Notebook: Hodge To Start At MLB For Barnett

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With his broken right hand still too painful to try to play with a cast on it, middle linebacker Nick Barnett will give way to rookie Abdul Hodge, who will make his first NFL start on Monday night in Seattle.

Barnett was downgraded on the injury report from doubtful to out, so he will sit out for just the second time in 62 games over his four-year NFL career, including playoffs. The only other game he has not started was at Detroit during his rookie season on Nov. 27, 2003, which coincidentally is three years to the day from Monday.

Barnett, who broke his hand in the fourth quarter last Sunday against New England, tried to do some limited work in practice on Friday with a club cast on his right hand. But it didn't go as well as he'd hoped and he then sat out Saturday's practice.

"I went out there yesterday, I didn't really hit anything with it," Barnett said. "I was just running with the big club on, hit the bag a little bit. I went home and thought everything was fine, but it was just throbbing."

After discussions with the team doctor, Barnett said he's planning to take it week by week, and if the pain subsides next week he'll revisit the idea of playing with a club cast.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said there isn't much risk of making the injury worse, and Barnett said if the risk of worsening the injury to the point of needing surgery was the only consideration, he'd be playing.

"If I'm going to be favoring that hand, using my left and not really hitting with (my right), it's going to hurt us more as a team than it would if I was feeling healthy," Barnett said. "Abdul can go out there, he's got two healthy hands to work with right now."

Hodge, a third-round draft choice out of Iowa, made a big splash in training camp with his physical style and hard hits, and he was a key contributor on special teams during the season's first four games.

But a knee injury sidelined him for the next five contests, and he just returned to action last week at New England, playing on special teams and taking a few snaps on defense.

Hodge said he's done his best to prepare this week and he's not letting himself be overwhelmed with making his first NFL start. He's excited for the chance, but he also knows he can't try to do too much.

"It's definitely a big opportunity, but I'm not going to try to go out there and be Superman or anything," he said. "I'm just going to go out there, play defense and play football, run around and get to the ball and hopefully make some plays."

His position mates certainly have confidence in him and feel he's taking the right approach.

"He's a young guy who brings a lot of maturity to the position, in terms of being very calm, very poised in the face of a lot that's going on with him, which is I think rare," linebacker Brady Poppinga said.

Fellow rookie A.J. Hawk from Ohio State played against Hodge in the Big Ten said he believes Hodge is capable of more than he's been able to show thus far in his first season.

"Abdul is a guy who's a very physical linebacker that plays hard and knows what he's doing," Hawk said. "He's a guy we feel good about being in there."

Favre looks fine

Quarterback Brett Favre was upgraded from questionable to probable on Saturday. Because Favre missed most of Wednesday's practice, when the base offense was installed for the Seattle game, he took more snaps in Saturday's practice and experienced no problems throwing.

McCarthy said Favre has told him the feeling continues to come back in the last two fingers of his throwing hand, which went numb when he took a shot to the ulnar nerve in his right elbow last Sunday.

"He's throwing the ball a lot better than earlier in the week," McCarthy said. "He's not 100 percent comfortable as far as it was in the past, but I think that's to be expected. We've got two more days, too. I do not anticipate any problems."

{sportsad300}Clifton back at practice

Left tackle Chad Clifton, who was added to the injury report on Friday as questionable with a hamstring injury, returned to practice on Saturday and is expected to play.

Clifton tweaked his hamstring in practice on Wednesday and then missed Friday's workout. He took a limited number of snaps on Saturday. McCarthy said the injury is not serious.

Other injuries

Defensive end Aaron Kampman was added to the report on Saturday and missed practice. He is probable with a groin injury. Backup running back P.J. Pope also was added to the report as questionable with a hamstring injury and missed practice.

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (questionable, ankle) and cornerback Charles Woodson (questionable, shoulder and knee) both practiced in the team drills on Saturday for the first time all week. That's generally a good indication a player will be able to play.

Tight end David Martin (questionable, ribs) and linebacker Ben Taylor (doubtful, hamstring) both missed all three practices this week. Right tackle Mark Tauscher (doubtful, groin) did not practice all week, and McCarthy said he's hopeful the groin injury will be healed well enough for him to return sometime next week.

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