Packers Notebook -- Winters Has Surgery, Hopes To Return


For all the times Frank Winters endured retirement questions this year, it might have been nice if the majority were in regard to his own career.

You'd think after 16 years in the NFL, he'd have earned that much.

Instead, more often than not, the word 'retire' was coupled with the name 'Brett Favre.'

That's what you get when for 11 years you've been teammate and friend to one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

So it caused considerably less media frenzy when Winters confirmed Monday, as did Favre, that he has every intention of returning to the team in 2003.

Assuming, of course, that there's roster space available for a very-veteran player with still overwhelming amounts of athleticism and drive.

"It all depends on the Packers and what they want to do," Winters said. "We'll just have to see. I want to come back, but I don't make those decisions."

Two weeks away from his 39th birthday, Winters' age would suggest him ready to be put out to pasture. But even if he's almost 'over the hill' in life, he's still enjoying the view from the top in the NFL.

Including last weekend's playoff, Winters appeared in all 17 games this season, starting 11 of them due to injuries on the offensive line; injuries that first hit Mike Flanagan and then forced the starting center to relocate to tackle.

In 2001 Winters made it into a mere four games, but when his number was called in 2002, he did more than fill a spot. He produced, playing some of the best football of his career, according to GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman.

Like any NFL player, he did it through injuries of his own.

Wednesday, Winters underwent surgery to repair cartilage damage in his left knee. But he exited the season feeling like his battletested frame could stand up to another war.

"For as much as I played, I still feel pretty good," Winters said. "I still feel like I can compete."

Clifton Comeback

Injured in the Packers' 21-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Nov. 24), left tackle Chad Clifton's rehab is still on a timeline that would have him ready for the start of training camp, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman confirmed Wednesday.

However, considering the severity of the injury, there is some room for doubt.

"We're certainly not anticipating (a setback), but there's a possibility that because of the hit that he took that things may not settle just right," Sherman said.

Clifton suffered separated ligaments in his pelvis as the result of a hit by Warren Sapp during a Tampa Bay interception return.

Initially unable to walk, Clifton spent the next week in the hospital.

He's now in the early stages of rehab.

"He's not taxed himself in the way that you would as a football player," Sherman said of Clifton's rehab. "He's just recovering as if he was a normal person ... But at this juncture there's no anticipation that he won't be ready for the first day of training camp."

Sherman also spoke with optimism about the rehab efforts of defensive end Joe Johnson (triceps) and offensive guard Mark Tauscher (knee). Both are expected to make full recoveries.

Still Healing

Twelve Packers players failed their year-end physicals: Gilbert Brown (hip), Tony Carter (shoulder contusion), Chad Clifton (pelvis sprain), Donald Driver (shoulder sprain), Brett Favre (LCL sprain, high-ankle sprain), Ahman Green (quadriceps contusion), Joe Johnson (triceps tear), Bhawoh Jue (hernia), Tod McBride (groin strain), Darren Sharper (MCL sprain), Mark Tauscher (ACL, MCL tear), Frank Winters (knee cartilage tear).

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