Lineups mean nothing now's Doug Ritchay comments on the rookies and newcomers that the Green Bay Packers are trying out along the offensive line and linebacker, plus his take on professional athletes and motorcycles.

This past week at the Packers' voluntary workouts a couple changes occurred on the offensive line at linebacker.

Jason Spitz became the second rookie to work with the first-team offensive line (Daryn Colledge being the other), while free-agent acquisition Ben Taylor became part of a linebacker corps which also includes Nick Barnett and first-round pick A.J. Hawk.

It's June and when changes like this happen, it is news. However, it hardly should register more than a murmur on the Richter scale when thinking about the regular season.

Without pads and no preseason games being played, these two additions to the starting lineups mean nothing, but it does give each player the idea if he continues to progress like he has, he may be starting Sept. 10 against Chicago in the season-opener.

Spitz, a third-round draft choice out of Louisville, has been projected as a center down the road, but he is getting a strong look at guard, the position he played throughout his college career. He has been lining up at right guard, with Colledge at left guard.

"That whole inside group is very young and we're looking at everybody," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We're talking about getting the best five on the field and we're continuing to give individuals the opportunity to fight for those positions."

Taylor, who played in Cleveland last season, is capable of playing inside and outside, and with one linebacker position up for grabs, he's the leader … for now.

"We're going to rotate as many guys through there as possible," McCarthy said. "It's all about opportunity and I can't stress enough that we're still going through the learning phase and we're still installing.

"As far as who's ahead of who, it's just creating opportunities and looking at different guys in the different packages, defensively."

Spitz and Taylor may never relinquish these spots for the 2006 season, but don't be surprised if neither starts come September. Some players change, and not for the better, when they put on the pads.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's motorcycle accident drew national headlines everywhere, but when you're the QB of the Super Bowl champs, everything you do is news.

Much was made about Roethlisberger not wearing a helmet, but after listening to avid cycle riders this week on radio shows, I'm not going after this. These avid cyclers say helmet-wearing is a personal preference and many say lives can be saved by not wearing a helmet, based on the accident. I don't buy that, but then again I only drove moped in high school.

What concerns me about this is a player of Roethlisberger's ilk riding a cycle in the first place. Yes, I know, he's an adult and the Steelers have no right to tell him what to do when he's not wearing the black and gold, but don't these players have a responsibility to their teammates?

I know Roethlisberger wasn't at fault for the accident, but riding a motorcycle puts you in a precarious position if an ignorant driver becomes a problem. There's no place to hide, take cover, you're exposed and your body is there for the taking.

Roethlisberger suffered a broken jaw among other injuries, but likely won't miss the start of the regular season. He was lucky.

Kellen Winslow Jr. was not. A couple years ago, during the off-season on a moped, Winslow suffered a season-ending injury, when he was basically goofing off on the moped when he lost control. He had nobody to blame but himself.

Knowing that, how would you feel if Favre was biking around Green Bay? The franchise on a cycle? Good thing he likes trucks.

This situation didn't get by McCarthy who talked to the team after Roethlisberger's accident.

"Obviously we're all men, so just be smart," McCarthy told the team. "I'm not a fan of motorcycles. I know they're very popular in this part of the country, but the biggest part of the message today was just be smart."

McCarthy added in his talk with his players he can't babysit them, but they need to be responsible. Unlike myself, whose job doesn't require me to be an unbelievable physical athlete to get my paycheck, it does for pro athletes – football, basketball, hockey, etc. – this is their meal ticket, for now.

Not only did Roethlisberger put himself at risk for this season and his career by riding a motorcycle, he put the Steelers in jeopardy. He'll likely be fine, and in time look back at this episode as a learning experience, but when your body is what brings home the "bacon," can somebody really put their body at risk? Not only in riding a motorcycle, but what about snow skiing, bungee jumping, surfing, hang gliding, and so on?

"You don't want to get hurt doing something off the field, but a freak accident can happen anywhere," Hawk said. "A lot of guys don't go snow skiing or water skiing or do things like that because your body is important. Your life is your body - your brain and your body - in the NFL."

With that in mind, hopefully Packers players stick to cars and SUVs, and leave the motorcycle driving for a time later in life, if they have a desire.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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