Sitton Out; ILBs in Doubt; Walden To Start

Those are the headliners from Wednesday, when the undefeated Packers got back to work to begin preparation for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

The Green Bay Packers might be missing half of their starting linebacking corps on Sunday, but coach Mike McCarthy on Wednesday said he has "every anticipation" that outside linebacker Erik Walden will be in the lineup.

However, inside linebackers Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk were held out of Wednesday's practice with calf injuries. They will not practice on Thursday, either, and will be re-evaluated on Friday.

Walden, who ranks fourth on the team with 64 tackles and tied for third with three sacks, was arrested on Friday on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend at their apartment near Green Bay.

Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski told The Associated Press on Monday that Walden's girlfriend told police they were arguing and he pushed her, but she had changed her story to say she hit him first.

Asked if he could say anything to reassure fans about his character, Walden had few words.

''I just want to apologize,'' Walden said on Tuesday. ''I feel terrible about the situation. Just ready to move on and play football."

It looks like he'll get that chance.

"Erik Walden, his situation is obviously under review, going through the legal process," McCarthy said on Wednesday. "No different than the process that the league has in place. With that, we respect that and, based on the information we have to date, Erik will play in the game."

Bishop and Hawk – the team's top two tacklers – were sidelined during Thursday's win at Detroit, though Bishop said his injury dates back a couple weeks. On Tuesday, Bishop was walking without the aid of the crutches he was using after the game.

"Just pretty much in here getting rehab," Bishop said of how he spent the mini-bye. "I haven't really tried to run on it yet. It's not that time. So, just resting and trying to get recovered."

If one of them can't play against the Giants, rookie D.J. Smith would be the likely starter. If both are ruled out, Robert Francois would join Smith in the lineup. At Wednesday's practice, Smith said he was using the radio headset that's worn by Hawk.

"I just try to stay humble and try to stay focused and stay within my role and try to prepare like I always do," Smith said.

Clifton's comeback delayed

Since going down at Atlanta in Week 5, Clifton had been listed on the injury report as out with a hamstring. On Wednesday, Clifton's back was added to the report, a setback incurred during his rehab work.

"I don't know if it's one week, two weeks. It's something that's knocked us off schedule," McCarthy said. "We thought this would be the week he would practice — I didn't know if he'd be able to play this week. Any time you're dealing with backs there's always a little more uncertainty."

Fortunately for the Packers, Marshall Newhouse is coming off his best game. Standout Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch didn't beat Newhouse for a sack or quarterback hit last week. He was awarded a game ball for his performance.

"Marshall's done a good job for us," McCarthy said. "He has challenges every week, no different this week. This defensive line is very skilled in the area of pass rush. Marshall, just his personality and approach, it's carried over to his performance. He's a very steady individual, and I think he's improved throughout his opportunities."

Packers injury report

Out: LT Chad Clifton (hamstring/back); RG Josh Sitton (knee). Did not participate: LB Desmond Bishop (calf); LB A.J. Hawk (calf). Full participation: RB James Starks (knee/ankle).

McCarthy wasn't sure if Sitton's absence would be a one-game deal or something longer. We have a feature on Dietrich-Smith on the home page for subscribers.

Noticeably absent from the report is outside linebacker Clay Matthews. That's the first time since before the Week 2 game against Carolina.

Giants injury report

Did not participate: LB Michael Boley (hamstring); RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot); LB Mark Herzlich (ankle); WR Mario Manningham (knee); WR Hakeem Nicks (ribs/concussion); S Antrel Rolle (back); DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee). Limited: WR Victor Cruz (hip); DB Derrick Martin (hamstring); De Justin Tuck (ankle).

Umenyiora, one of the marquee pass rushers in the NFL, will be out for a couple of weeks, according to reports. Giants coach Tom Coughlin, during a conference call with Packers beat reporters, said only "We'll see" when asked about standout running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who has missed the last four games with a stress fracture in his right foot.

Four-point stance

-- McCarthy said he doesn't tell his players what to tell reporters, but it was clear his troops were going with the company line on the possibility of a 16-0 season. "We're focused on 12-0 because it puts us in position to potentially win the division this week," McCarthy said. "I've laid out the goals time and time again from the first day that we came together in training camp and it hasn't changed. It's about winning the division. Once we accomplish that, we'll move on to the next goal and that's home-field advantage. And if we get to that point, then we'll talk about it."

Echoed quarterback Aaron Rodgers: "It's not that we're not talking about it, it's just, right now, we have other goals. We're trying to wrap up the division, get a home playoff game secured and if we're fortunate enough to be sitting at 14 or 15-0, then we can start talking about it a little bit."

-- The mini-bye week allowed the players to recharge physically and mentally, which is obviously a positive, though not so much on Wednesday. "Had a ton of energy yesterday and today on the field. That's good," McCarthy said. "We weren't as efficient as I'd like in practice today, it was not a clean practice."

-- According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein, Pat Lee was fined $15,000 for his ejection at Detroit. Lee is planning to appeal.

-- Giants quarterback Eli Manning, on face a Packers defense that leads the NFL with 22 interceptions. "You just have to be smart and put the ball in the right spot. Receivers have to be crisp on their routes. They do a good job. They have some defensive backs who play the ball really well and are very aggressive. You have to be smart on what routes you're throwing to certain guys. We'll do a good job of receivers getting open and I have to throw the ball accurately."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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