Help is on the way

The cure to what ails the Packers may be close at hand. Linebacker Nate Wayne and nose tackle Gilbert Brown could be back in action Sunday when the Packers travel to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Giants in the regular-season finale.<p>

"I feel much improved about our chances of getting Wayne back," Packer Head Coach/GM Mike Sherman said. "He's running well, but it will come down to how he can handle his body being torqued in all sorts of directions on a tackle. He'll practice this week, but we really won't know until he gets into a game."

Wayne suffered a broken bone in his back Dec. 9 against the Chicago Bears and Brown has struggled with a turf toe injury since the Dec. 3 win at Jacksonville. Defensive end John Thierry suffered a right knee injury and remains out.

Sherman faces a dilemma: Play Wayne in a critical regular season game – winning it gives the Packers (11-4) a home playoff game - or wait until he's more fully recovered and play him in the playoffs.

"We'll have to see how he responds," Sherman said. "But we miss him out there. He's a catalyst, a high-energy guy who can make things happen on the football field."

As a result of the rash of injuries on defense, the Packers run defense has given up 167 or more yards rushing in each of their previous three games against Minnesota, Cleveland and Tennessee. This week they'll face the Giants' rushing attack led by Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne, which ranks 17th in the league with 108.1 yards per game.

"When you consider Nate Wayne, Gilbert Brown, John Thierry, LeRoy Butler and our dime package Allen Rossum was a part of that as well I think it's a product of a lot of different things," Sherman said. "Along the same lines, it's business as usual. We have to get things fixed and shored up with the people we put in there. We've got to get that done as coaches. "I think Nate Wayne who was our leading tackler before he got hurt, an emotional type player who can make a big play. I think we miss him out there as we do other guys as well. ... But you can't cry about things you don't have. And we don't have them." Another problem area will get a boost with Rossum's anticipated return.

Rossum has been sidelined since Thanksgiving Day when he injured ligaments in his right knee against the Detroit Lions. He also missed four games earlier in the season with a hamstring injury.

The Packers are ranked 26th in the league in punt return average and last in kickoff return average, although they did find a bright spot with Dorsey Levens' kickoff returns vs. Minnesota last week at Lambeau Field

"I just talked to (head trainer) Pepper (Burruss) and he said it looks good for Rossum," said Sherman. "When he says 'good' it's better than we thought it was. It's about 50 to 75 percent whether he'll be available. I was slightly encouraged. I haven't been very encouraged as of late."

Sherman is even more doubtful about Thierry, who sprained his right knee against the Cleveland Browns and missed the Minnesota game. "We just don't know where John is right now," he said. "If I had to rank them, Nate and Allen have the best chance of playing, with Brown next and Thierry last."


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