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Rivera On Target For Opener


If he's not careful, Marco Rivera is going to start making this look easy.

Less than two weeks removed from spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, Rivera -- listed as questionable on the team's injury report -- looks to be on target to play in the regular-season opener this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.

For the second day in a row Rivera took part in almost all of the Packers' practice Thursday, as the team worked out in shorts. And although Rivera insists he won't know exactly where he stands until he tests the knee in a live contact situation, so far, so good.

"I'm just doing everything possible to try and build some confidence that my knee is going to hold up," said Rivera, who has played 67 consecutive games, including playoffs, despite finishing the 2002 season with MCL tears in both knees.

"I don't want to miss a game. (The season-opener is) so important, it's such a big game ... We've got a lot of things riding on this season. I just want to be a part of it. I want to help my team, I want to help my teammates win. They're counting on me to get well."

If Rivera can't play, the Packers would replace him with backup Grey Ruegamer, or move tackle Mark Tauscher to guard and bring Kevin Barry into the starting lineup.

At this point, the question surrounding Rivera's availability may have less to do with this weekend's game than with the 15 that come after it.

Given his reputation for playing hurt, there seems to be no doubt in the Packers' locker room that Rivera could contribute Sunday. But at what cost?

"That's the gray area," Rivera said. "Pride is telling me to (play), but I have to be smart about it.

"If I don't have enough confidence, I'm going to tell (GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman). If I don't feel right, I'm going to let him know."

Sherman said he makes such decisions by listening to the advice of team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie, and then making the safest bet possible.

"I usually play the percentages," Sherman said. "If it's low risk, I would favor (toward playing Rivera). If it's high risk, I would favor (toward holding him out) ...That's the best criteria I have to make a decision, or else you just beat yourself up over it.

"You have professional people, they give you their recommendations. That's (McKenzie's) department and he recommends yes or no. I usually listen to that."

Rivera said he would trust whatever decision Sherman makes as to how best to help the team.

But if Rivera is still heading into the weekend with cautious optimism, his fellow linemen are already prepared to mark him in the lineup.

"If you're talking about Marco, you can just look back to our comments from the last two years," said left guard Mike Wahle. "He's been in this situation before."

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