Two Linebackers Bolster Defense

The Packers sign inside linebacker Wilhelm and outside linebacker Briggs; put rookie defensive end Neal and outside linebacker Poppinga on injured reserve; release inside linebacker Simpkins.

The Green Bay Packers made a series of transactions on Tuesday that will fortify their defense.

None of the moves, however, involved Al Harris, Atari Bigby or adding to the defensive line.

As expected, the Packers put outside linebacker Brady Poppinga and rookie defensive end Mike Neal on season-ending injured reserve. Plus, they released inside linebacker Maurice Simpkins.

The Packers signed two players to fill those three spots: veteran inside linebacker Matt Wilhelm and outside linebacker Diyral Briggs. That leaves one spot, which presumably will be used to activate Harris or Bigby. To bring back both, another move will need to be made.

Wilhelm (6-4, 247) is in his eighth season from Ohio State. He was a full-time starter only once, in 2007 with San Diego, when he had career highs in tackles (97) and interceptions (three). He played in 11 games for the 49ers last year — with his only start coming when he had four tackles at Green Bay — and was cut by them at the end of training camp this summer. He'll add depth at inside linebacker, where the Packers were down to starters Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk and backup Brandon Chillar.

The Broncos released Briggs (6-3, 248) on Monday — with the Packers winning him on waivers — after they promoted him from the practice squad to play in Sunday's blowout loss against Oakland. An undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green last year, Briggs played in four games for the 49ers last season, one game for them this season and then the one game for Denver. He holds the school record with 26 sacks, including 9.5 as a senior.

Both players will be used to bolster the special teams.

Neal, a second-round pick who had emerged as the defensive line's top backup, was limited to just two games, with one sack. Neal, who missed the first three games with injured rib cartilage, needs season-ending surgery on his shoulder. Poppinga had arthroscopic surgery on his knee last week but the injury was more serious than thought so he'll need more extensive surgery. He played in the first six games, with one start. He finished with one sack. Simpkins, who played arena football for Green Bay's team in the spring, played on special teams in three games.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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