Packers Notes: Clifton, Neal, & Bigby
The Green Bay Packers started practicing a day later than usual this week due to their Monday night matchup against the arch-rival Chicago Bears. The Packers will travel to Soldier Field to take on the 2-0 Bears in a game that will set the tone for the entire season; the 2010 season will only be 3 games old, but whoever wins this game should be the favorite in the NFC North.
The Packers’ players have been nursing injuries this week, and perhaps the extra day off will allow some of those bumps and bruises to heal. Head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters yesterday that despite rookie left tackle Bryan Bulaga’s strong play against the Bills, “Chad Clifton is the starter.” However, if Clifton is unable to go on Monday, rookie Bryan Bulaga will get the nod in front of his home-state crowd. It sounds like this will be a point of contention all season, but I don’t think it will develop into a locker room problem. As Greg Bedard put it, “Clifton’s a pro,” meaning he’ll do whatever is best for the team to win.
Another Packers player hoping to return from a rib injury and play on Monday night is rookie defensive end Mike Neal. Neal didn’t mince words yesterday when he declared, “I’m playing Monday night.”
McCarthy was less adamant than Neal, but he didn’t rule out the possibility. He said the defensive lineman looked “ok” in limited participation on Thursday. Usually McCarthy requires his injured players to put together back-to-back practices, so keep an eye on Neal’s participation this week.
Finally, safety Atari Bigby, who is currently on the PUP list and scheduled to return after week 6, is proving he is a fast healer. Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee noted that Bigby has been “running inside the Don Hutson Center” and doing his rehabilitation and conditioning in the pool.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’ve been running on it, doing everything on it, trying to test it out, see what it does,” Bigby said. “I’ll be able to run fine, then when it gets sore, I’ll hang back, (then) come back and run on it (some more), then hang back. I think it’s pretty good, considering where I was at.”
Rookie Morgan Burnett has filled in admirably during Bigby’s absence and should continue to be the starter once Bigby returns. But depth is a wonderful luxury to have in the NFL, and the Packers will be happy to have the hard-hitting safety back in the lineup.
Nick Barnett got a new, heartfelt tattoo, which was featured on TLC’s “LA Ink.” Click here to watch a portion of the episode.
The Packers released offensive tackle Chris Campbell off of the practice squad and re-signed linebacker Robert Francois.