Offensive tackle Mark Tauscher saw his season end on Dec. 7 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, but that didn't stop his teammates from recognizing his efforts in 2008.
Tauscher recently was voted by his teammates as this year's Ed Block Courage Award winner, an award given annually to one member of each NFL team for displaying commitments to the principles of courage and sportsmanship while serving as inspirations in their locker rooms.
"It's as good an award as you can get," Tauscher said. "When you have the respect of your peers, especially your teammates, you really value those opinions, so it's something I take a lot of pride in."
Tauscher, a nine-year veteran, is known as a player in the Green Bay locker room who will get himself onto the practice field as well as the game field no matter what minor bumps and bruises might ail him. This year most notably he returned to the field for the Nov. 30 game against Carolina just six days after leaving the Monday night game in New Orleans with an injured hamstring.
"He has great leadership abilities, and he displays those at all times," center Scott Wells said. "He's the consummate pro. He practices when he's hurt, does what he has to do to go out there and get ready, and then plays at a high level."
Tauscher is respected by his peers both for the type of player he is and the kind of teammate he is. He's also noted for being very involved in the community, and his TRIFECTA Foundation (Tauscher's Reading Initiative For Every Child To Achieve) is still going strong. He said $20,000 in grants were just handed out last week.
For his part, Tauscher doesn't ask for or command respect because "the guys that seek that out are usually the guys that don't get it," he said. He prefers to earn it, and he has.
"He's a guy that when I came in as a rookie for that rookie camp and OTAs, he talked to me right away," third-year lineman Tony Moll said. "He made me feel really comfortable and really let me fit in, let me join in things he was doing. From there, I developed a lot of respect for him as a teammate, and over time we became really good friends. He's definitely deserving of the award."
That's not something he sought either. He considers his dedication to his job and the team part of the profession.
"You take a lot of pride in getting out to work, regardless of being dinged up," Tauscher said. "When you have guys who play a lot of games, I think that's something that young guys usually look to. I know I did when I was a young guy. It's just being consistent and always being out there and knowing you can be counted on by your teammates."
That made it all the more difficult for his teammates to see Tauscher's season end early. He injured the same knee that wiped out his 2002 season, and he's scheduled for surgery sometime in early January.
The injury and the fact that he's in the final year of his contract make his future in Green Bay somewhat uncertain, but neither Tauscher nor his teammates is concerned with that now. Everyone just wants to see him healthy and ready to play again, and there are no doubts about his ability to recover.
After going through knee rehab six years ago, Tauscher came back to start 88 of the next 93 games, missing just five contests in 2006 due to a groin injury.
"It's tough as a teammate and a friend to see somebody go down like that, especially since he's been down the road once before," Wells said. "I know it's frustrating for him. We get frustrated for him. We move on in the professional aspect, but on a personal level, it's hard to see somebody go through that.
"He's the type of guy who has the right personality. He'll be able to bounce back from it."