Defensive lineman sidelined by injury

Chukie Nwokorie, who signed a two-year contract with the Packers this spring, has not been able to practice in the team's minicamp this week because of a knee injury that he suffered during the post-draft minicamp in April. Nwokorie is among a handful of players who are being held out of practices.<p>

Nwokorie suffered a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his left knee when he bumped into tailback Najeh Davenport during a minicamp at the end of April. Since then, the fifth-year pro has been limited to riding a bike and some running. He said team doctors felt it would be best if he waited until the start of training camp before trying to resume practicing with the team.

Nwokorie's absence from the current minicamp leaves the Packers without two of their veteran run-stopping ends. Joe Johnson is rehabbing from a triceps injury and has not practiced with the team. Johnson also is expected to return on a limited basis when training camp opens in mid-July. Nwokorie also is expected to play some at tackle this season.

"We'll have to see what he can do in training camp," said Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman. "At the position he's playing, it's not going to hurt him as much as if he's playing quarterback or defensive back. Still, you'd like to have him out here getting the reps in, particularly with the absence of Joe Johnson. But some of the other guys are getting work."

Second-year pro Aaron Kampman and free agent Cullen Jenkins have been taking the bulk of the reps at "Elephant" end. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila starts on the weakside, and has been backed up by Jamal Reynolds.

The Packers gave Nwokorie a $500,000 signing bonus as part of a $1.755 million contract as an unrestricted free agent in April. Nwokorie played his first four seasons in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts.

Nwokorie has been watching practices and feels confident he can learn Green Bay's defensive scheme quickly in training camp.

"The thing about defense is, they say take 'mental reps,'" Nwokorie said. "But at the same time, you actually want to be in practice physically taking reps. But at the same time, the defense is not very hard (to learn). I think it's easy. I know when I get in there, I'll make a few mistakes here and there, nothing major, like gap responsibility and that kind of stuff, but I'll catch on."

Nwokorie, 27, suffered a neck injury last off-season and missed the first half of the 2002 season. He ended up playing in just three regular season games last year.

Walking wounded

Other players who have sat out of some or all of this week's minicamp practices include fullback Nick Luchey (knee), offensive tackles Chad Clifton (hip) and Mark Tauscher (knee), defensive tackle Rod Walker (shoulder) and wide receiver/return specialists DeAndrew Rubin (hamstring) and Gari Scott (knee).


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