Packers notebook

Favre watch is on; defense finishes 12th in NFL; 2007 opponents; player updates

The short wait apparently promised by Brett Favre begins.

Favre's scheduled arthroscopic surgery on his chronically nagging left ankle was to take place in Green Bay on Monday afternoon, but was delayed a few days, according to general manager Ted Thompson. The 37-year-old quarterback will return home to Hattiesburg, Miss., after the surgery and doesn't anticipate taking long to decide whether to return for a 17th NFL season or retire.

A choked-up Favre told a national TV audience after the Packers ended the season with a 26-7 win at Chicago on Sunday night that he'll probably have something to announce about his future plans in a couple of weeks. He waited until late April last off-season to commit to the 2006 season.

Many observers took the appearance of a teary-eyed Favre in the interview with NBC to mean that he played his final game.

"If it is my last game, I want to remember it," Favre said. "It's tough; it's tough. I'll miss these guys; I'll miss this game. I just want to let everyone know that."

Most of Favre's teammates, though, were unaware that he broke down during the interview. They refused to speculate about the impending decision.

"If this is the last one, I wish the best for him. But, we pray to God that it's not," said receiver Donald Driver, who hoisted Favre on to his shoulders after head coach Mike McCarthy pulled the quarterback from the game with less than two minutes left.

The offensive linemen urged Favre to pose for a photo with them on the field after the game ended.

"Hopefully, it's not the last time, but if it is, it'll be a nice keepsake," right tackle Mark Tauscher said, who called the guessing game about Favre's intentions "kind of foolish for everybody."

"I said the last two years he was going to retire. So, I'm going to say he'll retire and hope that I'm wrong for the third year in a row," Tauscher added.

McCarthy declined late Sunday night to share any insight he might have regarding Favre's future. McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson have told Favre that they would like him back for next season.

"If you talk to some of the players that had the opportunity to walk away from the game on their own, you'd like to walk away with some gas in your tank," McCarthy said. "Like I've told him already, his gas gauge is well over three-quarters (full). He's got a lot left in his tank. That's just where he's at. He's not your normal 37-year-old, that's for sure."

Green Bay, meanwhile, is poised to bring back running back Ahman Green. He said after the game Sunday that his agent has been in discussions with team management about a new contract. Green held up for the entire season after suffering a season-ending ruptured thigh in 2005 and set a franchise record with his sixth 1,000-yard rushing season. Green had signed a one-year, incentive-laden contract last off-season and tops the Packers' short list of potential free agents this off-season.

"I'm looking forward to next season, being in green and gold. That's the only thing that's on my mind," Green said.

Defense rises in NFL rankings
The Packers finished the season ranked 12th in the league in total defense and 17th in passing defense. It will go down as quite a feat for a maligned unit that was the league's bottom feeder in both areas about midway through the season.

The defense put an exclamation point on a four-game recovery to end the season by coming up with a season-high six takeaways, including five interceptions, in the 26-7 win at Chicago on Sunday night.

"I thought they were outstanding, and it was great to see that group really come together down the stretch," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "You could really say the last four to five weeks, we played as good of defense as anybody in the National Football League."

Free safety Nick Collins, who had two picks, and nickel back Patrick Dendy led the pillaging with interception returns for touchdowns at the expense of Bears quarterback Rex Grossman in the first half. The Packers intercepted three Grossman passes and also recovered a bungled snap by Grossman. They picked off replacement Brian Griese twice in the second half.

"It really starts up front. I thought we put good pressure on (the quarterbacks) all day, especially with just the four-man rush, particularly early," McCarthy said. "(Cornerback) Charles Woodson (who had his NFC-leading eighth interception) is as instinctive of a defensive back as I've ever been around. I thought you saw Nick Collins really start to come into his own. He's been making big plays down the stretch."

The four-game winning streak that enabled the Packers to end the season 8-8 was mostly the doing of the defense, which had been a sucker for giving up big play after big play. The unit during the closing stretch allowed only 35 points and three touchdowns and amassed 13 takeaways (10 interceptions).

"It just goes to show we can be the best secondary in the NFL if everybody is on the same page and just go out there and have fun. No team can whip us," Collins said.

Although they couldn't ask for a better finish to the season and believe the four-game surge will carry over to next season, some players lamented what might have been had the team not squandered a few winnable games earlier in the season.

"Hey, we would be a team to reckon with in the playoffs right now," Collins said.

The New York Giants gained the final wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs over the Packers on a strength-of-victory tiebreaker.

Green Bay blew a 13-point lead in a 34-27 loss to New Orleans in Week 2, had a late-game fumble deep in St. Louis territory that cemented a 23-20 win for the Rams in Week 5 and handed a 24-10 win to Buffalo in Week 9 with a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone.

The Packers managed to finish second in the NFC North, highlighted by a 5-1 division record that equaled runaway champion Chicago's.

2007 opponents - home and away
Green Bay's 2007 home schedule will include games against division rivals Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota, predetermined matchups with Philadelphia and Washington of the NFC East and Oakland and San Diego of the AFC West, and a contest against NFC South runner-up Carolina.

The road slate includes the three division games, predetermined matchups with Dallas and the New York Giants of the NFC East and Denver and Kansas City of the AFC West, and a contest against NFC West runner-up St. Louis.

Player updates
-- QB Aaron Rodgers expects to be ready for the start of the team's off-season workouts March 19. Rodgers suffered a season-ending broken left foot in relief of an injured Brett Favre against New England on Nov. 19 and subsequently underwent surgery.

Rodgers will be in a walking boot for a few more weeks. He will spend the first part of the off-season working with a personal trainer at home in California. He wants to shed his body fat from 10 percent to 8 percent.

-- WR Donald Driver is hopeful of playing in the Pro Bowl on Feb. 10. Surgery, though, is a possibility for Driver, who played the last four games with a shoulder injury.

-- CB Charles Woodson might need surgery on a shoulder that hampered him most of the second half of the season. Woodson didn't miss a game, however, and led the NFC with eight interceptions, six in the last six games.

-- WR Greg Jennings had the blessing of head coach Mike McCarthy to miss the final game of the season Sunday night at Chicago. Jennings returned to Green Bay so he could be with his wife, Nicole, who gave birth to the couple's first child Sunday afternoon.

-- TE David Martin was deactivated for five of the last six games, including Sunday's, because of a ribs injury. Martin, who was the team's most productive tight end until he was hurt, is due to become an unrestricted free agent.

-- LB Abdul Hodge missed the last three games after suffering a shoulder injury. The promising rookie backup was sidelined a total of eight games, having incurred a knee injury early in the season.

Packer Report Top Stories