Clifton injury causes domino effect

The situation on the Packer offensive line is a textbook example of good, old fashioned teamwork. With two standout starters felled by injury, others have found themselves in surprising but crucial roles.<P>

After Mark Tauscher was lost for the season, the site of offensive tackle Chad Clifton on the sidelines with a knee injury was jarring, to say the least.

Clifton's MCL injury has been diagnosed with a ligament sprain. He could miss 1-3 weeks. That's not good news for the offensive line, but better than the first fears that Clifton had suffered a tear and would be out for a longer stretch.

Sherman said he would know more about Clifton's status later in the week, but that the injury appeared similar in severity to the MCL sprain suffered three weeks ago by fullback William Henderson, who was sidelined for only one game.

Clifton said he suffered the injury in the fourth play of the Packers' opening drive. He remained on the field until the end of the 9-play drive, but was examined by team doctors after his knee began to stiffen on the sidelines.

If Clifton can't go Sunday, Sherman said he would continue to use starting center Mike Flanagan at left tackle, with veteran Frank Winters filling in at center. Winters, who looked be winding down in his 16th season, has already served as clutch starting center when Flanagan broke his hand. Then Winters was pressed into service to play a little tight end. When Flanagan came back, instead of heading for the sidelines, Winters was back in the middle of the action when Flanagan's services were needed elsewhere.

Flanagan said he is more comfortable on the inside, but that his move to left tackle was one that needed to be made. He takes the change in stride and with characteristic humility.

"I'm just trying to fill in and hopefully not commit any catastrophic mistakes," Flanagan said. "We're kind of in dire straits here, we have a lot of guys injured so you've got to do it."

Flanagan said he wasn't worried about learning his new assignments, but admitted that he would have nightmares about having to face the Redskins' Bruce Smith.

"I can guarantee I won't sleep at all this week," Flanagan said. "He's got more sacks than I have plays at left tackle, so it will be an interesting week."

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