Commentary

Mike Sherman says he is excited at the possibility of Earl Dotson being able to practice in a couple of weeks. Dotson is entering his 10th season in the National Football League and has a laundry list of injuries.<p>

This is how desperate Sherman is to find someone, anyone, to play backup tackle. When training camp opened a few weeks ago, Dotson was considered a longshot to make the team because of his injury history. But things have changed.

Last year, the Packers had the dependable veteran Barry Stokes. Green Bay, however, let him slip away this offseason to Cleveland and is now left scrambling to find someone of Stokes' caliber to pick up where he left off.

The Packers were hoping that sixth-round draft pick Mike Houghton might be the answer to Stokes. Stokes stepped in for injured left tackle Chad Clifton last November and started in three straight games, performing beyond expectations. But Houghton, so far, has gotten pushed around in practice and probably will end up at guard. Guard also is a concern, but not quite as big as tackle.

The Packers signed veteran free agent Jeff Blackshear to play guard. Though he was out of football last year, he has a good shot at making the team simply because of his experience and his 6-foot-6, 323-pound frame.

The Packers were hoping that Kevin Jordan would bounce back from a recent knee surgery to provide depth at tackle but he has been idle, watching most of the practices because his knee is still tender.

The Packers have not been overly impressed with free agents Reggie Nelson, Kevin Barry, or Tim Stuber at tackle, either.

That leaves the team clinging to the hope that Dotson, who has been with the Packers since 1993 and started on both Super Bowl teams, can be healthy enough to keep on the roster. But Dotson has had a history of back problems and has battled migraines. He had arthroscopic knee surgery in June, but his rehab is progressing along well, Sherman says.

Sherman said that Dotson doesn't necessarily have to play in a preseason game because he knows what he can do.

"If Earl can't come back and one of these young guys has to step in ... I'm really nervous about the backup offensive linemen," Sherman said. "If we lost a Chad Clifton, do we have a Barry Stokes on our roster?"

Right now, they don't, but the Packers still have a month to go before the regular season begins. It is very possible that they may pick up a free agent when rosters are trimmed, beginning with the first cutdown on Aug. 27.


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