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Packers Notebook - Nwokorie Optimistic


It's not his decision to make, but Green Bay Packers defensive end Chukie Nwokorie feels good enough to play in Sunday's NFC Divisional playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles despite a broken bone in his wrist.

"Most definitely I feel like I'm ready right now," Nwokorie said after Friday's practice. "Now it's up to Coach (Mike) Sherman."

If Nwokorie plays Sunday he'll be significantly handicapped. In order to protect the wrist, he'll have to have his right hand and lower forearm heavily wrapped in a club-like manner similar to the wrap offensive lineman Mike Wahle wore to protect a broken finger last week against the Seattle Seahawks.

Without the ability to grab with that hand, Nwokorie would be limited in his ability to fight off blocks and grasp players to tackle, but that doesn't mean he can't be effective.

Starting power end Aaron Kampman wore a club-like wrap for part of the 2002 season when he had a broken finger.

"We'll have to see how it is (Saturday)," Sherman said of Nwokorie. "(Friday) was just to see if he could get through it without too much pain and it seems like he did. I want to make sure he can function.

"You need three arms to tackle (Eagles quarterback) Donovan McNabb, and he'll only have one. I'm concerned about that a little bit, so we'll see how it functions."

Nwokorie admitted that his wrist remains sore, but he gained some confidence after Friday's practice when he invited 340-pound nose tackle Gilbert Brown to lean on the injured arm.

"Gilbert Brown was asking me how come I picked him," Nwokorie said. "I told him, hey, I think you're kind of comparable to the running game I have to go against. So he leaned on me and I feel fine."

Nwokorie is officially listed as questionable on the team's injury report, meaning there's a 50-50 chance he'll play Sunday.

Running Rematch

The last time the Packers met the Eagles, they didn't have their best day rushing the football this season, but they weren't far off.

Ripping up 241 yards on the ground -- 20 fewer than they'd posted on the Minnesota Vikings a week before -- Packers averaged an outstanding 6.5-yards per carry. Running back Ahman Green accounted for 192 of those yards.

But as easy as the Packers made running the football look in November, they don't expect to make it look quite so easy this time around.

"They're going to do something to correct what happened the last game," center Mike Flanagan said of the Eagles. "(Jim Johnson) is one of the most well-respected defensive coordinators in the league and he's going to do what he needs to do to get it done."

That's not to suggest that the Packers' mission isn't the same as it was before.

If there was ever I time it was most important to establish the run, it might be Sunday. The Eagles have a reputation for attacking the quarterback and the Packers' best defense against an onslaught of pass rushers is to stay out of third-and-long situations.

"They come very hard at you on third-and-long," Sherman said of the Eagles. "They revel in that position and they're very successful at it. The number of people they bring, the frequency they bring it and the different types of looks that they present to you are very challenging for an offense."

During the regular season, the Packers converted on 41.1 percent of their third-down chances. Against the Eagles however they were only 3-of-14 (21 percent) in their November meeting.

For the season, the Eagles defense allowed opponents only a 35.3-percent success rate on third down.

"(Johnson) runs the most exotic blitz packages that we're going to see all year," starting left guard Mike Wahle said. "We're going to have to run early and often. It's a big key in this football game."

Out Early

The Packers' alternate travel itinerary has now become the norm.

For the third trip in a row and the fourth time this season the Packers are hitting the road two days prior to game day, flying to Philadelphia Friday night in preparation for Sunday's playoff game.

Previous to now, the Packers' day-earlier journeys have occurred in relation to longer plane rides: Tampa Bay, San Diego and Oakland.

By comparison, the two-hour flight to Philadelphia is brief. But considering that the Packers are 3-0 this season when traveling early, Sherman wasn't about to bring an end to the trend.

"(I'm) always superstitious in regard to winning," Sherman said. "We've had success doing it three times, so I'm not going to change that. Whether I do it again next year is another story."

Leaving early is about more than superstition to Sherman, who believes the extra time on the road has benefited team chemistry.

Sherman also believes it's been beneficial in terms of time management because by flying Friday night instead of Saturday afternoon, the schedule more closely resumes a home week. And since NFL players are creatures of habit, that can be a good thing.

"They're like the cows," Sherman said, "they go from spot to spot ... They like their routine. (Cows) liked to get milked, they like to eat, they like to sleep and that's what these guys are like."

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