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Notebook: Linebackers Shine With Spots On The Line

However many linebackers the Packers ultimately decide to keep on their final roster, backups Desmond Bishop, Abdul Hodge and Tracy White didn’t make the team’s decision any easier as all three wrapped up the preseason with strong performances on Thursday night vs. Tennessee. - More Packers-Titans Game Center

However many linebackers the Packers ultimately decide to keep on their final roster, backups Desmond Bishop, Abdul Hodge and Tracy White didn't make the team's decision any easier as all three wrapped up the preseason with strong performances on Thursday night vs. Tennessee.

The trio finished as the top three tacklers against the Titans, as Hodge and White tied for the lead with nine stops each and Bishop finished third with seven tackles.

"They've got a tough decision upstairs," said Hodge, who has been backing up Nick Barnett at middle linebacker. "I know we are probably going to keep six, but I'm not sure. All I know is that I played my butt off, I practiced my butt off, and I put my best foot forward. Whatever happens, I'll live with it."

In 2007, the Packers carried just five linebackers, with Barnett, A.J. Hawk, Brady Poppinga starting and Bishop and White backing them up. Hodge was on injured reserve.

With offseason free agent signee Brandon Chillar joining last year's starting trio to comprise the top four at the position, the Packers will likely keep at least two more linebackers, especially with A.J. Hawk still recovering from a chest injury. Hodge, Bishop and White are also core players on special teams, but whether the Packers would consider carrying seven linebackers remains to be seen.

Hodge, who missed all of '07 and part of his rookie season in '06 with knee injuries, is finally healthy, as evidenced by his 20 tackles during the preseason.

Bishop missed the first two preseason games with an Achilles injury, but made an impact last week in Denver, recording three tackles with one for a loss. In addition to his seven stops on Thursday night, he added a pass defensed and a quarterback pressure, and has shown his flexibility by playing in the middle and taking some snaps on the outside.

White, who has been primarily a special teams contributor during his three-year tenure in Green Bay, finished the preseason with 17 tackles on defense, and added an interception against the Broncos to set up the winning score.

"I have improved every year and I learned the defense," White said. "I know how to play both sides and I felt like I played these last four games real well with hardly any mistakes. Basically it's up to them."

Even though they have are battling for jobs at the same position, Hodge said that competition has benefited them and the rest of the defense throughout the preseason.

"It helps tremendously because we push each other," Hodge said. "We're a tight-knit group and we just want to see the best for the other person. Competition makes everybody better."

Tough day coming

Linebacker is just one of the positions that have a great deal of competition, and the makeup of the final roster will become clear this weekend when the team gets down to the 53-man limit.

"I am really close to a lot of the guys that are on the bubble, so it's going to be a tough weekend," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "There are a lot of talented guys, by far the most talented team I have been on in four years.

"There are a lot of good football players on this team who unfortunately won't be with us, but we're a tight-knit group. I think we're a strong team that has strong character."

Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins can empathize with those players on the bubble waiting to learn their fate. After signing with the Packers as a non-drafted free agent in 2003, he was waived in the first round of cuts and spent the '03 season out of football, before playing in NFL Europe in 2004 and making Green Bay's roster the next season.

"You know what a lot of these guys must be feeling right now," Jenkins said. "It will probably really hit them tomorrow. Every time somebody calls you'll be nervous, wondering who is calling.

"It's part of the business side of it. I told some guys to just leave it out on the field and you just hope for the best."

{sportsad300}Ryan on the run

Punter Jon Ryan had another strong night, posting a 52.2-yard average on six punts, but he also finished the game as the Packers' leading rusher with 34 yards, which all came on one play in the fourth quarter.

With the Packers in punt formation on their own 20-yard line, Ryan took a high snap from long snapper J.J. Jansen and with pressure coming, made a fake to avoid the defender and took off running down the right sideline for the big gain.

"When I jumped up, I came down and I was just a little bit off balance," Ryan said. "I looked up and saw a guy right in my face and knew I couldn't get the punt off. Initially I thought I could make a move and try to punt the ball, but once I made the move it was open, so I just took off."

Ryan, who made one of the more memorable plays last season when he eluded several tacklers for a first down on a fake punt at Minnesota, had running back Vernand Morency in front of him as a lead blocker as he ran down the sideline.

"I didn't want to go out of bounds," Ryan said. "Quarterbacks go out of bounds. I just cut back and put two hands on the ball and wanted to see if I could find anything else."

Injury/participation update

Guard Junius Coston and Jansen both sustained knee injuries and did not return. Coston left the game in the second quarter and Jansen in the fourth. Head Coach Mike McCarthy did not have an update on either player following the game.

There were 10 players that did not suit up for the game on Thursday night. They were safeties Atari Bigby (ankle) and Charlie Peprah (hamstring), cornerbacks Charles Woodson (knee) and Al Harris (unspecified), linebacker A.J. Hawk (chest), center Scott Wells (trunk), guard Josh Sitton (knee), defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (hamstring), wide receiver James Jones (knee) and defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee).

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