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Notebook: Homecoming For Improving Zombo

It has been quite a season already for rookie Frank Zombo, who has worked his way up from an undrafted college defensive end to a starting NFL outside linebacker, and Sunday’s game at Detroit will be a chance for him to show family and friends just how far he has come.


A native of Sterling Heights, Mich., who also attended Central Michigan, Zombo estimated that a "couple hundred" family and friends would be at Ford Field on Sunday to cheer him on against the Lions. Luckily for him, he said, everyone was able to acquire tickets on their own.

"If I make a play, it might sound like we're at Lambeau," Zombo joked. "But no, I'm definitely excited. A little bit of added pressure, but yeah, I'm ready to go home.

"I don't plan on going home or anything, but once we get there we have a couple of hours to walk around town. My family is going to pick me up and we are just going to go out to dinner or something like that."

The 6-foot-3, 254-pound Zombo was a four-year letterman at defensive end for the Chippewas, where he ranks No. 2 in school annals with 25½ sacks, but he had to make the transition to outside linebacker in Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme.

Considered a long shot to make the team heading into training camp, Zombo led the team in the preseason in both tackles (18) and sacks (two) on his way to becoming one of three non-drafted rookies (Nick McDonald and Sam Shields) to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

Zombo started his first game in Week 3 at Chicago when Brad Jones was sidelined with a shoulder injury, and he moved into the starting lineup for good in Week 8 with Jones' injury turning into a season-ending one and veteran Brady Poppinga also going down for the year with a torn ACL.

"Zombo kind of has come out of nowhere from where he started," Capers said. "Once you are around Zombo and you get to know him and you are around him in the meetings and you watch how much it bothers him if he makes a mistake. If you have to correct him, he doesn't want to make the same mistake again. He's going to give you good effort."

Zombo ranks sixth on the team with 61 tackles and tied for third among all NFL rookies with four sacks. Capers praised not only Zombo's stoutness against the run, but also his improved coverage abilities, something he wasn't asked to do as a lineman in college.

"I feel very comfortable," Zombo said. "I feel confident. When I go into the game I don't feel like a rookie free agent, so I think that is helping. I'm just doing what my coaches are telling me to do, playing within the scheme and it is working out for me.

"I kind of had to grow up really fast. I put together pretty solid games the last couple of games, so I think my confidence just rises every game."

Zombo has recorded a sack in each of the past two games as well as 16 tackles, with a career-high 11 at Atlanta in Week 12, and he credited fellow outside linebacker Clay Matthews and the attention Matthews draws from opposing offenses as a reason that he and other defenders have been even more productive of late.

"Frank is improving," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought he played very well (Sunday vs. San Francisco). He had a very high grade and very consistent. He has done a very nice job. Just the path that he has come and we have talked about that in here before; I can't say enough about these rookie free agents that have made our football team and the opportunity that they have taken advantage of.

"He is getting better, he is improving. He is a lot more consistent, which is what you would expect at this time of year than he was at the beginning of the year. Frank is doing a heck of a job."

Getting some votesWith less than two weeks remaining for fans to vote for the Pro Bowl, quarterback Aaron Rodgers ranks No. 5 among all NFL players and No. 2 among NFC quarterbacks behind only Philadelphia's Michael Vick.

With 537,340 votes, Rodgers trails only Vick (729,838), Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning (691,146), Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (623,074) and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (591,598) in the fan balloting for the annual all-star game.

Three other Packers have had strong showings as well, with tackle Chad Clifton (112,500), cornerback Charles Woodson (235,681) and linebacker Clay Matthews (285,063) all leading their respective positions in the NFC in the fan voting.

The Pro Bowl squads are based on the consensus of fans, players and coaches, with each group's vote counting one-third toward determining the rosters for each conference. The 2011 game will be played on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011, and will be televised live on FOX at 6 p.m. (CT) at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Balloting will conclude on Monday, Dec. 20, following a Monday Night Football matchup between Chicago and Minnesota. The teams will be announced at 6 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Dec. 28, on NFL Network.

Fans can continue to vote on, and for the first time, on Facebook by visiting www.facebook/nfl and clicking on the "Pro Bowl" tab.

New injuriesMcCarthy said Clifton sustained a concussion in Sunday's game against San Francisco but didn't display any symptoms until Monday.

Clifton is going through the normal concussion protocol, and did the light physical workout portion of that on Wednesday by participating in the jog-through.

Second-year man T.J. Lang is the backup at both tackle spots.

"I feel ready every week," Lang said. "I prepare the same if I am sitting on the bench or if I am starting. I watch film, I work hard in practice, and I feel like if they need me to jump in there and play I'll be ready to go."

Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson, who has been on the injury report all season because of a toe injury, sprained his ankle during practice on Wednesday. McCarthy did not have an update on his status immediately after practice from the trainers.

Injury/participation updateDefensive end Cullen Jenkins (calf) and fullback Korey Hall (knee) have been ruled out for Sunday.

McCarthy said rookie defensive end C.J. Wilson and second-year end Jarius Wynn will be competing for more time in Jenkins' absence, and that the coaches will likely take the full week of practice before making a decision. Veteran Howard Green has also seen time at end.

"We'll watch the film and we'll see how it goes," McCarthy said. "C.J. has been up the last number of weeks, so he obviously had a leg up coming into this week. But like I have stated, Jarius has practiced extremely well and I feel very confident for him to go on Sunday."

Safety Atari Bigby (hamstring), cornerback Pat Lee (ankle) and safety Anthony Smith (ankle) did not participate in practice on Wednesday.

Clifton (knees/concussion), Woodson (toe/ankle), Matthews (shin), safety Nick Collins (shoulder) and defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle) were limited participants.

Wide receivers Donald Driver (hand) and Brett Swain (knee) both participated fully.

For Detroit, running back Jahvid Best (toe), linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba (knee), quarterback Shaun Hill (right finger), quarterback Matthew Stafford (right shoulder) and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (neck) did not participate on Wednesday. Vanden Bosch was placed on season-ending injured reserve later in the afternoon.

Defensive end Cliff Avril (quadriceps), wide receiver Calvin Johnson (groin), linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin) and wide receiver Derrick Williams (ankle) were limited participants.

Wide receiver Nate Burleson (hamstring) and tackle Gosder Cherilus (knee) participated fully.

Additional coverage – Dec. 8

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