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Notebook: Starting Offensive Line Still Unknown

As Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday, the Packers have some options on the offensive line with veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher both potentially available for the NFC North showdown with Minnesota, but who will start on Sunday is up in the air. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 30


Rookie T.J. Lang started his first NFL game last Sunday at Cleveland, opening up at left tackle.

As Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday, the Packers have some options on the offensive line with veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher both potentially available for the NFC North showdown with Minnesota, but who will start on Sunday is up in the air.

Clifton was a full participant in practice Friday for the first time since re-injuring his ankle in Week 6 vs. Detroit, and is listed as questionable for Sunday. He and rookie T.J. Lang, who started his first career game last Sunday at Cleveland, both took reps with the first offense during the jog-through portion of Friday's practice.

Whoever starts on Sunday, they will be matched up with one of the top pass rushers in the league in Jared Allen, who ranks fourth in the league with 7½ sacks. Lang saw time at left tackle against Allen in the Week 4 matchup after left guard Daryn Colledge, sliding over for an injured Clifton, left the game with a knee injury.

"I think it helped a lot," Lang said. "It was really my first live game action this year, and we were in a tough situation. We were throwing the ball almost every down. Pass protecting against one of the best pass rushers in the league, it was difficult, but I think I did some good things in that game and also some things that I kind of learned from.

"He's a great player. He's got tremendous speed coming off the edge. When you go up against a guy like that, you have to really be on top of your fundamentals."

Center/guard Jason Spitz (back) did not participate Friday for the third straight day, and is doubtful for Sunday. Scott Wells, who has started the last four games at center, is expected to get the call again.

Tauscher, who re-signed with the team on Oct. 12 after rehabbing from a torn ACL he sustained in Week 14 last season, completed his first full week of practice and could be active on Sunday for the first time this season.

"I know he feels good," McCarthy said. "You have to remember he hasn't played in a full football game in a long time. There's a reason why we've taken the path that we have with Mark. We're going to make sure he's put in a situation to be successful too.

"Allen Barbre is the starting right tackle, and I've said this from the day Mark Tauscher came back. It's Allen's responsibility to keep that job, and that part hasn't changed. It's great to have Mark Tauscher back, but they're really two totally different situations. We have to make sure Mark's ready to play, and Allen Barbre needs to continue to improve and keep his job."

McCarthy said he will watch the practice film on Saturday morning with offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, offensive line coach James Campen and assistant offensive line coach Jerry Fontenot before making a final decision on who will start.

"Anytime you march out five offensive linemen, really any position, you'd like for them to finish the game," McCarthy said. "That's the goal. I'm not looking to platoon players. But there's different things that can happen during the course of a game, so we're going to do everything we can to win the football game."

40 club

Cornerback Charles Woodson reached a career milestone last Sunday in Cleveland, one that he thought he might never attain.

Woodson's second-quarter interception of quarterback Derek Anderson was the 40th of his 12-year career, making him only the fifth active NFL player (Darren Sharper, Ed Reed, Champ Bailey and Dré Bly) to hit that mark.

"It means a lot," Woodson said. "There was a time in my career where I wasn't getting a lot of interceptions coming out of Oakland. It just became a goal of mine to somehow to get to 40, and I kind of got discouraged a little bit for a while. All of a sudden I get here and the ball is flying my way a little more. It became a real dream again, and I finally got it last week, so 40 meant a lot to me.

"Coming into the league I just thought I would get picks, so I never really had a number. As the years went on I kind of said, 'Man, if I could just get to 40.' I would get one pick one year, four the next, and it seemed kind of distant. I just kept thinking about 40, thinking about 40."

After tying for the team lead with five interceptions as a rookie with the Raiders in 1998, Woodson posted just 12 interceptions in his next seven seasons in Oakland. Since coming to Green Bay as a free agent in 2006, Woodson has picked off 23 passes, tied for second most (Reed) in the NFL over that span behind only Philadelphia's Asante Samuel (24), including a career-best eight in '06 and seven last season.

"It's all opportunity, and I think I'm around the ball enough that if I get enough opportunities, then I'll come up with it," Woodson said.

According to STATS LLC, Woodson is the 80th player in NFL history to hit the 40-interception mark. He now sets his sights on 50, a number achieved by only 35 players in league history.

"I think it is in reach now," Woodson said. "Like I said, I've got 40 out of the way. Now anything else is just going to be a bonus."

Down to the wire

Tight end Jermichael Finley, who sustained a sprained knee on the opening drive last week at Cleveland, is doubtful for Sunday's game, but Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that Finley is "making a lot of progress" and that the team is not closing the door on him playing against the Vikings.

Finley did not participate in Friday's practice, the third straight day he has missed, but McCarthy said the plan is to work Finley out on Sunday before making a final determination on his availability.

"If he can clear one of the tests (Saturday) he'll be a pre-game workout candidate," McCarthy said. "If he doesn't come out of his rehab tomorrow, the session they put him through, then obviously he'll be down."

McCarthy said the team would never put a player on the field if there was a risk of making the injury worse.

"We would never put someone in that position," McCarthy said. "That's the way we operate. They have to first be cleared by Dr. McKenzie, so he has the final say on that. A player would have to overcome some type of situation like that, but I'm not going to put Jermichael in a situation where we feel he can further hurt himself."

{sportsad300}If Finley is unable to play, first-year tight end Spencer Havner will see his reps increase behind veteran Donald Lee. Havner posted career highs against the Browns with two catches for 59 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown reception.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity and excited about the game," Havner said. "It feels really good to be a big part of the offense and a big part of the team, and I'm looking forward to it."

Welcome back

McCarthy said veteran running back Ahman Green, who re-signed with the team last Wednesday and was inactive at Cleveland, has a "very good chance" of being active against the Vikings.

Green, who played for Green Bay from 2000-06 and is the franchise's second-leading all-time rusher, hasn't played in a game since Week 12 last season at Cleveland when he was with Houston. His season ended two days later when he was placed on injured reserve with a sprained MCL sustained in the Browns game.

"I think he'll have a chance to contribute," McCarthy said. "He looks good. You do worry, he hasn't been in live action this year. That's a concern, no question about it. But we have history with Ahman, and there's history between Ahman and his position coach Edgar Bennett, so we're going to rely on that to make some decisions."

McCarthy said Green could help the team as a kickoff returner, which is something he hasn't done since 1999 with Seattle, his second year in the NFL.

Injury/participation update

Fullback Korey Hall (calf) and wide receiver Jordy Nelson (knee) are out for Sunday. Finley and Spitz are both doubtful.

Clifton, safety Derrick Martin (hamstring) and defensive end Jarius Wynn (hamstring) are questionable.

Tauscher, Woodson (hip), linebacker Clay Matthews (jaw), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (foot) and guard Josh Sitton (hand) are probable for Sunday.

For Minnesota, starting left cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) is out.

Wide receivers Bernard Berrian (hamstring), Percy Harvin (illness) and Darius Reynaud (hamstring) and linebacker Jasper Brinkley (hamstring) are questionable.

Quarterback Brett Favre (hip), linebackers E.J. Henderson (knee) and Ben Leber (calf), cornerback Karl Paymah (quadriceps) and fullback Naufahu Tahi (knee) are probable.

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