Injuries thin the ranks

Defense hit the hardest, and tight end; help on the way

As the Green Bay Packers pass the halfway point of training camp, their numbers are down at a number of positions due to injuries. While some join the list of walking wounded, others are beginning to return to practice.

The Packers welcomed the return of cornerback Al Harris to practice on Monday. The veteran injured his thigh in practice early last week and sat out of Saturday's exhibition game at Buffalo on Saturday.

Cornerback Joey Thomas also took part in practice on a limited basis as did safety Mark Roman. Thomas has been bothered by a hip flexor injury and Roman a hamstring injury.

Cletidus Hunt, who hasn't practiced since the first couple days of training camp, put the pads on for the first time since early August. He did not take part in scrimmages, but worked individually with coaches today.

Defensive tackle Grady Jackson, who has yet to practice, worked individually with coaches without pads today. He has been cleared from the physically unable to perform list and is expected to put the pads on for practice Tuesday. Jackson had off-season surgery on his knee.

"Cletidus is struggling with the knee issues," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "We're trying to advance things a little bit because I need to know where we stand. That's why he was out here today. We knew it was going to be in a limited role. Grady is going to put the pads on tomorrow. Joey Thomas worked about half the practice. I thought he did very well. Looked like he tightened up a little bit and they (trainers) pulled him back.

"Al had a great practice. I thought he did a great job and looked like Al," Sherman said.

Thomas practiced some with the team's dime defense, but did not start at cornerback. Ahmad Carroll has been starting in place of Thomas.

Hurtin' for certain
Safety Todd Franz sat out of practice today due to a separated shoulder. He sustained the injury during Green Bay's exhibition game on Saturday at Buffalo.

Other players who did not practice today because of injuries included linebackers Ray Thompson and Na'il Diggs (knee); tight ends David Martin (groin) and Ben Steele (back, neck); center Mike Flanagan (shin); and wide receiver Terrence Murphy (knee).

The Packers practiced Monday with just three tight ends, led by Sean McHugh, and rookie free agents Steve Fleming and Tory Humphrey. Sherman is hoping that Steele, who was injured against Buffalo, and Martin, who has been bothered the last couple of weeks with his injury, will return later in the week.

Sherman dismissed the idea that starter Bubba Franks, who has yet to agree on a new contract with the Packers, has gained bargaining power because of the injuries at tight end.

"I don't think you can make decisions based on what is out here" Sherman said. Bubba has enough game film for us to know what he brings to this team."

O-Line shuffle
Rookie Will Whitticker has the inside track to start at right guard, but the coaching staff continued with its rotation of linemen with the first-team offense in practice today. Veteran Matt O'Dwyer was inserted with the offense at right guard and veteran Adrian Klemm was at left guard today.

Sherman indicated that the Packers will probably rotate O'Dwyer and Whitticker at right guard throughout the week. Second-year pro Scott Wells practiced again at left guard behind Klemm.

"Everybody is competing and working for the job," Sherman said. "We're going to go through this week. We have a game coming up to make further evaluations."

With Flanagan nursing a shin injury, veteran Grey Ruegamer took over at center with the first-team offense.


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