The Packer defense has righted the ship. Now they have to prepare to sail it without two of their leaders.
Safety Darren Sharper (ribs) and rookie linebacker Nick Barnett (ankle) are both listed as questionable for Thursday's game at Detroit. Both were injured in Sunday's 20-10 win over San Francisco at Lambeau Field, and were held out of practice Monday.
Marques Anderson is the likely starter in place of Sharper at free safety. Anderson will get a crucial chance to shake the sophomore slump which has dogged him this season, after he started 11 games during a strong rookie season in 2002. Sub Michael Hawthorne, who has 12 tackles and a sack in nine appearances this season, is likely to see increased playing time as well.
If Barnett can't go, Torrance Marshall will get the nod at middle linebacker. That's a tall order for Marshall, who would be making his second career start. Marshall replaced Barnett - the team leader in tackles (102) and interceptions (3) for most of the second half Sunday.
The short week has changed the injury outlook not only for Thursday's game, but also the rest of the way for the outstanding rookie, who recently received another in his string of NFL Defensive Player of the Week honors after week 11. Playing on the ankle too soon could jeopardize Barnett's recovery, coach Mike Sherman said.
"Anybody says 'ankle sprain,' those things can last a fair amount of time," Sherman told the media after Monday's closed practice. "He has not really been injured here, so it's hard for me to have a history with him, but his history in college was that he healed pretty fast when things happened, so hopefully that's the case here."
X-rays on Sharper's ribs showed no breaks, but again the quick turnaround between games is weighing on his ability to heal in time to start vs. Detroit. Both Sharper and Barnett have started all 11 games this season, although a groin injury limited Sharper's play in weeks 1 and 2.