During Week 4, Roy Manning missed the Monday Night Football game against the Carolina Panthers because of a back injury.
"I told myself I'd never miss another Monday night game," Manning said. "This is kind of special for me."
Not only will Manning play on Monday, he likely will earn the start at weakside linebacker because of injuries to strongside linebacker Brady Poppinga (knee) and weakside linebacker Robert Thomas (quadriceps). The Packers placed Poppinga on injured reserve. Head Coach Mike Sherman said they probably will list Thomas as doubtful on the injury report.
"It does not look promising," he said.
Manning, who worked himself up from undrafted free agent to starter, has completed an impressive journey and should earn his third career start against the Baltimore Ravens.
"Just to get an opportunity to play is great," Manning said. "But to start and on Monday Night, you can't beat that -- not for a rookie you can't."
Friends And Foes
Cornerback Mike Hawkins carries a Deion Sanders football card him with him wherever he goes.
"I love Deion," he said. "I wanted to be like him so much."
On Monday he will receive the chance to play against his idol's current team -- the Ravens. Hawkins wore No. 21 in junior high because of Sanders. He would mimic his famous touchdown dances. And he owns a retro pair of Sanders' signature Nike shoes.
After the Packers drafted him during the offseason, Hawkins, a native Texan, saw Sanders at the Dallas/ Forth Worth International Airport. He approached him and asked him how he prepares for each NFL season. Sanders invited him for a summer workout in Plano, Texas., and they worked on coverage techniques for a day.
Sanders is not the only Ravens player Hawkins looks forward to meeting. Rookie Ravens wide receiver Mark Clayton served as Hawkins' recruiting host at Oklahoma -- the college Hawkins attended for one year before joining the Arena League.
"He's the reason I went to Oklahoma," Hawkins said. "I can't wait to play against one of my old teammates."
Clayton and Hawkins remain close. They talked on the phone several days ago but only briefly discussed football, instead catching up on more personal issues like the recent birth of Hawkins' son. Hawkins said he tried to match Clayton's work ethic during college.
"He'd be out there when nobody was out there," Hawkins said. "He worked hard. That made me want to be more involved."
Hawkins has yet another connection to the Ravens organization. He said the Ravens expressed a lot of interest in him as a draft prospect. He talked to the coaches and staff and toured their facility before the 2005 NFL draft.
"I think I would've gone there if the Packers hadn't drafted me," he said.
Ready For Primetime Again
Although the NFL does not allow teams to play on Monday Night Football in back-to-back weeks, John Leake will receive that unique opportunity.
The Packers signed the linebacker on Wednesday after the Atlanta Falcons waived him. Leake played in last Monday's 36-17 Falcons victory against the New Orleans Saints and should play again when his new team, the Packers, faces the Ravens.
"It's exciting to play in another Monday night game," Leake said.
Leake has only practiced with the team since Thursday, and the Packers will use him at linebacker only if an emergency situation arises. Leake, however, expects to contribute on kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return units during Monday's game.
"I'm planning on playing special teams," said the 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker. "I look forward to that and look forward to my first game as a Packer."
Leake recorded four tackles on the Falcons' coverage units this season and has impressed Sherman with his special teams skills during practice this week.
"He's doing a very good job there," Sherman said. "He's a high energy player. He has pretty good speed. I'm pleased with what I've seen so far, but it has to play out in a game."