Bye comes at the right time

Nicked-up Packers need a break

As dark and ominous as the sky over Green Bay has been the first month of the season, the stars not only are peeking through at nighttime but could be falling into alignment.

Many of the Packers players bolted town Wednesday, with coach Mike Sherman giving them a four-day break for the bye. They left for their various destinations across the country with a positive frame of mind that belied the team's ghastly 1-4 start.

In fact, a few players weren't entirely keen on keeping the helmet and pads off for a few days.

"After a game like that, you want to come back and go back to work and continue playing," said wide receiver Robert Ferguson, referring to the 52-3 pummeling of New Orleans on Sunday that got the Packers off the schneid in 2005.

Given the team's long list of key players spending more time in the training room than on the field, however, Ferguson sided with the majority that the early-season break falls at the right time.

Sherman and his staff will work up until the weekend, completing a self-analysis of the team that has been par for the course during a bye week. The coaches undoubtedly will give closer scrutiny to the health status of the aching and hobbled players, those the team can't proceed without if it's to mimic last year's 9-2 rebound from a 1-4 beginning and climb from the cellar of the NFC North to the penthouse for the fourth straight year.

The Packers are resigned to moving on without the triumvirate of top receiver Javon Walker, promising rookie receiver Terrence Murphy and imposing No. 2 halfback Najeh Davenport, all of whom have landed on injured reserve. It's unlikely, however, they'll be able to bear another significant loss, though they surprisingly managed more than fine without halfback Ahman Green, tight end Bubba Franks, center Mike Flanagan and linebacker Na'il Diggs on the field Sunday.

Considering the importance of those players to what the Packers have accomplished in the past and what they strive to get done in the future, the extended break is needed.

"We're pretty banged up," kicker Ryan Longwell said matter-of-factly. "We played well the last three weeks, really, but have only one win to show for it. I think we've been through a lot. We've been going since July 29 (start of training camp). Although we've only played five games, it has been 21/2 months of football. So it's a good time."

Accustomed to having the bye midway through the season, the pushed-up date for the Packers this year is right on cue. Sherman is optimistic he'll have some of those aforementioned injured players back for the Oct. 23 game at Minnesota, which would keep alive a notable streak.

Every year since he took over as coach in 2000, the Packers have regained the services of at least one ailing starter right after the bye week. Quarterback Brett Favre and his ongoing starting streak of 230 games was aided by the time off after he suffered a sprained knee in 2002 and a broken thumb on his throwing hand in 2003.

"That's because I go to church on Sunday - every Sunday - and say my prayers," Sherman quipped about the impeccable drafting by the league's schedule makers every year. "I've been fortunate the bye has come at an appropriate time. Certainly, this is the time that we need it because it will allow us an opportunity to get guys back, which we need to get back, obviously. Particularly now with the loss of Najeh Davenport."

If history truly is a guide, the Packers stand to do more than just welcome back next week the front-line guys who have been out of commission the last few weeks. They have never come close to a sub-.500 record following the bye in each of the previous five seasons under Sherman - going 6-2 last season, 7-2 in 2003, 6-3 in 2002, 8-2 in 2001 and 6-3 in 2000 for a remarkable record of 33-12.

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