Packers place Bigby on injured reserve

The hard-hitting safety played in only seven games this season because of a litany of injuries. Losing him is the latest blow to a team that has lost 35 games from its preferred starters.

The Green Bay Packers placed safety Atari Bigby on season-ending injured reserve on Thursday morning. He joins fellow starters Cullen Jenkins and Nick Barnett on the list.

Bigby, who blossomed into a hard-hitting difference-maker last season with team highs of five interceptions and 13 passes defensed, was limited to only six ineffectual starts this year. He saved the Packers in the season-opening victory against Minnesota with a late interception but injured a hamstring the following week at Detroit.

Bigby missed the next five games and never was the same. Already playing with an ankle injury, Bigby left the Carolina game on Nov. 30 with a sprained shoulder. He missed the following games against Houston and Jacksonville, and with only two games remaining, the Packers elected to shut him down.

"I felt Atari Bigby was an impact player for us, particularly the second half of (last) season, and frankly, he hasn't been healthy since the preseason," coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday afternoon. "He really took a turn for the worse in the Detroit game up there with the hamstring injury, and we felt it was best for us to get him healthy. But I definitely felt he was an impact player for our defense last year."

Bigby, the 10th player added to the Packers' injured reserve this season, finished with 31 tackles (19 solo, 12 assisted) and one interception.

The injury is the latest blow to the Packers' defense, which lost the productive Jenkins in Week 4 and leading tackler Barnett in Week 10. Plus, sack-master Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila never recovered from offseason knee surgery, had practically zero impact and was released on Nov. 1. Without his proven pass-rushing ability, the pass defense has suffered.

Through 14 games, the Packers lost 35 games from their preferred starters. By comparison, at this same stage last year, the Packers lost just 10 games from their preferred starters.

"Injuries are part of the game," McCarthy said. "We miss them all, don't get me wrong. Obviously, when you have starters on your defense, they're important to you. But that's the National Football League. Injuries are part of the game. You need to overcome that. That's just the way it goes."

Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson, who has started the last three games at safety in Bigby's place, is working this week at cornerback and safety. Bigby's backup, Aaron Rouse, is in the mix this week, too, McCarthy said.

Rouse admitted that he was puzzled by the decision to move Woodson to safety rather than elevating him into Bigby's place. Rouse, with five interceptions in his two seasons, didn't even play a snap of defense last week against Jacksonville.

To fill Bigby's roster spot, the Packers promoted defensive tackle Anthony Toribio to the active roster and signed fullback Russ Weil to the practice squad. Toribio, a 6-foot-1, 304-pound rookie from Carson-Newman, was signed to the practice squad on Nov. 13.

Weil is a 6-foot, 258-pound rookie from Illinois, where Rashard Mendenhall — the Pittsburg Steelers' first-round pick — nicknamed him "Personal Protector." He spent time on the Rams' practice squad after being signed as an undrafted free agent by St. Louis.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.


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