LBs stay tough despite injury woes

GREEN BAY – Physically, Green Bay's three starting linebackers are a mess.<p> Middle linebacker Bernardo Harris has a broken hand, and plays with a cast. Na'il Diggs hurt his elbow early this season and plays in pain. Nate Wayne, who has 5.5 sacks so far this year, has hurt his knee and back, and will miss Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans at Adelphia Coliseum.<p>

Despite the aches and pains, the trio has turned in a fine performance so far. Wayne leads the team in tackles, while Harris is second and Diggs fifth. They have combined for 250 tackles, eight sacks, four interceptions, four fumble recoveries, and have knocked down 17 passes.

That's way more plays than those three made last season.

"Our defense doesn't get much respect, but we don't really care," said Harris, who has made more than 100 tackles in each of the past four seasons. "We're content to hang around the top five in defense, and we know defense wins championships. If we can keep the injuries down, we can keep rolling."

But the injury bug has bit the linebacking corps hard this season. Wayne hurt his knee in the second game of the season, but didn't miss a start. He bruised his hip and back last week against the Chicago Bears, and will be out at least one week.

The high-energy, high-flying Wayne is having a terrific season. He leads the Packers with 96 tackles. He also has a career-high 5.5 sacks and three interceptions.

Harris broke his hand against the Atlanta Falcons. He hasn't missed any time, and plays with a cast that limits his tackling. Diggs hyperextended his elbow in the first game of the year, then pulled a hamstring. But the second-year player still starts, and already has more tackles than he did all last season.

Still, the position's overall thinness will force backup Chris Gizzi to start in the middle against Tennessee. The Packers also signed free agent Rob Holmberg. He and special teams ace K.D. Williams could see significant action Sunday, said Packers head coach Mike Sherman.

"I feel a real need to be heavier on defense for this game," Sherman said Friday. "Especially at linebacker. We have a lot of guys hurt there, and will have to do some things for this week."


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