Bishop or Hodge becomes Bishop and Hodge

Desmond Bishop is moved out of the middle to help fill void for A.J. Hawk on the weak side.

Desmond Bishop blitzed untouched. Matt Flynn unloaded the ball, right to Abdul Hodge for an interception.

This play at practice never would have happened until this week.

Hodge was the Packers' backup middle linebacker as a rookie in 2006, and Bishop was the backup middle linebacker as a rookie in 2007 as Hodge spent the season on injured reserve.

Both players are athletic, big hitters who are having strong training camps, and both are key figures on special teams, but it appeared they were fighting for one roster spot because no team needs two backup middle linebackers. General manager Ted Thompson was asked about the talent overload on Monday morning.

"I think the linebacker position is a position where you can move guys around fairly easily, quite frankly," Thompson said. "There are certain strengths each player has, but we think both those guys are good players and should factor somewhere."

His answer was prescient.

Neither Hodge nor Bishop had ventured out of the middle during their brief Packers careers, but because of injuries to weak-side starter A.J. Hawk and top backup Brandon Chillar, the coaches are giving Bishop a chance to expand his role.

"He's the most versatile guy that we have right now that I would like to see play another position," linebackers coach Winston Moss said of Bishop. "We're looking at that right now, and so far he's doing real well."

Bishop says he's never played weak-side linebacker at any level, but the transition is going smoothly.

"I think the difference is you've got to pay a little bit more attention to the pass and the run," Bishop said. "At the Mike (middle linebacker), you can be slow on the pass, but at the Will (weak-side linebacker), you definitely have to be quick in dissecting whether it's a run or a pass because you've got coverage responsibilities. That's the main difference."

Moss said the change was a move of necessity — special-teams star Tracy White will start on the weak side for the second consecutive game — but the move also makes sense to make the most of the linebacking talent. He said moving Bishop instead of Hodge made the most sense.

"Sometimes, guys have natural positions, and in my opinion, I think Hodge is naturally fit for an inside position," Moss said. "I think that fits his skill set best. Bishop has shown that he can be versatile to where he can play all three positions."

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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