Once thought out for the season, nose tackle Gilbert Brown appears on the verge of completing a comeback that would make even John Travolta envious.
Trying to prove that he can contribute this season despite a biceps muscle that is torn at the elbow, Brown made a compelling argument last weekend with his play against the Carolina Panthers. Seeing limited action with the first-team defense, Brown played a critical role in the Packers' goal-line stand, getting in on a pair of tackles.
"If you didn't tell me he was hurt, I wouldn't have known," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "He played actually his best performance that I can recall this season, and also going back into later last season."
Having proved what he can do on the field, the next step is to see if Brown's injured arm can recover from that dose of live action quickly enough to do it again.
Because of the short turnaround between games, Sherman said Brown is unlikely to get any playing time Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans. However, Brown will be evaluated over the weekend to determine what his availability would have been had the games been a week apart.
Although Sherman this week refused to say that Brown has definitely made the 53-man regular season roster, the cautious handling of Brown for Thursday seems to point in that direction.
If Brown was headed to injured reserve, there would be no reason to hold him out against the Titans.
"I still want to be conservative and wait and see how he responds to the recovery of the biceps," Sherman said. "For him to come back out here and do what he did (only two-weeks removed from sustaining the injury) is really remarkable. So if he's able to handle that, he can probably handle just about anything.
"But the recovery time is really what I question right now. I think he'll be okay. According to the doctors, it's just going to get stronger and better, recover quicker."
Movin' Up, Or Over?
Given Marco Rivera's reputation for playing through injuries, the Green Bay Packers are hopeful that he'll be available for the regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, September 7.
But in the event that the sprained medial collateral ligament Rivera suffered last Saturday against the Carolina Panthers keeps him out of the lineup, the Packers are still reviewing their options on how best to replace him.
One obvious possibility would be for No. 2 guard Bill Ferrario to step up and take Rivera's position, but GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman also could elect to move Mark Tauscher over from his tackle position.
Tauscher made the same move for portions of the final five games of 2001, when Rivera was playing with a broken hand.
With Tauscher at guard, Kevin Barry would move in at tackle. In only his second season, Barry has three NFL starts at tackle compared to none for Ferrario at guard.
"We're going to dress the five best guys (on the offensive line), however they come up," Sherman said.
Much of that determination will be made based on Thursday's game, when Ferrario will get the start.
"There's still some evaluation that needs to be done on certain players," Sherman said. "Ferrario is one of them, as well as some of our other offensive linemen. So they'll get a great opportunity in this game."
Fast approaching the August 31 cut-down date, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman will be using the Tennessee Titans game to help him make a number of decisions about the Packers' 53-man regular-season roster.
One of the spots yet to be determined is No. 3 running back -- behind Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport -- where at least three players have interesting claims.
With four teams, nine seasons and 4,792 yards behind him, Lamar Smith is by far the most experienced option. But Smith hasn't had a chance to prove what he can do in Green Bay, having spent almost the entire preseason on the sideline since injuring his knee during practice July 26.
Tony Fisher, who was last year's No. 3, has had similar injury troubles (hamstring), with only two carries in preseason games thus far.
Then there's Herbert Goodman, who was spending his days playing pickup basketball at the local YMCA until the Packers signed him July 29, but has been impressive in preseason games, with eight carries for 89 yards.
Adam Tate also was to battle for the No. 3 spot, but has been sidelined with a knee injury.
"When you have as many as we still have to cut to get down to 53, there's a lot of decisions left to be made," Sherman said.
Asked about his top priorities for the Titans game Thursday, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman made it simple.
"I would say the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 priority is to stay healthy," Sherman said.
Presently, the Packers' dinged starters include Gilbert Brown (arm), Na'il Diggs (shoulder), Marco Rivera (knee) and Darren Sharper (groin).