Notebook: Packers Not Ready To Relax


With the NFC North title already clinched, questions were raised already on Wednesday as to how much the Packers might rest some of their key players later this month should a first-round bye be secured and their playoff position locked in.

But to the coaches, it's too early for such discussions because that first-round bye isn't secure, and if Seattle continues to win, it will take two more victories to clinch it, beginning with Sunday at St. Louis. To the players, there's no desire to squelch the momentum this 11-2 team has going.

"A time like this is time for us to start peaking out, playing our best football, so that's what we're trying to do," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. "We're trying to get on a roll and be playing at our highest level when we get to the playoffs.

"We don't see it as a trap game, we see it as another opportunity for us to get better. It's definitely a tune-up for the playoffs, and that's the way we have to approach it. If we want to do something when we get to the playoffs, we have to start now."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy did say he would like to rest some of his veteran players down the stretch if possible, but he didn't elaborate. He wants, and has, the players continuing to focus on winning games and improving as a team, the mantra that has gotten them this far.

"It's about getting better each game," defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said, "so that when we're in the playoffs, when we're playing with the top teams in the NFL, we're ready."

Quarterback question

In what is becoming a weekly occurrence, the Packers dove into their preparation for Sunday's game not knowing for sure who the opposing team's quarterback will be.

Last week St. Louis started third-stringer Brock Berlin because of injuries to Marc Bulger (concussion) and Gus Frerotte (shoulder). Rams head coach Scott Linehan said he wouldn't name a starter until Friday, and both Bulger and Frerotte were listed on the injury report as full participants in practice on Wednesday.

Bulger had practiced last week as well, but a setback with his post-concussion symptoms prevented him from playing, so that's why Linehan is waiting on a final decision.

This season there have been quarterback questions when the Packers have prepared for the Giants (Sept. 16), Vikings (Nov. 11), Panthers (Nov. 18) and Raiders (Dec. 9), so the uncertainty for the defense is nothing new, and is not a bother either.

"We just prepare for the scheme and prepare for whatever they do," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "They're not going to change the whole scheme up because it's a different quarterback. We're just going to go out there and play football."

{sportsad300}Interestingly, Bulger spent his first NFL training camp with McCarthy in New Orleans. The Saints drafted Bulger in the sixth round in 2000, McCathy's first year as offensive coordinator with that team. Bulger was released at the end of that training camp because of a glut of quarterbacks on that team, including Jeff Blake, a young Jake Delhomme, veteran Billy Joe Tolliver, and then Aaron Brooks, whom the Saints traded for during camp.

Bulger went on to join the Rams and has since gone to two Pro Bowls, following the 2003 and 2006 seasons, a development that wasn't entirely surprising to McCarthy.

"We were smart enough to draft him but we weren't smart enough to keep him," McCarthy said. "I'll say this about Mark Bulger -- he's a young man I'm very familiar with. We grew up in the same neighborhood back in Pittsburgh. He's clearly one of the most instinctive and accurate passers I've seen come in as a young man. I thought he was extremely smart with the football. The instincts and the accuracy, as far as anticipation on throws, I thought was exceptional."

Injury update

The Packers have 10 players on this week's injury report, and the best news is they all practiced in on at least a limited basis on Wednesday, meaning there's at least a chance they could all be available to play.

The 10 players are cornerbacks Jarrett Bush (calf), Al Harris (heel) and Charles Woodson (toe), offensive linemen Chad Clifton (shoulder), Junius Coston (ankle) and Mark Tauscher (ankle), tight end Bubba Franks (knee), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (hamstring), receiver Koren Robinson (knee) and linebacker Tracy White (ankle).

Franks, who hasn't played since injuring his knee against Washington back on Oct. 14, has been targeting this week as his return to action and McCarthy is hopeful he can play.

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