As if it wasn't troubling enough that the Packers' injury report is longer than a list of Elizabeth Taylor's ex-husbands, the names therein are the same ones Packers fans like to see on the backs of replica jerseys: Holliday, Johnson, McKenzie, Sharper, even -- brace yourself -- Favre.
True, the right-handed Brett Favre is listed as probable for Sunday's game against the defending Super Bowl champions with a swollen left elbow. True, even a swollen right elbow probably wouldn't keep the Packers' iron man -- 164 consecutive games played, and counting -- out of the lineup.
But if you're among those who, like the Packers, entered the season with visions of a trip to San Diego in late January, it's not the way you would have written it.
Certainly it's not the hand GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman hoped to be dealt. But even with starters Joe Johnson and Mark Tauscher lost for the season, and fellow starters Antuan Edwards and Vonnie Holliday out for at least a few more weeks, Sherman's not about to fold his hand.
Not even with Mike McKenzie and Darren Sharper listed as questionable for Sunday with groin and hamstring tightness, respectively. At least not while his team is 4-1 and two games up in the NFC North.
"Obviously it's not the way you'd like to have it, but it's the way it is," Sherman said. "That's part of being in this league. I think it tests coaches and players, tests their willingness to win . . . When you have injuries, it can either be divisive or unite your team."
In front of a hostile crowd in Champaign and a national audience watching on ABC, injuries seemed to have the latter affect on the Packers Monday night.
"I think it can unite your football team and guys play at a higher level," Sherman said. "The ones that are called upon play better than you thought they would and other players assume bigger roles."
In the wake of Johnson's season-ending injury (torn triceps), Sherman is spending much of this week trying to determine a replacement for the two-time Pro Bowler.
One of his options would be to use quarterback menace Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila at 'elephant' end on both rushing and passing downs. But with the Packers already struggling to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, the last thing Sherman wants to do is have one of the most dynamic pass-rushers in football lose a step on third downs.
"That's the concern for anybody that has pure pass-rushing ability, and he does have that," Sherman said. "You don't want to lose that, so whether Kabeer starts the game or plays a certain amount of reps, we have to make sure that he is ready to give us everything he has on third down."
The Packers could also move linemen Billy Lyon or Rod Walker to the outside, or go with second-year defensive end Jamal Reynolds. In a perfect world, Sherman would use Reynolds, but the former Florida State Seminole has seen little time on the field after being selected with the 10th overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft.
Asked if he was bothered that Reynolds hadn't demonstrated the ability to step in, Sherman said, "That is frustrating. Obviously that is a spot (the 10th overall pick in the draft), you anticipated would be something that could solve a problem, and it hasn't necessarily been that way."
As for the availability of McKenzie, Sharper and Tyrone Williams (probable, hamstring), Sherman said all three are receiving extensive medical treatment with the design that they could be ready to play Sunday.
If they can't go, the Packers will turn to their youth as they have often this season. Defensively, rookie Aaron Kampman has replaced Holliday in the starting lineup, and Marques Anderson could get the call if Sharper is unable to play.
In previous weeks, Najeh Davenport filled in for both Ahman Green and William Henderson when they went down with injuries, and first-round draft choice Javon Walker has also been a key contributor offensively this season.
If the Packers want to keep California dreaming, that's the kind of production they'll need from their youth down the stretch.
"The young guys have to step up," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "Everyone has a job to do. This is what you get paid for. If a veteran guy goes down, you have to step up in his place and make plays."
By the fourth quarter of the Packers-Bears game Monday night, the Packers' defensive squad was so depleted by injuries that rookie linebacker Marcus Wilkins was seeing downs at defensive end, while wide receiver Terry Glenn was on the sideline receiving emergency instruction at cornerback.
It was enough to make Frank Winters' shift to tight end seem down right ordinary. And it did nothing to dissuade GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman from completing a proposal to the National Football League suggesting that teams be allowed to have 47 eligible players on game days instead of 45.
It was a proposal that Sherman had in the works long before Winters had to report himself as an eligible receiver.
When completed, Sherman's proposal to the league will suggest that each team be allowed to carry two extra special teams players on their gameday rosters. Those players would be eligible to play only on special teams, except in the case of injury. In that situation, an injured player could be substituted for by a special-teams-only player, but could not return to the game -- the same condition applied to the 'third quarterback' rule.
Sherman said utilizing more players from the weekly 53-man roster on gameday would benefit NFL teams and the league in two ways: "I think it would elevate special teams play and it would take the stress off a starter that you're paying big money to (and asking to also play special teams), . . . putting them in a position of liability," he said.
Not to mention that it would help ensure that wide receivers wouldn't have to even think about being on the other end of bump-and-run coverage.
Sherman said the league has always shied away from allowing more than 45 players on a gameday roster because it wants to protect the statistical integrity of the game.
Ready And Willing
As if he hadn't done enough by making eight catches for 154 yards, when Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman approached wide receiver Terry Glenn about possibly playing defensive back late in the game Monday, Glenn didn't back down from the assignment.
"He had a willingness to help us win that football game," Sherman said. "He didn't balk one iota when I asked him to do it. He was probably in shock for a couple of seconds."
Glenn's crash course instruction at cornerback came as a result of multiple injuries suffered by the Packers' secondary, which left them with only four healthy defensive backs -- Marques Anderson, Matt Bowen, Darrien Gordon and Tod McBride -- late in the game.
Glenn was never used defensively.
"I just felt like he had the most experience beating corners on our team, he should know how a corner can get beat, so he should be able to defend against a receiver trying to beat a corner," Sherman said. "That's why I chose him. I don't know if everyone agreed with me on that one, but that was my logic there . . .
"We were just going to line him up and play man and he was going to bump the guy and run with the guy all over the field. I didn't expect him to be up in the box making tackles on A-Train (Bears running back Anthony Thomas), but from a coverage standpoint I thought he could do it."
For the first time in his tenure as head coach, Mike Sherman ordered practices closed to the media this week. While he did not say definitively that doors would be reopened next week, Sherman did say that he didn't see it as a "long-term" arrangement.
"When it affects the football team, I'm going to do what's best for the football team," Sherman said. "As we sort through some things and make some personnel moves and changes, I think it gives me my best chance (to win) this weekend."