Barnett or Collins likely to wear headset

Coach Mike McCarthy sheds some interesting light on how he will make the decision

For the first time this season, one defensive player will be allowed to wear a radio headset on the field, in an effort to level the playing field the offense enjoys with quarterback-to-coach communications and to thwart future Spygates.

The logical player to wear the headset would be middle linebacker Nick Barnett, who stays on the field at all times, regardless of down-and-distance situations.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked about it after Thursday's practice, and he provided some interesting insights on how he'll make his decision.

"It's more the guy and also the position," McCarthy said when asked specifically about Barnett. "The thing about the defensive headset, a number of different factors are involved in who you're going to talk to based on the position, based on the person, as far as the key communicator and things like that. The personnel groupings play a lot into that. But primarily the Mike (middle) linebackers and the safeties are the areas we'll probably lean towards."

If a safety is a possibility, that would be Nick Collins. While Collins' play frequently has been a disappointment — he didn't intercept any passes last season and neither forced nor recovered a fumble — he's the ringleader of the secondary. One reason why there were considerably fewer breakdowns in the secondary in 2007 compared to 2006 — even with a revolving door at the nickel corner — was the heady play of Collins.

Asked if Collins and Barnett are the players under consideration, McCarthy said yes, "as we start."

"I just know with my experience going through it with the quarterbacks when it first came in — it's something I talked with (defensive coordinator) Bob (Sanders) about — there were quarterbacks that didn't want anybody in their ear," McCarthy said. "They wanted to play, and that's it. ‘Don't talk to me, don't tell me nothing, get off the phone, and we go to work.'

"But as I've seen it later in my quarterback career, really, Brett (Favre) is probably the first guy, he's like, ‘Talk to me as much as you want. You can talk to me all the way up to the time it goes off at 15 seconds.'

"To me there's a process, because a defensive player has never had anybody in his ear anytime in his career. So, we're actually talking about that and making sure they're comfortable with it, because the communication is different for everybody, for the coaches and the players."

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to E-mail him at

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