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Training Camp Report: Collins' Fall Raises Safety Issue


The back injury sustained by safety Nick Collins during Saturday's Family Night scrimmage has prompted the team to look into making the sideline areas in the red zone safer for players.

Running to make a play on a deep sideline throw on Saturday, Collins had trouble slowing down out of bounds. When his cleats came in contact with the concrete ring around the edge of the stadium bowl, he slipped and crashed feet first into the surrounding wall.

Collins sustained only a bruised back and returned to practice on Monday.

"They should put some carpet or something over there," Collins said.

That's exactly what General Manager Ted Thompson said he is looking into. The concrete areas behind the end zones have an artificial turf or carpeting covering them, but the concrete strips along each sideline do not.

Thompson said there's no need to cover the concrete entirely because the areas directly behind the team benches are sufficiently blocked by the teams themselves. But in the red zone (between the 20-yard lines and goal line), players going out of bounds are on their own to stop before hitting the wall, and the exposed concrete makes that very difficult, and dangerous.

"We're going to try to rectify that," Thompson said.

Offense getting healthy

In addition to the limited return of Ahman Green, the offense saw left tackle Chad Clifton (knee), tight end Bubba Franks (knee) and running back Najeh Davenport (calf) come back for Monday evening's full-pads practice after missing several workouts, including Saturday's scrimmage.

"It's great to have them out there," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think the offense had an excellent night. You're getting guys playing more together. The offense usually catches up to the defense about this time of training camp, and I think that's what you're seeing."

McCarthy said all three of those offensive starters would be day-to-day and are "question marks" for Saturday's preseason opener at San Diego.

The only bad news for the offense was that receiver Greg Jennings ended practice with an ice wrap on his upper right leg. McCarthy said it was a sore muscle and the training staff doesn't believe it's serious.

Among other injury news, cornerback Charles Woodson (hip flexor) returned for both practices, as did running back Arliss Beach, who hadn't practiced since sustaining a concussion on Sunday, July 30.

Safety Atari Bigby injured his right hand during Saturday's scrimmage, and it is now in a cast. McCarthy did not speculate on how long he would be out. Linebacker Kurt Campbell is out with a hamstring injury.

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins missed practices Monday because of a personal matter and was expected to return Tuesday.

Own worst critic

All the attention surrounding linebacker Abdul Hodge for his early splash in training camp isn't likely to affect the soft-spoken rookie.

That's because Hodge calls himself his own harshest critic, even when it comes to his team-leading nine-tackle performance on Saturday.

"Looking at the film going back to the scrimmage, there's a lot of things I should have done better," Hodge said.

"My expectations of myself are pretty high. Even though you see me on the field making plays and making tackles, there are a lot of things I know personally I could have done better."

Backing up middle linebacker Nick Barnett will make it tough for Hodge to get much playing time, but Thompson said it's not out of the question for linebackers in this defensive scheme to move around, though he noted that would be the coaching staff's decision, not his.

"He looks just like he did at Iowa, running around and making tackles," Thompson said. "He's instinctive, he's aggressive, a downhill guy. He's an active football player and he likes to play the game. We're not surprised, but we're very pleased."

Another 2-minute score

Brett Favre led another successful two-minute drill during the morning practice. With the offense trailing 10-9 and two timeouts left, Favre used two passes to Donald Driver, one to Jennings and two runs by Samkon Gado to get into field-goal range.

Favre used a timeout after each Gado run, the second coming with 3 seconds left. Billy Cundiff then came on to hit a 44-yard field goal as the clock ran out.

"You can't do enough two-minute," McCarthy said. "It's a situation that probably 40 percent of your games a year come down to. You just have to keep working at it."

Harlan in Chicago

Packers Chairman and CEO Bob Harlan returned to work on Monday and headed to Chicago to represent the Packers at the owners' meetings. He is participating in the selection process for the successor to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. The five finalists are giving presentations and being interviewed over the next couple of days.

Harlan was hospitalized late last week for a suspected gallstone and was released from the hospital Saturday morning.

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