Notebook: Packers Must Balance Rest With Preparation


One of the biggest tasks the Green Bay Packers have this week is to physically recover yet still prepare in such a short week, with the Minnesota Vikings coming to Lambeau Field on Thursday night.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy hasn't coached on this short a week in several years, but he said on Monday that he took a look back at the schedules he used on the offensive staff at Kansas City in 1995 and 1996 when the Chiefs played Thanksgiving Day games at Dallas and Detroit, respectively.

That helped him establish this week's schedule, which includes a practice and extended meeting times on Tuesday, plus more meetings and a jog-through workout on Wednesday. The balance point between preparing for a game and healing physically can be hard to find.

"In my view, you have to make a decision where you lean towards," McCarthy said. "I know some people have practiced more, some have practiced less. I think the priority is getting their bodies back."

It's particularly difficult with veteran players like running back Ahman Green and cornerback Charles Woodson. For most of this season, Green has skipped the first full practice of the week (normally on Wednesday) to rest his knees and then worked out the final two days in preparation for Sunday. Woodson has been skipping two practices to help his shoulder heal and not returning to the practice field until Friday.

So McCarthy said both would sit out this week on Tuesday, but how their bodies will feel for a Thursday night game remains to be seen. Both will remain probable on this week's injury report.

"Those guys are going to have to bounce back," McCarthy said. "We tried to be smart with Ahman's reps this past week. And also Charles, he's fighting that shoulder. That's an ongoing battle. He hasn't missed anything to date and we expect him to be out there Thursday, but it's definitely a challenge."

A slight unknown

Another issue in preparing to play the Vikings is it's unclear which quarterback they will start, veteran Brad Johnson or rookie Tarvaris Jackson.

The Vikings have lost six of their last eight games, and Jackson, a second-round draft choice out of Alabama State, has come off the bench in two of the last three contests. On Sunday against the New York Jets, Jackson threw his first NFL touchdown pass and his first interception, going 14-for-23 for 177 yards. A mobile quarterback, Jackson also rushed three times for 20 yards.

After Sunday's game, Vikings head coach Brad Childress did not name a starter for Thursday night, and perhaps he won't to keep the Packers guessing.

"Anytime you play a new quarterback, when they're physically diverse from the starter, that's a challenge in itself," McCarthy said, perhaps anticipating that Jackson might get the start. "Yes, he's young, he's inexperienced, but also he's got a very strong arm, he's very athletic."

Fan votes announced

The Pro Bowl fan voting totals were announced on Monday by the league, and two Packers ranked fairly high on their respective lists.

{sportsad300}Defensive end Aaron Kampman finished 10th in the voting among all defensive players, and was the second-highest vote-getter among defensive ends in the NFC behind Julius Peppers. Kampman received 267,329 votes to 410,301 for Peppers. Miami's Jason Taylor, from the AFC, was the other defensive end in the Top 10, in fourth at 324,843. Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher was the top vote-getter among all defensive players with 529,328.

Linebacker A.J. Hawk is the fourth-leading vote-getter among all rookies with 188,082. Chicago kick returner Devin Hester tops the rookie list with 412,207.

Fan voting accounts for one-third of the Pro Bowl selection process, with voting by players and coaches the other two-thirds. Pro Bowl selections will be announced by the NFL at 3 p.m. Tuesday. will post the results as soon as they are available.

Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning was the top vote-getter in the fan voting with 1,183,468 of the nearly 70 million votes cast. San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, New York Giants running back Tiki Barber and Kansas City running back Larry Johnson rounded out the top five.

Tauscher could start

McCarthy said offensive tackle Mark Tauscher, who has missed the past five games with a groin injury, was scheduled to practice on Tuesday and if all goes well should return to the starting lineup this week.

Tauscher's last game was the first meeting with Minnesota, on Nov. 12 in Minneapolis, when he injured his groin near the goal line in the third quarter. He returned to practice last week but was still inactive for Sunday's game with Detroit, when rookie Tony Moll started in his place again.

Injury update

Of the eight total players on the injury report, only two are questionable - safety Atari Bigby (hamstring) and tight end David Martin, who re-injured his ribs in Sunday's game in the fourth quarter and did not return.

The other six players are all probable, including Green, Woodson, Tauscher, receiver Donald Driver (shoulder), safety Nick Collins (shoulder) and receiver Ruvell Martin (chest). Martin did not practice all of last week as a precautionary measure for the chest bruise sustained at San Francisco on Dec. 10, but McCarthy said he expects him to practice on Tuesday.

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