Lineman Making Rapid Progress

Veteran defensive tackle Santana Dotson may begin practicing with the team prior to the Packers' final preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

Dotson, who has been out since Nov. 27 last year with a partially torn muscle above his right knee, has been working out daily with Packers strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin. Dotson is running and cutting, lifting weights, and doing similar drills to what his teammates are doing at practice.

Dotson had surgery last Dec. 1. At the time the team's medical staff felt that he may not be able to begin practicing until the week of the regular season opener. But his rehab has gone well, and it is possible that he will be in the lineup at "eagle" tackle Sept. 9 against the Lions.

"I don't know if anybody has worked harder in rehab than Santana Dotson," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "For a player his age to work as hard as he has worked and get back on the field, it's just incredible. He's done a tremendous job. He personally maybe has put himself ahead of schedule. We just have to be careful that we don't do anything that could jeopardize his career or season by playing him too early. He has definitely worked himself into shape to possibly practice 10 days before (the opener). That is a significant job on his part to get to that point."

Dotson's return is crucial to a line that has been hit hard by injuries. Plus, defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt will miss the first four games of the season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. Hunt will not be able to practice with the team during that time nor set foot inside the team's facilities during that time as well.

Veterans Gilbert Brown (knee) and Russell Maryland (back) have missed a number of practices in training camp. Defensive ends Vonnie Holliday and John Thierry are bouncing back from offseason surgeries.

"I'm champing at the bit," said Dotson. "It's getting tougher and tougher all the time. I'm like a horse kicking to get out."

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