Training Camp Notebook: Linebacker Na'il Diggs On The Mend

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Diggs To Return Sooner, Not Later

Linebacker Na'il Diggs expects to play in the Packers' first regular season game despite tearing a knee ligament during Monday's practice.

"I would like to be 100 percent going into Detroit," he said. "Right now, it's a very realistic goal."

The Packers will need him during the season. Linebackers occupy a crucial position in defensive coordinator Jim Bates' attacking scheme. Diggs has averaged 117 tackles the last three years. He also brings such versatility that Bates has not decided whether to start him at weakside or strongside linebacker.

The coaching staff was relieved that Diggs tore his MCL and not any cartilage or his ACL - injuries which would have required him to miss much of the season.

"It's not a surgical issue, which certainly is an advantage for us and for him," head coach Mike Sherman said. "I'm grateful for that."

During his six seasons with the Packers, the player nicknamed "Nails" has remained durable, suffering only a high ankle sprain in 2000 and a kidney contusion in 2004. He cited his current injury as the worst of his career.

"This one takes the cake as far as pain and injury goes," he said.

On Monday, Diggs feared the worst after he became entangled in a pile. His leg went numb for several minutes after injuring his knee. But now he can concentrate on healing.

"I'm feeling better," he said. "It's just a matter of letting it rest."

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Holding For The Perfectionist

Football is a game of inches, or one-sixteenth of an inch in the case of a perfectionist like kicker Ryan Longwell.

Such a small increment on the holder's ball placement can make the difference between a succesful and botched field goal.

"It's got to be just dead on perfect for the ball to fly straight," he said.

Quarterback Craig Nall and Punter B.J. Sander will alternate preseason games as they hold for Longwell. Throughout camp the kicker has repeatedly called the second-year punter the team's best holder. But Thursday's preseason game versus the San Diego Chargers will present an excellent evaluative opportunity.

"He's the head of the class," he said. "The thing is I need to see him when he's under the gun."

Nall improved his holds during training camp but suffered a setback against the Bills, which the Packers will try and fix.

"He's so much better and so much smoother than he was in the minicamps," Longwell said. "But when we got him in the scrimmage, all of the sudden it became a little herky-jerky."

For that reason Longwell is glad to be the Packer's only kicker in training camp. It allows him ample opportunity to hone his timing with the holder.

The hold is very important especially when Lambeau Field's wintry weather creates difficult kicking conditions.

"In warm weather, you can get away with a lot more," Longwell said. "In here with this grass, this wind, and this field and this temperature, it's got to be just flat perfect to be able to have the success rate we've had."

Longwell nailed 24-of-28 field goal attempts last year and 206 of 250 for his career.

Sherman asked Longwell, who he jokingly referred to as his favorite player, whether all kickers demand such perfection.

"All the ones that are accurate," he responded.

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Linebacker Has High Expectations For Team

Linebacker Ray Thompson signed with the Green Bay Packers as a free agent because of the team's talent level.

"If we get all of that together," he said, "We'll be knocking on the door for the Super Bowl."

Thompson never made the playoffs in his five previous seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. However, he impressed the Packers' personnel staff in a 2003 contest against Green Bay. He racked up eight solo tackles and recovered a fumble during a 20-13 Cardinals victory.

Thompson, who missed last Tuesday's practices with a swollen knee, was already taking snaps with the first unit before Na'il Diggs sprained his knee. Now his role will increase.

But the six-year veteran has started 54 games in his career. He's more concerned with winning than receiving playing time, and that's why he chose the Green and Gold.

"We've won the division three times," he said. "What more can you ask for?"

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Quick Hits The Packers went through a walk through during Wednesday's practice. The session lasted just over an hour and featured drills at half speed and no contact.

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