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Packers Notebook - Starters Reunite On Offense


For the Green Bay Packers' offense, the theme of Friday night's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns will be 'Together Again.'

Offensive tackles Chad Clifton (pelvis/hip) and Mark Tauscher (knee) are expected to make their returns from injuries that ended their 2002 seasons, while wide receivers Donald Driver (hamstring) and Robert Ferguson (tailbone) will make their first game appearances of the 2003 preseason after sustaining minor injuries during training camp.

With those key players active, the Packers will be able to put their 11-best offensive players on the field at the same time for the first time since the second game of the 2002 regular season.

It was in that game, against the New Orleans Saints, that Tauscher suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Ever since, the Packers have been patching holes in their starting offense.

"I really didn't think about that," quarterback Brett Favre said this week. "This will be the first time, if everything goes according to plan, we will go with our 11 that we intended to go with (at the) end of last season.

"Hopefully that can stay intact ... Hopefully we can score more than 3 (points) Friday night with our original 11."

While preseason games don't mean anything in the standings, they can serve as progress reports. And until the Packers put their intended starting unit on the field, it's difficult to tell where they stand.

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said that the return of the Packers' starters should boost the team's offensive production. He's also going to give the unit more time to work, allowing the No. 1 offense to play into the second quarter.

The only possible exceptions to that rule would likely be Clifton and Tauscher, who will be closely monitored.

"They'll be pretty rusty," Sherman said of the tackles. "They're going against a pretty good group of guys, pretty good rushers and run defenders (in Cleveland's defense). It's a good front-seven they have, so it will be a good test for them."

Sharper Returns

Darren Sharper is expected to see his first game action of the preseason, having missed the first two exhibitions because of a stinger he sustained in practice July 26.

The injury hasn't kept Sharper off the practice field, but he was held out of games due to a lack of strength in his triceps.

With Sharper back in the lineup, that means either Marques Anderson or Antuan Edwards will start the game on the sideline.

Anderson and Edwards are in the midst of one of the Packers' most hotly contested position battles of training camp for the starting safety position opposite Sharper.

In practices they have alternated working with the No. 1 defense. In the preseason contests against Kansas City and Atlanta they started side by side.

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman didn't reveal who would get the nod Friday.

Other Injuries

Craig Nall hyperextended his right knee in practice Monday, but is expected to play Friday night.

Nall is battling Doug Pederson and Akili Smith for one of the two backup quarterback positions behind Brett Favre.

As in the first two preseason games, Favre will start, followed respectively by Pederson, Nall and Smith.

Najeh Davenport sustained a bruised hand during practice Tuesday, but was able to practice the rest of the week with his hand taped.

Davenport is expected to play Friday and will be asked to carry much of the load at running back once Ahman Green departs with the rest of the No. 1 offense.

The Packers are currently thin at running back with Tony Fisher (hamstring) and Lamar Smith (knee) sidelined.

Starting defensive end Joe Johnson is doubtful for the Cleveland game having injured his ribs last Saturday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Name Game

Among NFL teammates, assigning nicknames is commonplace. On the Packers' roster that applies to everyone from 15th-year veterans to rookies.

Wide receiver Robert Ferguson has taken to calling rookie receiver Carl Ford '150,' in reference to the former Toledo standout's small frame.

Although wiry, much like Donald Driver, Ford actually weighs in at 179 pounds.

Meanwhile, recently-signed tight end Wesley Walls has earned the nickname 'Hands' from running backs coach Sylvester Croom, and 'Old School' from his younger teammates.

"That's a compliment," quarterback Brett Favre said. "(Walls) has just unbelievable hands and makes it look so easy. He's kind of sneaky-fast. He doesn't really look great running, but before you know it, he's past you."

Favre said that while running a route in the red zone this week, Walls made a move that faked out more than just his defenders.

"It almost fooled me," Favre said. "There was just something that he did, I don't know what it was, but it was good."

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