The struggling Green Bay Packers lost one of their best linemen and leaders when Mark Tauscher was lost for the season on Sunday.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy confirmed on Monday that the veteran right tackle will be placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
It's the same knee that ended Tauscher's season after just two games in 2002 and also required reconstruction.
"He knew it. He's done it before," McCarthy said the day after Tauscher was injured in the first half of the 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans.
Though McCarthy left some wiggle room, it seems likely that Tony Moll will take Tauscher's spot for this week's game at Jacksonville. Moll, a third-year pro, did "OK" against the Texans, McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen said, noting that standout defensive end Mario Williams, who generally moves from left end to right end throughout the game, settled in at left end to go after Moll.
"He competed, just like you knew he would," McCarthy said. "He went in there and did a couple things from a technical standpoint that he needs to clean up, but as far as the way we played the game, we didn't adjust anything."
McCarthy and Campen again exonerated Moll for the controversial holding call that helped kill the Packers' drive to a potential winning field goal or touchdown.
"He's improved. He improves every time he gets out on the field. He did his job yesterday," Campen said.
Moll, who felt he held his own, especially pass-blocking against Williams, isn't a newcomer to the starting lineup. The fifth-round draft choice in 2006 started 10 games during his rookie season, including the final five at right tackle when Tauscher went down with a groin injury. He started the first three games of this season at right guard.
"I'll be fine, without a doubt. I have 100 percent confidence," Moll said. "It will be a little easier than during my rookie year, when I was just thrown in there.
Assuming Moll starts, the backup right tackle likely would be rookie fifth-round pick Breno Giacomini. The 6-foot-7 Giacomini struggled through training camp and the preseason in pass protection, but McCarthy said he's improved a great deal because he battles star defensive end Aaron Kampman every day at practice.
"He's a different player than he was in training camp, no question," Campen said. "His game has improved. I have a high regard for him. He's worked very hard."
While the Packers feel comfortable with Moll, losing Tauscher is the latest blow to a team that has lost five of its last six games to fall out of playoff contention. Tauscher, a ninth-year pro out of Wisconsin, is one of the Packers' veteran leaders. He's on the team's veterans council and is the team's representative on the NFL Players Association.
"The way he's line up and played week in and week out, he's been playing through a hamstring injury, he's the guy you point to," McCarthy said. "He's a true pro. Practices hard. He's here in the offseason program. He's lined up and done everything we've asked."
"Leadership," Campen said. "You have a guy who's played in a lot of games and gone through adversity and those kind of things. Anytime you lose a veteran of nine years, you have a little bit of an adjustment."
Tauscher's contract is up after this season, and there was speculation this would be his last year in Green Bay even before the injury. McCarthy wouldn't discuss Tauscher's future, saying only that his concern is that the swelling can reduced through rehab so surgery can be done next week.
It takes about eight months for a player to recover from ACL reconstruction, so a best-case scenario would have Tauscher ready for training camp in July, when he will have turned 32. That long recovery could work to the Packers' benefit since the injury could scare away possible suitors.
"It's tough to have him as a friend and as a teammate go through something like that for the second time," a somber center Scott Wells said. "For one, he's our player rep, so obviously, that shows that everyone respects him and he is a leader in this locker room. It's tough. I don't know what else to say about it."
"The kid in him always seemed to come out at the right time," Moll said of his friend. "Hopefully, he'll stick around and be here every day helping us out. It's going to be tougher, though. Definitely."
McCarthy listed six other injuries. Starting fullback Korey Hall is a long shot to play at Jacksonville because of a knee sprain. Linebacker Brandon Chillar (groin) and defensive end Jeremy Thompson (ankle), who both missed Sunday's game, will test on Wednesday to see where they stand heading into the Jacksonville game. Safety Nick Collins (leg contusion) is questionable for Wednesday's practice but should be ready for this week. Tight end Tory Humphrey (calf, thumb) and linebacker Danny Lansanah (upper arm) should be OK.
Bill Huber is the publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Packers lose a leader in steady Tauscher
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