Realistic Expectations as Tauscher Returns

The contrast between Mark Tauscher and Allen Barbre is about as stark as the difference in their physiques. While Barbre has allowed 5.5 sacks in four games this year, Tauscher allowed only two all of last season and barely 20 for his entire career. But how much can Tauscher give at 32 years old, coming off a second torn ACL and without a training camp?

For a team that has allowed a league-high 20 sacks and is averaging 3.7 yards per carry with its running backs, there's something comforting about bringing back Mark Tauscher.

"He better be the savior," receiver Greg Jennings said with a laugh. "I'm joking, but I've always loved Tausch."

"We're excited to have him back," running back Ryan Grant said before adding a note of realism. "We're not expecting a night-and-day difference just because he's here."

Maybe just having a familiar face with a history of success will provide a settling influence to an offensive line that has been, to put it kindly, unsettled through the first four games.

Tauscher's replacement, third-year pro Allen Barbre, has allowed 5.5 sacks in four games. How's this for a contrast about as stark as the difference in physiques between the doughboy Tauscher and the muscular Barbre? Statistically, the worst year of Tauscher's career came in 2007, when he allowed six sacks in 16 games. When Tauscher came back from his first torn ACL in 2002, he allowed a grand total of five sacks in the next four seasons — a stretch of 59 games — according to STATS.

Sacks aside, Tauscher has shown signs of slippage the last two seasons. By the count of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn, Tauscher allowed an average of 25 pressures in 2007 and 2008 compared to an average of 15.6 pressures during the previous five full seasons.

Mix in a second torn ACL and the lack of training camp, and who knows what Tauscher has to give and when he'll be able to give it.

"There's going to be a little window here that I need to hit and get my feet back under me," Tauscher said. "There's a reason that you have a training camp, to do the things to get yourself fundamentally back into it."

Return engagements don't come often in Green Bay.

Gilbert Brown ate hamburgers and opposing offensive linemen from 1994 through 1999 before the Packers elected not to bring him back in 2000. Out of football for a year, the 30-year-old Brown got into shape and returned to form for three more seasons.

Mark Tauscher
Jeff Roberson/AP Images
In 1997 and 1998, there wasn't more than a handful of receivers better than Antonio Freeman. But when his production fell for the next three seasons — part of the reason for a growing spat between Freeman and coach/general manager Mike Sherman — Freeman signed with Philadelphia, where he spent 2002.

Freeman returned in 2003, after the Packers' receiving corps was ravaged by injuries in the season opener. In a decent parallel with Tauscher, Freeman wasn't in a training camp that summer. The 31-year-old played in the final 15 games, catching only 14 passes for 141 yards and a long reception of 15 yards.

Tauscher, 32, is nine months removed from reconstructive knee surgery. At that age, he wasn't sure he'd get this opportunity, whether it be in Green Bay or elsewhere.

"Sure, when you blow your knee out for a second time and you're in a position ... there's a lot of things that go into your mind," he said.

"The longer you play, the older you get, you start figuring out that your time is dwindling and you don't know how many years you have left. You appreciate it. That always was in my mind. I always appreciated what was going on. When it's not there, you look back and you hope that it comes back."

With the injury and without a contract, Tauscher watched the Packers' opener against Chicago — "that was weird," he said — and Favre Bowl I. He didn't watch the other two games, nor did he watch the preseason. Other than taking a political science class at Wisconsin, he focused on his rehab in hopes of returning early in the season.

He hoped that return would be made here, where he appreciated the honesty of general manager Ted Thompson and the courtesy of Dr. Pat McKenzie to examine his knee even when not under contract. More importantly, though, Tauscher is aware of the nucleus that's in place. His love for the franchise wouldn't have meant a hill of beans had he thought the on-the-field product wasn't worth his blood, sweat and tears.

"They have a very good team and a very good quarterback," Tauscher said. "Those things definitely go into play. This is a team that has a lot of potential, and I think there's a lot of season left."

Fans have been clamoring for Tauscher ever since Barbre allowed three sacks in the opener. Tauscher's been around the game long enough to know that one person can't be the difference. Then again, given the struggles of this group, maybe his return provides an intangible benefit that can be bigger than the play of just one player.

"I don't know who thinks (I can be a savior), but this is obviously a group," he said. "I'm going to get myself ready and prepare and help this team, in whatever role and whatever fashion that's going to be. This is a good group of guys and they work hard. I think there's some stuff that has to be cleaned up, and I think they're well on their way to doing that."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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