When the Green Bay Packers head to Indianapolis to face the Colts in their third game of the 2004 season this weekend, they will be featuring their third starting nose tackle of the young campaign.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman announced Wednesday that second-year man James Lee, who was inserted into the heart of the defensive line last week, had suffered a lateral meniscus tear and would be lost to the team for four-to-six weeks.
Lee underwent arthroscopic surgery on his injured knee early Wednesday morning after suffering the injury in the first quarter of the game against Chicago Sunday. The Oregon State product remained in the game despite the injury and finished the contest with three tackles.
The injury marked the second straight game to see the Packers' starting nose guard injured in the first quarter. Grady Jackson, the top man on the depth chart, was sidelined by a dislocated kneecap early in the action of the September 13 season opener at Carolina.
It appears that first-year player Cullen Jenkins, who has seen significant action in the defensive line rotation through the first two games, is in line to get his first NFL start Sunday at the RCA Dome.
Coming off an impressive training camp and preseason that saw him earn a spot on the roster, Jenkins will be ready for whatever role the coaching staff has for him this week. He wasn't exactly sure what that role would be prior to Wednesday's practice, though.
"I wouldn't say starting yet, because I haven't heard anything about what's going on," Jenkins said. "I'm just going out to practice still in my same position, just trying to have a good practice."
Likewise, following the workout defensive coordinator Bob Slowik was non-committal as to what his lineup would be at kickoff time Sunday. He did say that Jenkins will definitely have an expanded role in the upcoming game, and he expects more good things out of his young lineman.
"Everybody will be in an expanded role, so Cullen yes, and everybody that's suited up on the defensive line will play, take snaps and roll into the game," said Slowik.
"We liked the way he played (Sunday). He played just like he played more or less in training camp. He flashed, he played with quickness, speed, effort. He did a nice job."
Sherman was also pleased with Jenkins' play Sunday, but he recognizes the fact that he is going to need some help from the rest of his linemen this week.
"(Jenkins) played very well the other day I thought, and I have the utmost respect for Olin Kreutz, the center from Chicago," Sherman said. "Cullen made his plays and Olin made some plays. Certainly (he won't play) 55 plays in the ball game, we will not ask him to do that. He's going to share some time with some different players. We're going to come up with the best group we can to give us the best chance to be able to solidify our run game in there."
The coach went on to say that injuries play a significant role over the course of a season, and how you deal with them will go a long way in determining the success of this team.
"Certainly, you'd rather have Grady Jackson out there with the impact that he has but that's part of life in the National Football League - being able to handle and address injuries as they occur. It's not the situation that you would draw up and want, but it is what it is, and guys in those situations in the past have stepped up."
Jenkins knows that his time to step up is now, and that his most important job will be to do his best Grady Jackson impersonation and make it difficult for the Colts to run the ball through the middle of the line.
"I'm an undersized tackle as everybody wants to call me, so if they want to come at me, so be it. I just have to be ready for it," Jenkins said. "As long as you prepare during the week, you'll be ready during the game. I've got to stop the run, that's the biggest thing we've got to do."