Little pops off after loss

Safety feels he should be in starting lineup instead of Roman

First came an indirect blow to the right knee of top receiver Javon Walker, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in the season opener Sept. 11.

Then came a proverbial stab in the back of safety Mark Roman, delivered by backup Earl Little following Sunday's game against Cleveland.

Only two weeks into the season, signs of internal friction and broken spirits have underscored the Packers' surprising 0-2 start.

Little didn't hold back in a post-game interview, calling out Roman for a missed tackle on a decisive fourth-quarter touchdown in the Browns' 26-24 victory.

Trent Dilfer, recognizing an all-out blitz from the Packers defense, threw a quick pass to tight end Steve Heiden in Browns territory with the game clock inside of the two-minute mark. Heiden made the underneath catch, then eluded a diving Roman, who was playing back on the play, and easily outran defensive tackle Corey Williams the last 55 yards. The touchdown put the Browns ahead 26-17.

"That's what you get paid to do," Little bristled about Roman's whiffing on the tackle. "You can't do that. In the back end, you've got to make the sure tackle. You can't give up the big play. That's the bottom line."

A clearly agitated Little interjected that if he had been on the field, instead of Roman, Heiden is tackled on the spot.

"I'm perfect on that. One hundred percent," Little snapped.

Perhaps Little's rant should be construed as nothing more than sour grapes. The ex-Brown, whom the Packers signed as a free agent in the off-season, failed in the preseason to wrest the starting job from incumbent strong safety Roman, whose first season in Green Bay last year was marred by blown assignments and missed tackles.

Little, who at 32 is four years older than Roman, argued after Sunday's game, "I know I played well enough in preseason and in training camp to be the starter. But, for whatever reason, they went with Mark Roman."

Head coach Mike Sherman took note of Little's scathing comments Monday. He quickly tried to nip a potentially divisive situation in the bud amid a trying start to the season for the three-time-reigning NFC North champions.

"It's been addressed," Sherman said. "If (Little) has a problem with any situation, he needs to come and talk to me about it. Our coaches evaluate every practice, every game. We don't (air gripes) that way. We haven't done it in the past; we're not going to do it now. So, I don't anticipate that to happen again."


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