Questions Need to Be Answered at LB

The Green Bay Packers weren't defending the run very well with Nick Barnett in the lineup, and now they'll get a chance to see if they can do any better without him. Out for the year with a knee injury, the linebackers need an adjustment in Titletown. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at

Some fans were clamoring for the Packers to remove unproductive middle linebacker Nick Barnett from the starting lineup.

Their wish came true Monday, though not the way they envisioned a lineup shakeup occurring deep into the season.

Head coach Mike McCarthy revealed Monday that Barnett would be lost for the rest of the season because of a torn ligament in his right knee. McCarthy wouldn't acknowledge whether the tear is to Barnett's anterior cruciate ligament, as suspected.

"He's very disappointed," McCarthy said. "It's unfortunate, but we need to have the other guys step up."

Barnett will require surgery, which has yet to be scheduled. He suffered the injury in the first series of the second half in the Packers' 28-27 loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. He tried to reach out on a cutback run by the Vikings' Adrian Peterson, and the knee twisted on the artificial surface at the Metrodome.

Barnett didn't return to the game and was replaced by second-year player Desmond Bishop.

McCarthy wouldn't commit Monday to having Bishop, a physical prospect, assume the starting role or possibly moving weak-side linebacker A.J. Hawk inside and plugging Brandon Chillar into the spot on the outside.

"We talked about it a little bit as a defensive staff this morning," McCarthy said. "We'll probably make that call tomorrow."

LB A.J. Hawk
Domenic Centofanti/Getty Images

Barnett has been Green Bay's starter at middle linebacker since the first game of his rookie season in 2003, missing only two games the first five and a half seasons.

After a prolific 2007 season in which he had a team-high 165 tackles, a career-best 3.5 sacks, two INTs and was a first alternate for the Pro Bowl, Barnett was scuffling through the first half of this season.

In the Packers' nine games so far, Barnett unofficially had 68 tackles with zero sacks, zero interceptions and no forced fumbles or fumble recoveries.

What's more, he was making little impact on run defense, contributing to Green Bay's season-long problems. The Packers allowed a season-high 220 rushing yards on Sunday, including 192 in 30 carries by Peterson, who had the game-winning 29-yard touchdown run with 2:22 left in the fourth quarter.

After doing few things wrong through the first seven games of his debut as an NFL starter this season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been served some humble pie the last two outings.

Rodgers followed a poor-throwing game in an overtime loss at the Tennessee Titans the previous week by running into a pressure-filled buzzsaw in the Packers' 28-27 setback at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Horrid pass protection conspired to knock Rodgers to the Metrodome turf at least a dozen times, including four sacks, and he didn't have a touchdown pass for only the second time this season as he went 15-of-26 for a season-low 142 yards. Rodgers also fumbled once and took two safeties.

The Packers had but 184 total yards and converted only one of 11 third-down opportunities.

"I'm not going to make excuses for Aaron. He did not have his best game," McCarthy said Monday. "He can definitely play better. It's a learning experience for him. It's his first opportunity under the gun up in that dome. That's probably the loudest venue that we'll play in." …

McCarthy still was scratching his head about the first safety that was awarded to the Vikings defense in the second quarter.

After running back to pick up the football in the end zone on a fumble caused by Kevin Williams, Rodgers flung the ball as he was falling to the turf out to the right side in the vicinity of tight end Tory Humphrey. Referee Alberto Riveron ruled that Rodgers was guilty of an illegal forward pass because of an unnatural throwing motion, thus a safety since Rodgers was in the end zone.

McCarthy, who was befuddled by the ruling at the time, said Monday he hadn't sought a further explanation from the league.

"I was quoted, I'm sure, what I was told on the field yesterday. That's what the referees told me," McCarthy said. "It's still an infraction in the end zone, regardless of how they officiated it. That's where it's at from my standpoint. I was told it was an unnatural throwing motion by the quarterback, which resulted in the penalty."

McCarthy also was told by Riveron that had Rodgers completed the pass or had it intercepted, that would have been OK even though it was interpreted as an illegal forward pass. …

Derrick Frost's job as the team's punter could be in jeopardy.

McCarthy was critical of how Frost kicked in the controlled indoor environment Sunday. Frost averaged a subpar 40.1 yards with a net average of 35 yards on seven punts. His long was only 42 yards.

"The punting wasn't what it needs to be," McCarthy said. Frost, a fifth-year veteran, was signed before the season started to replace inconsistent incumbent Jon Ryan, who was released.

Frost has endured ups and downs so far this season. He ranks 25th in the league with a gross average of 43.2 yards and is tied for 18th with a net average of 37.3 yards.

McCarthy sidestepped a question Monday on whether he would stick with Frost as the punter.

"Personnel decisions, we don't ever do that here in front of a microphone," McCarthy said.

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