Guard gets golden 'opportunity'

The final exhibition game of the NFL preseason is perhaps the most meaningless, especially for starters. Packers guard Bill Ferrario will be starting against the Tennessee Titans Thursday night, but it will rate as one of the most important in his pro career.<p>

If Ferrario performs well and if Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera is unable to return from a knee injury that he suffered last Saturday against Carolina, Ferrario might earn a spot in the starting lineup when the games start counting – Sept. 7 against the Minnesota Vikings. The third-year pro has never started a game in the National Football League – preseason or regular season – but he will against the Titans.

"It's another game, but I get an opportunity to run with the starters," said Ferrario. "It's going to be an opportunity for me to keep the level of play up and prove some more to the coaches."

"It's a big opportunity for me." Rivera tore a ligament in his left knee early in the first quarter against Carolina. Ferrario played right guard the rest of the way and played "solid," according to offensive line coach Larry Beightol. That doesn't mean that Ferrario will start for Rivera if need for the opener.

"Hey, it's up to Billy," Beightol said. "If he wants it, he can snatch it. But, the way you do that is by playing well. Being inconsistent doesn't get you a job, not in the National Football League, anyway, and not with the Green Bay Packers."

Ferrario committed three penalties, one of which was enforced, against the Panthers. On Thursday, he will begin the game playing against defensive tackle Robaire Smith. The Titans' defensive line also includes tackle Albert Haynesworth and ends Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter.

If Rivera is unable to start against Minnesota, Beightol has indicated that he may move right tackle Mark Tauscher to guard and start Kevin Barry in Tauscher's right tackle position.

"That's another thing that makes this game that much more important, that I get an opportunity for them to build their confidence in me where if something happens, they feel comfortable putting me in at guard," Ferrario said.

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