Walker, Franks provide scare

Thud was the sound of Javon Walker's head bouncing off the Soldier Field turf during the third quarter Sunday. Thud was the sound of the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes.

Fortunately for the Packers, Walker appeared no worse for the wear after the game. Same goes for Bubba Franks, who injured his knee in every blocker's worst nightmare.

The twin goals for the Packers on Sunday were to win and avoid a major injury that could ruin a playoff run before the postseason even kicks off. In that respect, the Packers won twice. They beat the Bears 31-14 and neither Franks nor Walker were seriously injured.

The injury to Walker came with less than four minutes to go in the third quarter and the Packers comfortably ahead 28-14. On a second-and-14 play, quarterback Craig Nall hit Walker for a 43-yard completion. Walker was tackled from behind by Bears defensive backs Charles Tillman and Bobby Gray. Walker was thrown backward by Tillman, and the back of Walker's helmet bounced off the turf.

Walker laid on his back for several minutes before being helped off the field. He sat dazed on the bench but looked fine not long after. Packers coach Mike Sherman gave Walker a clean bill of health after the game and said Walker did not suffer a concussion.

"He's fine," said Sherman. "He could have gone back in the game, but I held him back. He'll be able to practice Tuesday. I was just getting ready to pull him when it happened."

Walker finished the game with three catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, capping his Pro Bowl regular season with 89 catches, 1,382 yards and 12 scores.

Franks' injury was just as scary. He was run blocking during the fourth quarter when Mark Tauscher — who had replaced Marco Rivera at right guard — fell into the back of Franks' legs. Franks was bent backward, injuring his left knee. Franks limped off the field and was examined on a cart along the sideline, but was walking without a limp a few minutes later.

"It's all right — it's fine," Franks said. "It shouldn't be a problem at all. I got hit by from a bad angle."

Franks finished with a team-leading four catches Sunday, for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Like Walker, Franks will be fine, Sherman said.

"We don't think it's anything significant," Sherman said. "It certainly was scary to me. I think he'll be OK. Our doctors don't believe it will keep him out of any action."

While Walker and Franks were playing with a meaningless game well in hand, an early 21-7 lead allowed Sherman to keep Brett Favre and Ahman Green safe on the sideline for the final two-and-a-half quarters. Favre was fabulous in limited action, going 9-of-13 for 196 yards, two touchdowns and a near-perfect passer rating of 151.4.

"I wanted to play," Favre said. "I understood the decision by Mike. Did I agree with it? Probably not. I just enjoy playing. But I knew I probably wouldn't play the whole game."

Sherman offered Favre some sensible advice.

"About a series or two before I came out, Mike told me: ‘Hey, don't get hurt,'" said Favre. "I'm thinking after 200-some games, why's he telling me that now? Don't start jinxing me."

Green went to the bench at the same time as Favre. He rushed four times for 14 yards and caught one pass for 23 yards.

Other players getting some time off were Rivera and linebacker Hannibal Navies. Nose tackle Grady Jackson was given the day off to rest his ailing knee and Najeh Davenport watched from the sideline due to a separated shoulder and cracked ribs.

"I was thinking about playing Grady, then I went out on the field before the game and the field was so soft," said Sherman. "With the field soft and his knee still swollen, I didn't think it would be a good combination."

Linebacker Paris Lenon, who replaced Navies, left the game in the second quarter with a bruised left elbow. Steve Josue took over for that duo. Punt returner and wide receiver Antonio Chatman sprained an ankle on a punt return but stayed in the game.

Starting center Grey Ruegamer, who is battling a nagging ankle injury, played the first half and rookie Scott Wells, as expected, handled the second half.

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