Lots of pain after gain

The 3-4 Green Bay Packers' quest to climb back to .500 for the bye week is running into an obstacle as long as the Nile. <p> This week's injury report.

For most teams, playing without one starter in the secondary is cause for concern. For the Packers, who play at Washington on Sunday, they could be without their biggest playmaker, safety Darren Sharper, and perhaps their best defender this season, cornerback Al Harris.

Sharper injured his left knee while batting down a potential touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson during the first quarter. The good news is a magnetic-resonance-imaging exam performed Monday revealed nothing more than a sprained posterior-cruciate ligament. The bad news is Sharper likely will be listed as questionable (50 percent chance of playing) for the Washington game.

"He's walking around pretty good. So we'll have to wait and see on him. We're going to take that day by day," said Packers head coach Mike Sherman.

Sharper sat out the final three quarters of the 41-20 romp against Dallas. Harris, meanwhile, played through his injury, a sprained medial-collateral ligament in his right knee suffered during the second half.

"We're going to keep an eye on that," Sherman said. "More than likely, he will not practice a whole lot this week as we work through those issues."

Harris, like Sharper, said he had no intentions of missing the upcoming game.

"We're going to rest it up and ice it and pray," Harris said.

Luckily for the Packers, if they can get through this game, they get their bye next week. That will give Sharper and Harris a week off to rest for what is developing into a crucial second half to the season.

"We have a big football game coming up against the Redskins and everybody that can play will play," Sherman said.

Sharper echoed those sentiments. Asked if it might be wiser to take this week off to fully heal — especially with the high-powered Vikings coming up after the bye — Sharper said, "I can't think about Minnesota. I'm thinking about 4-4 going into the bye. If we don't win this game, there won't be any Minnesota."

If Harris can't go, the starting gig would fall on either rookie third-round pick Joey Thomas or Canadian Football League refugee Jason Horton. Horton was toasted throughout his trial-by-fire against Indianapolis earlier this season, while Thomas got his first taste of game-action when he was involved in the Packers' dime package Sunday against Dallas.

With rookie first-round pick Ahmad Carroll already in the starting lineup, the Packers would be greener than grass at corner if Harris can't play.

"I thought he grew as a defensive back," Sherman said of Thomas. "Like any rookie, he made some mistakes. But he's better today having played in that game and we won than if he hadn't."

Interestingly, former starting cornerback Michael Hawthorne would not be given a chance to reclaim his starting spot. The Packers have moved him to safety and don't want to interfere in that progression.

If Sharper can't go, the starting honor would be thrust upon Bhawoh Jue. Jue, who replaced an injured LeRoy Butler during his rookie season in 2001, filled in for Sharper and perhaps played his best game as a pro. Jue tallied a co-team-leading seven tackles — his tackling, while generally inconsistent throughout his career, was rock solid — and didn't appear to make any blunders.

If there were ever a good time for the Packers to be short-handed in the secondary, it could be this week.

Veteran quarterback Mark Brunell, in his first year in Washington, is the 25th-ranked passer in the league with 86-for-168 passing (a league-worst 51.1 percent) with five touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of a paltry 69.8. The Redskins' passing game ranks just 28th in the league with 161.5 yards per game despite playing come-from-behind football for much of the season.


Here's a rundown of who's hobbled and bruised following Sunday's beating of Dallas.

— Quarterback Brett Favre sprained his right wrist when his hand hit a Cowboys player's helmet on a third-and-7 completion to Antonio Chatman in the second quarter. Favre stuck out his hand to brace himself for an impending hit from Dallas' La'Roi Glover. The injury will impact Favre most when he accepts the snap from center, but it shouldn't prevent him from making his 216th consecutive start.

— Pro Bowl right guard Marco Rivera sprained an ankle during the fourth quarter and was not allowed to finish. He was walking with a crutch Monday to help him keep his weight off the foot. Considering Rivera once played most of the season with a torn knee ligament, he's expected to play Sunday.

— Pro Bowl running back Ahman Green's Achilles' tendon injury continues to be a pain. It hardly looked like it, however, as he rushed for a season-high 163 yards Sunday.

"Last week at this time, I was a little unsure on his availability in the game," Sherman said. "This week, I feel pretty confident. But I am going to have to rest him (in practice) and, hopefully, get us through to the bye."

— Starting tight end Bubba Franks left Sunday's game with a stinger but was able to return to catch a touchdown pass and help spring Green's 90-yard touchdown run. He could miss some practice time this week, however.

— Starting power end Aaron Kampman sprained his ankle.

— Starting strong-side linebacker Hannibal Navies aggravated that nagging strained shoulder, which will keep him out of practice for a day or two.

— Nose tackles Grady Jackson and James Lee, who returned after lengthy absences after suffering early-season knee injuries, emerged unscathed.

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