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Notebook: Woodson Expected To Start At Safety

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that cornerback Charles Woodson, who started his first game at safety as a Packer against Carolina last Sunday, will work there again in practice this week and likely start at strong safety against Houston. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 3


Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that cornerback Charles Woodson, who started his first game at safety as a Packer against Carolina last Sunday, will work there again in practice this week and likely start at strong safety against Houston.

Atari Bigby, who has started just six games at strong safety this season as he has battled hamstring and ankle injuries, saw limited time against the Panthers but sprained his shoulder in the first half and will be out on Sunday. Aaron Rouse, who was inactive Sunday with a knee injury, was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and would likely serve as the top backup safety against the Texans.

For Woodson, Sunday was the first time he started at safety since opening at free safety for the Oakland Raiders on Sept. 18, 2005, against the Kansas City Chiefs. McCarthy said Monday that the switch was initiated because of the injuries at safety, but also because it gave the Packers the opportunity to get nickel back Tramon Williams into the base defense.

"Tramon Williams has played very well throughout the season, and the opportunity to have him in our base defense was something we felt would benefit us as we move forward," McCarthy said. "I thought Charles played well at the safety position.

"I think he is extraordinary when he is around the football, particularly the way he is scraping at it and trying to get it out on the two fumbles."

Woodson was covering wide receiver Steve Smith on Smith's leaping 54-yard reception with less than two minutes remaining that set up the Panthers' winning score, but he led the secondary with a season-high nine tackles.

Woodson also forced a fumble by running back Jonathan Stewart and recovered wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad's fumble on the first play of the game. It was the first time in Woodson's 11-year career that he forced a fumble and also recovered one in the same game.

Optimistic on Wells

At his press conference on Monday, McCarthy said it would be a "challenge" for center Scott Wells to play this week after suffering a concussion in the first half against Carolina. On Wednesday, the prognosis for Wells was a bit brighter.

"Well, the report wasn't as positive Monday as it was today," McCarthy said. "He was still groggy Monday. He's made a lot of progress and feels good today. Went through conditioning with (strength and conditioning assistant) Mark Lovat. He'll go through the series of tests that you need to go through to pass the concussion test."

If Wells is unable to play against Houston, the Packers would go with the line they used against the Panthers after Wells left the game. Starting right guard Jason Spitz moved over to center and rookie Josh Sitton came in at right guard.

Still in the hunt

With less than a week remaining for fans to vote for the Pro Bowl, several Packers remain among the leaders in the NFC at their respective positions.

Woodson headlines Green Bay's presence in the voting as he leads all NFC cornerbacks in voting. Wide receiver Greg Jennings, special teamer Jarrett Bush, kicker Mason Crosby, safety Nick Collins and fullback Korey Hall all rank in the top five vote-getters at their positions.

Fan voting makes up one-third of the final tally, with votes from players and coaches each comprising a third. Fan balloting will conclude at 11 a.m. (CT) on Tuesday, Dec. 9, and the teams will be announced at 3 p.m. (CT) on Tuesday, Dec. 16, on NFL Network.

To vote for the Pro Bowl, click here.

Familiar face

With Texans long snapper Bryan Pittman receiving a four-game suspension on Tuesday for violating the NFL's policy on steroids and related substances, a former Packers draft pick will take over the snapping duties for Houston on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Tight end Clark Harris, who was selected by the Packers in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft out of Rutgers, will be promoted from Houston's practice squad to the active roster this week.

Harris was released by the Packers in their final roster cut in '07, and spent one game on the practice squad. He also spent time on Detroit's practice squad last season.

"He has been going through (practice) and getting ready each week as we sat here and waited on the decision to come down," Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said. "We made sure we didn't get caught napping here. We've been preparing for this situation for a while."

Quarterback switch

Houston quarterback Matt Schaub, who has been sidelined for the past month with a knee injury, participated fully in Wednesday's practice and will likely return to the starting lineup on Sunday against the Packers.

"We'll go back to work today assuming that he will start this week and be ready to go," Kubiak said. "But at the same time, I've got to watch him through the week. I thought I saw enough progress last week that I felt comfortable playing him and I'm hoping I see a little bit more progress this week."

Schaub sustained a torn MCL in his knee in Week 9 at Minnesota in the first half on a hit by defensive end Jared Allen, and backup Sage Rosenfels has started for Houston the last four games, going 2-2 as the starter. Allen was fined $50,000 by the league for two low hits on Schaub in the game.

{sportsad300}Schaub ranks third in the league in with a 67.8 percent completion percentage, connecting on 154-of-227 passes for 1,762 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also missed five games last season due to a shoulder injury and a concussion.

"He's done a very good job in that offense," McCarthy said. "It's an offense that has some similarities to our offense. I think he is accurate. He'll throw the tight throw. He plays with a lot of confidence.

"I can recall him back in Atlanta, I thought he was a very confident young quarterback back then. I know he has had some injuries, but there is a reason why he is their starter. I think he's a young guy that definitely has a huge upside."

Injury/participation update

In addition to Bigby, cornerback Pat Lee (knee) will be out Sunday.

Limited participants besides Wells were running back Brandon Jackson (quad), defensive end Aaron Kampman (illness), defensive end Jeremy Thompson (ankle), Woodson (toe) and running back DeShawn Wynn (calf).

Tackle Chad Clifton (knees), running back Ryan Grant (thumb), fullback John Kuhn (knee) and safety Aaron Rouse (knee) participated fully on Wednesday.

For Houston, both starting safeties, Nick Ferguson (knee) and Eugene Wilson (ankle), did not practice. Defensive end Anthony Weaver (knee) also did not participate. The Texans are coming off playing a home game on Monday night.

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