Patching up the O-Line

Brett Favre has called his starting offensive line the most talented group he's worked with in his 11 seasons here. The unusual combination of youth and experience made this a worry-free unit. But injuries are part of life in the NFL, and now they are part of the Packers' offensive line woes. Today's news that right tackle Mark Tauscher may be lost for the season makes patching this line an unexpected priority.<p>

Tauscher is the latest casualty, with a torn MCL and damaged meniscus. Tauscher suffered the injury with 3:40 left in the second quarter of Sunday's game when New Orleans Saints linebacker Charlie Clemons unintentionally rolled into him. Packers quarterback Brett Favre was sacked for an eight-yard loss on the play. The first prognosis following the game predicted Tauscher's recovery at about eight weeks.

Unfortunately, Tauscher's knee injury may be more serious than first expected. According to reports Wednesday, team doctors discovered during surgery Tuesday that Tauscher not only injured his medial collateral ligament in his left knee but his anterior cruciate ligament was seriously damaged and large bone fragments also will have to be removed.

Tauscher was expected to get second and third opinions on if he will undergo further surgery to the knee. If he does, he could miss the rest of the season.

Tauscher's injury is the second to befall a member of the Packers' starting front five, with center Mike Flanagan still healing from a broken thumb sustained during training camp in early August.

Flanagan was replaced by veteran Frank Winters, a workhorse at 38 and the team's senior member.

With Tauscher's 2002 season in jeopardy, the job of serving as his replacement takes on larger responsibility.

Earl Dotson, now counted on to step in for Tauscher, has had injury troubles of his own in recent years and got only a limited number of preseason reps due to knee and back problems. He underwent an intensive physical therapy program to enable him to take the field again.

If Dotson were to go down, next in line would be rookie Kevin Barry. The 31-year-old also brings injury problems to his position.

Sherman said he liked what he saw out of Dotson in the second half of the Saints game, but admitted that Barry's injury history is a concern.

"He came out of this game pretty (healthy) and that's all I can judge him by," Sherman said. "I'm sure that we'll have to be careful with what we ask him to do in practice and make sure he gets his rehab, but we're fortunate that we have Earl, we have Kevin Barry."

Still, Sherman said he feels confident in the offensive line that will take the field Sunday vs. the Lions in Detroit.

"We feel pretty good about our tackles. I think we're covered there. Obviously losing Tausch, it jars us a little bit, but certainly we'll continue to go to work every day and do our jobs."

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