Head coach Mike Sherman announced the decision to repair the patella tendon in Flanagan's left knee after Friday's practice. The surgery will be performed in the next week to 10 days, and a six-month recovery time is expected.
The loss is a huge one for a Packers team that counts on the athleticism of its offensive line to churn out the yardage in its featured running game. While Grey Ruegamer held his own in the preseason while playing with the starting unit — the knee injury sidelined Flanagan for most of training camp, including the first three preseason games — Ruegamer is nowhere close to as athletic as the nimble Flanagan.
Sherman said the decision was made Friday morning after consultation with Flanagan and the medical staff.
"We're trying to avoid a rupture of the patella tendon, and this is one way to settle it down," Sherman said. "We've gone back and forth over this numerous times. (The knee) just has not gotten any better. It has gotten progressively worse. To avoid a possible career-ending injury, this is the best option."
With Flanagan bound for season-ending injured reserve, rookie center Scott Wells will be promoted from the practice squad.
Ruegamer has three career starts — all with New England in 2001 and 2002 — and replaced Flanagan for portions of the fourth quarter in the first two regular-season games.
"Grey Ruegamer is going to step in and do a good job," said starting left guard Mike Wahle. "He had a great preseason, and he's proven he can play and play well. So we have no reservations about putting him in there. We're just going to keep trucking."
Maybe so, but Flanagan is one of the best centers in the business. He made his first Pro Bowl last season and helped pave the way for the best running game in franchise history. With Flanagan frequently pulling to lead the way on the Packers' trademark counter game, Ahman Green piled up a team-record 1,883 yards. A hallmark of the offensive line last season was its continuity, with all five members starting all 16 games.
"We have a good thing going here, and he's a big part of it," Wahle said. "So, it's a huge loss."
Flanagan played all but one snap of the first 14 games before being relieved by Ruegamer toward the end of the Packers' two season-ending blowout victories. Including the postseason, Flanagan has played in 87 consecutive games.
Not bad for a guy who didn't play a snap in his first two seasons due to a broken leg suffered in a preseason game his rookie year. The Packers tried to trade him to Carolina before his third season but he failed the Panthers' physical and returned to Green Bay.
In fact, Flanagan made his 50th career start — all consecutively — Sunday at Indianapolis. Flanagan played the entire game for the first time this season. As had been the case the past few weeks, a magnetic resonance imaging exam of Flanagan's knee was taken the Tuesday after the game. The exam didn't show any additional damage.
"But, even without changes, it was not a great picture," Sherman said. "He has experienced tremendous pain with this and has played with it. It's just been debilitating in regard to him. It's just wearing him down mentally and physically."
So into the fray steps Ruegamer. Lining up with the first-team offense for all but the final week of training camp will pay huge dividends now, he says.
"That was huge," Ruegamer said. "Taking reps with the 1s and getting used to them, how they work, how they call plays, how they communicate, that was invaluable during the preseason. It's going to roll over to the season, and we're going to do fine."