Aaron Rouse says he was "taken aback" by the Packers' decision to move Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson to safety rather than simply promote him to replace an injured Atari Bigby.
Woodson started the last three games at safety, and it appeared the defense suffered as a result. So, on Monday night at Chicago, Rouse will get the call at safety with Woodson back at corner.
"This is another opportunity for Aaron to be the starter, and we could talk about any position," coach Mike McCarthy said on Saturday. "When you get a chance to start, you need to perform. This is a performance business. The players clearly understand that. We talk about job responsibilities and a number of things you need to reiterate during the course of the year, and this is a great opportunity for him to step up. That's pro football. Injuries are part of our game, and we look for him to be impactful, which he has been in spots, but it's the consistency of playing four quarters that's going to be his challenge Monday night."
To hear Rouse talk, consistency isn't an issue. In fact, nothing regarding his play this season seems to be an issue in his mind. But something clearly got him in the doghouse a bit, because he didn't play a single snap on defense last week at Jacksonville.
"Done pretty well. Made a lot of plays," Rouse said when asked to assess his season. "I'm a young player in this league. It's my second year. Obviously, I have some things I need to work on. That's something you address in the offseason."
Rouse, who picked off two passes in three starts as a rookie last year, certainly has made some plays. The biggest was his game-clinching 99-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts. He also thwarted a potential touchdown with an interception against New Orleans.
But the physical Rouse hasn't always been a sound tackler, and he's had some mental breakdowns, as well. Notably, he lined up far too deep on a couple of snaps at the end of the game against Houston, aiding the Texans' drive to the winning field goal. Injuries have been an issue, too. A knee injury knocked him out of the Tampa Bay game and made him inactive the next week against Atlanta. He started the next week against Seattle but left with a head injury. An ankle injury knocked him out of the game against New Orleans and kept him out the next week against Carolina.
Rouse gets a chance to earn some redemption during these final two games. Not that he thinks he needs redemption.
"I never felt like I got out of good graces," Rouse said. "I just think anytime you get a chance to play, it's an opportunity to showcase your skills. If I do get a chance to go out there, I want to showcase my skills and be that big-time playmaker, as I've been all season long."
Standout Bears rookie running back Matt Forte is listed as questionable for Monday because of an injured right big toe. But don't buy that his availability is a 50-50 proposition. Forte, who leads the Bears in rushing and receptions, says the toe has healed to the extent that he barely thinks about it.
"That's the most important thing is don't think about it, because then you don't worry about it and you're not trying to protect it," Forte told reporters in Chicago. "So, don't worry about it and just go out there and just play. It feels good."
"DeShawn Wynn can play every down and distance, every situation. I think it was clearly evident in reference to the Seattle game," McCarthy said. "There was a big third down and he went in. They came after us with empty pressure and he made a key pickup of the strong safety. Excellent recognition and it was a big block in the A gap which gave Aaron (Rodgers) the ability to throw the long touchdown to Greg Jennings. We have a lot of confidence in DeShawn Wynn."
The only change to the injury report was the addition of rookie offensive tackle Breno Giacomini. He is out with an ankle injury.
According to the National Weather Service, it will be about 7 degrees at kickoff with winds of about 15 mph. So, it won't be quite as treacherous as last year, when winds gusting to 40 mph led to disastrous performances by the Packers' special teams and passing attack.
"I'm not worried about throwing the ball," McCarthy said. "If it gets to that point, fortunately, I have two games of experience in that particular stadium. We'll be ready to go and adjust accordingly."
Punter Jeremy Kapinos was with the New York Jets last season when his special-teams coach put on film of the Packers' punting woes at Chicago. Jon Ryan had two punts blocked, couldn't handle one snap and "punted" the ball with his shin.
"That film definitely evokes a bit of fear in any punter's heart, no matter where you are," Kapinos said. "You always feel for a guy in that situation."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notebook: Rouse will start at safety
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