The news on Mark Tauscher's injured left knee went from bad to worse Wednesday, when Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman announced that the tackle had suffered damage to his anterior cruciate ligament and would be placed on injured reserve.
Tauscher sustained the injury during the second quarter of the New Orleans game when a Saints player fell into his knee at the end of a play. Initially thought to be only a sprain of the medial collateral ligament, Sherman said Wednesday that Tauscher suffered a "significant tear" of his MCL and a "75-perecent" tear of his ACL, which would require surgery to repair.
"For the longevity of his career and his future, it's better to do this whole deal, the reconstruction," Sherman said.
Just into his third NFL season, Tauscher had been a mainstay on the Packers' offensive line since being drafted out of the University of Wisconsin in the seventh round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Including playoffs, he'd made 34 consecutive starts at right tackle, while also filling in at guard.
"It's unfortunate because this guy, not only is he a great player, he's a great guy in our locker room," Sherman said. "I'd say he's one of the most well respected players on this team. He's a gentleman that goes out there every day and gives you the same effort . . . That's probably the best thing you can say about a football player, if he's a good one, and he is, is that he's consistent."
Sherman said that he doesn't see the injury reducing Tauscher's chances of becoming one of the best tackles in the NFL.
"He still has a bright future," he said. "He hasn't had prior injuries to his knees. This isn't an old beat up player, he's a 25-year-old kid that's just starting his career . . . He's going to come back from this thing and be a big part of the Packers' future."
Tauscher will be replaced in the starting lineup by 10-year veteran Earl Dotson, the same man Tauscher replaced after the second game of the 2000 season, when Dotson was sidelined with a herniated disk in his back.
Although Dotson has been injury prone, Sherman said he liked what he saw out of the 31-year-old last Sunday against the Saints.
"I thought athletically and physically he looked like the old Earl out there," he said. "Obviously you worry about his maintenance, if he will be able to maintain that throughout the course of the game . . . Hopefully big Earl can handle it. I think he will, he's up for the challenge."
Seventh-year guard Marco Rivera also expressed confidence in Dotson.
"He's been here before, he's played with us," Rivera said. "He was the starter for many years so he's more than capable to get the job done."
Although Tauscher's roster spot was filled by third-year running back Moe Smith, Sherman said he would be testing the free agent market to add some depth at the offensive line. In the meantime, rookie Kevin Barry remains Dotson's backup.
Having joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Arizona, Barry received positive reviews from the Packers coaching staff throughout the preseason, but will now feel a heightened pressure to be game-ready.
"He's been here now since camp, he knows the offense," Rivera said. "Now it's just developing his confidence to the point where if he needs to go in there and play, he needs play to a high level."
The Packers offensive line has already been without starting center Mike Flanagan, who suffered a broken thumb during a training camp practice August 2.