Notebook: Lang Likely To Get The Call

T.J. Lang’s playing time at left tackle this season has primarily come in the fourth quarters of games when the starter went down with an injury, but the rookie from Eastern Michigan is expected to get his first NFL start on Sunday at Cleveland. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 23


T.J. Lang's playing time at left tackle this season has primarily come in the fourth quarters of games when the starter went down with an injury, but the rookie from Eastern Michigan is expected to get his first NFL start on Sunday at Cleveland.

Starting left tackle Chad Clifton, who re-injured his ankle late in the third quarter of Sunday's game vs. Detroit, did not participate in practice for the third straight day and is listed as doubtful. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that Lang will get his first start if Clifton cannot go against the Browns.

"I'm very excited," said Lang, who would become the first Packer rookie to start at left tackle since Daryn Colledge did at Miami (Oct. 22, 2006) for Clifton, who was out due to illness. "It's nice to be able to get out there and start a game. I'm confident in my abilities and I hope the rest of the team is confident. I'm just going to go out there and try to do my job.

"We've gotta pick it up a little bit on the O-line and I want to be a part of that. Starting is a big step. I've had a great week of preparation and I'm ready to go."

Lang took all the first-team reps during team (11-on-11) portions this week in practice, which he said should benefit him on Sunday from a preparation standpoint.

"I think T.J. has had a good week," McCarthy said. "I thought Wednesday was his toughest day, which is usually the toughest day for most of the players because you have your game plan, some of the new wrinkles that you're doing. But I thought he definitely had a very good day Thursday, and without seeing the film on (Friday's) practice, I thought the line as a whole was pretty sharp."

Lang's first significant time at left tackle this season came at Minnesota in Week 4 when Colledge, starting in place of an injured Clifton, sustained a knee injury early in the fourth quarter. Lang was matched up with Pro Bowl right end Jared Allen, and made an impression on his teammates with the confidence he displayed, something quarterback Aaron Rodgers referenced on Wednesday.

"I had to be," Lang said. "If I go out there looking all scared, that really won't show any confidence and they won't have any confidence in me. I felt prepared back then too. Obviously I was thrown into a tough spot late in the game like that.

"I don't want them to really change anything when I go in. I want the coaches and everybody to feel comfortable when I am in there. I don't want them necessarily calling plays to help me. I want to show them that I am confident that I can do my job when I am called upon."

The 6-foot-4, 316-pound Lang was called upon once more last Sunday against the Lions when Clifton got hurt, and played the entire fourth quarter. The Packers only threw the ball once when Lang was in, but he held his own again as running back Ryan Grant picked up 62 yards on 11 attempts (5.6 avg.) in the final quarter.

Lang, a fourth-round selection, started the final 26 games of his college career at left tackle and 10 games prior to that at right tackle. In training camp he saw time at right tackle and both guard spots, primarily the left side, before settling into the backup left tackle spot recently.

"It's funny because coming out of college, all of the scouts told me that I wasn't capable of playing left tackle and that I would never play there," Lang said. "If you had asked me that (about starting at left tackle) a couple of months ago, I would have said you are crazy.

"It's been a fun journey for me so far, and obviously this is a big moment, getting my first start in the NFL. I'm going to try to take full advantage of my opportunity and show the coaches and show my teammates that they can count on me when they call my number."

Quarterback connection

Rodgers will see the only other quarterback in the NFL that attended Butte College across the field from him on Sunday in Cleveland.

Rodgers played one season at the college near his hometown of Chico, Calif., and led the Roadrunners to a NorCal Conference championship in 2001. After Rodgers transferred to the University of California, Browns No. 3 quarterback Brett Ratliff took over for him at quarterback the next two seasons at Butte.

Ratliff went on to play at Utah for two seasons and was signed by the New York Jets as a non-drafted free agent in 2007. He was traded to the Browns this past April, reuniting him with head coach Eric Mangini, who had coached him in New York.

"Brett had two good years at Butte, and then went to Utah and made the most of his chance," Rodgers said. "I definitely follow him. I follow the Butte guys, so it was good to see him play well not only at Butte and get them wins, but also go on and play well and get a chance in New York. Obviously Mangini liked him enough to bring him over to Cleveland."

The connection between the two quarterbacks goes even further back since both are natives of Chico and the two squared off in high school when Rodgers was a senior and Ratliff was a junior.

"We beat him in the Almond Bowl, which is the big cross-town rivalry game," Rodgers said. "He went to Chico High and I went to Pleasant Valley High. We won 34-20 and I broke the all-time passing yardage record for my high school in that game. We needed to win to make the playoffs, and we beat them.

"The thing about that game was we usually played on a Friday night. This was in 2001 after 9/11, and we were having a walk-through at about 5:30 p.m. before we went over to the stadium at about 6:45 for the 7:30 game. All of the lights in the city go out, and we think some terrorist thing was going on, so they cancel the game. We played it at home on Saturday during the day instead. It didn't have the same allure to it, but we won."

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The Packers are traveling to Cleveland for the first time since the Browns re-entered the NFL in 1999, and that first visit has contributed to the matchup being the league's fourth most-popular game this weekend according to the "Buzz Index" of the NFL Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster.

The Packers-Browns game has accounted for 14 percent of all Week 7 NFL game tickets sold on the Exchange. It trails only the Atlanta-Dallas, Arizona-N.Y. Giants, and New Orleans-Miami matchups.

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Injury/participation update

Fullback Korey Hall (calf), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (knee) and tackle Mark Tauscher (knee) are out for Sunday.

In addition to Clifton, center Jason Spitz (back) is doubtful for Sunday, so Scott Wells will get his fourth straight start at center if Spitz cannot play. McCarthy said Spitz is "day-to-day" with the injury.

"As we all know, when you're dealing with lower backs, there's always an uncertainty to his specific injury," McCarthy said. "They worked him extensively today inside in his rehab procedures, and we'll see how he feels in the morning."

With Clifton and Spitz both doubtful, rookie guard/center Evan Dietrich-Smith would likely be the top backup at the interior positions on the line.

Linebacker Brandon Chillar (neck) was limited for the second straight day and is questionable, but McCarthy said as long as the injury doesn't flare up in the next 48 hours, Chillar should be fine for Sunday.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings (hip) was a limited participant on Friday as well, but is probable. Fullback Quinn Johnson (ankle), nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) and Rodgers (foot) all participated fully and are probable.

For Cleveland, kicker Phil Dawson (right calf) is doubtful. Defensive lineman Kenyon Coleman (groin) and Corey Williams (illness), wide receiver Joshua Cribbs (knee), offensive lineman Rex Hadnot (knee), tight end Robert Royal (illness/hamstring/finger) and defensive back Eric Wright (shoulder) are all questionable.

Quarterback Derek Anderson (ankle), linebackers Eric Barton (shoulder), David Bowens (knee), Jason Trusnik (illness) and Kamerion Wimbley (illness), offensive linemen Alex Mack (illness) and Floyd Womack (ankle), defensive backs Anthony Madison (illness), Brandon McDonald (shoulder) and Brodney Pool (illness), defensive linemen Shaun Rogers (illness/foot) and Robaire Smith (calf), wide receiver Chansi Stuckey (illness), fullback Lawrence Vickers (illness) and punter Dave Zastudil (right knee) are probable.

Running back Jerome Harrison (illness) came off the injury report on Friday.

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