that gave the Vikings a last gasp to tie the score in the final two minutes.

That game began a short lapse in ball security that continued the following week against Chicago, when Green Bay lost three fumbles.

Those two games account for five of the Packers' six lost fumbles on the season, but they've lost no fumbles since the Chicago game. It's also worth noting that the Packers, whose turnover ratio for the season is plus-1, were minus-4 in their lone loss to the Bears but are plus-5 in their seven victories.

"That's something we want to improve as a football team," McCarthy said. "I think it's no secret with New England and Indianapolis being plus-11 leading the league, that definitely is a big part of why they are where they are."

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