Notebook: Babies, Backs, Facial Hair

There's plenty of news (though not all of it important) leading to the preseason finale at Kansas City on Thursday. Aaron Rodgers and the first-team offense will play just one series, baby news for two players, and much more from Tuesday.

With Aaron Rodgers expected to play only a series on Thursday night against Kansas City, his conversation with reporters on Tuesday turned to some pressing topics.

Like, his mustache.

"This is the ‘friendly mutton chops' again," Rodgers said. "I went back to an oldie but a goodie. The guys enjoy it, I think, that's the only reason."

"This is definitely a routine," he continued. "The straight mustache has really had a hard time the last couple years, it hasn't been very productive. So, I'm giving it one more shot. I don't know how long I'll play on Thursday but if it doesn't go as well as I want it to, it might be the last year for the straight mustache."

Rodgers, who completed 77.4 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions in the first three games, said his goal for the game was simple: stay healthy.

"I think we've proven a lot this preseason," he said. "We've moved the ball effectively, and done good things in the passing game. I think the biggest goal is just to be 100 percent at the end of that game."

After Thursday's game, the team gets a few days off before becoming fully immersed in the gameplan for the Week 1 game at Philadephia on Sept. 12. Both sides of the ball have been working on Eagles stuff for the last couple weeks.

"I think you get to a point after that third preseason game where you're just ready to start playing games that are meaningful in the standings," Rodgers said. "These games are all important for chemistry and timing and all that stuff, but they don't go down as real wins or losses. I think we're all looking forward to shifting gears after this Thursday and then getting ready to play a game that's important."

Oh, baby

The punting battle enters its final phase, with Chris Bryan probably needing a big performance to beat out Tim Masthay.

Bryan, however, was absent from Tuesday's practice with his wife having gone into labor in the morning. Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum thought Bryan would be making the trip to Kansas City for the game.

So far, Masthay has the edge in the games, with a 47.6-yard average and 40.6 net compared to 44.0-yard average and 44.0 net for Bryan.

"Last game, we had three punts," Slocum said. "Chris hit two balls that he can hit better — both manageable in terms of our team play. Tim hit an outstanding punt. But you go back, and I think we have to consider the entire body, where we're headed, what we need the most. Look at this game. We started off with a plan, and there's nothing that's made us change that plan in terms of going the entire preseason. So, we'll have to make a decision soon after the game which direction we'll go."

Harrell's last chance?

Justin Harrell's injury-plagued career might come down to what happens at Kansas City.

"It's important for Justin to come out and perform at a high level, and more importantly, come out of the game healthy," coach Mike McCarthy said. "His big hurdle has been his health and so far he has been able to battle through that for the most part. He had the one week where it flared up, but I thought he has put together a good string of 7-10 days here. So it's important for him to go out and play well."

Harrell played well against Cleveland and Indianapolis but horribly at Seattle. Turns out, there was a good excuse, according to defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said.

"Not to make excuses, but put yourself in that guy's shoes: His baby's in intensive care," Trgovac said. "It's not like he had a baby and the baby was at home with his mom. His baby was in intensive care, and that's his first child. I don't know if you have any kids, but picture that baby being in ICU. It was not a planned C-section. It was an emergency C-section. My first baby was an emergency C-section, but it was in May. I don't know that I could've gone out and played a game. I'm just telling you. I said to myself, ‘I hope he goes (to the game), because he needs it,' and he wanted to go all along. But you have to take that into consideration."

With his mind cleared and with the full week of practice, Harrell played better against Indianapolis.

"He had a couple nice running plays but they didn't run the ball that much when he was in there," Trgovac said. "He had two rushes where he was a free rusher. On the sack-fumble, he had a great rush on that one. He actually grabbed Peyton (Manning). He was rushing the A gap and had enough strength to torque the guy, come back and grab Peyton to slow him down, and Zombo caught him. The other one, he wasn't very good. The other stuff he was doing was more of the setting other guys up, which he's doing his job and he's doing it fine but it doesn't look pretty. It's important but we're not the ones the call is made to set up. He did his job and it wasn't that difficult for him. This will be a big game for him."

Four-point stance

— Asked about the health of his team, McCarthy said: "Well, compared to last year, we have a couple more players in a negative health situation than we did last year. I just look at the stats because the training camp structure is supposed to eliminate some of our fatigue injuries. I'd like to be healthier, but that's just part of where we are. We're actually a little more banged up this year than we were last year."

Jason Chery, who will return all of the punts and kickoffs after his 75-yard touchdown last week, struggled catching the ball fired out of a JUGS machine during and following a windy practice. "We thought, let's give him a shot in this game – load the plate for him, and let's see what he can do," Slocum said.

— Tight end Tom Crabtree practiced without the cast on his hand for the first time since leaving the Cleveland game because of the injury. "With the cast on, it was pretty tough. There were times today that I felt a lot better catching," he said.

— Can Charles Woodson duplicate his amazing 2009 campaign of nine interceptions and several other huge plays? "Well, it was a rare year," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "I mean, that's awful hard to do, what he did last year. He affected so many games with big plays, so I think that just watching him here in camp, he's had a very good camp. Whether he can duplicate that who knows? Those seasons are hard to come by."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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