Packers at Panthers: News Extravaganza

Get the latest info on the Packers vs. Panthers Monday Night Football Game!

Green Bay Packers (0-3) at Carolina Panthers (1-2)

GAME SNAPSHOT

KICKOFF: Monday, 9:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/03/05
SURFACE: Grass
TV: ABC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 8th regular-season meeting. The Packers lead the series 5-2 and have won last three meetings since 2001. The Packers are 4-1 in games played at Charlotte. The teams also have met once in the postseason, with Green Bay rolling to a 30-13 victory over the 2-year-old Panthers in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 12, 1997, at Lambeau Field. The Packers went on to win Super Bowl XXXI over New England two weeks later.
*2005 RANKINGS: Packers: offense 24th (25th rush, 13th pass); defense 17th (16th rush, 14th pass). Panthers: offense 25th (16th rush, 22nd pass); defense 11th (12th rush, 12th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Packers have spent the vast majority of their three games playing catch-up, which has led to seven interceptions from QB Brett Favre. A big problem has been the sputtering run game, but look for the Packers to use 6-foot-4, 330-pound OT Kevin Barry lining up as an extra blocking tight end to attempt to recreate the 47-carry, 152-yard rushing performance they produced against Carolina last season. The Panthers have offensive balance that will pose serious problems for the Packers, so it's vital for Green Bay to control the clock. The Panthers have yet to get WRs Steve Smith and Keary Colbert untracked in the same game, but QB Jake Delhomme will no doubt attack struggling CBs Joey Thomas and/or Ahmad Carroll when they're in the game. Still, the game could hinge on Panthers RB Stephen Davis, who is off to a strong start, going against a Packers run defense allowing just 3.3 yards per carry.

FAST FACTS: Packers: Have started 0-3 seven previous times and rebounded to finish with a winning record just once (1922). ... Lead the series 6-2 and are 4-1 at Carolina. ... 24-20-1 on Monday nights. Panthers: 2-2 on Monday nights. ... Delhomme needs 241 passing yards to become the fastest player in franchise history to 8,000.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Packers: --TE Bubba Franks didn't practice for the second straight day and remains questionable for Monday's game at Carolina. The sixth-year starter is recovering from a bruised left knee that kept him out of his first pro game last Sunday. David Martin would start again in Franks' absence.

--WR Donald Driver returned to practice after being held out Wednesday to rest a sprained right ankle he suffered Sunday. Driver is probable for Monday's game.

--DE Aaron Kampman also practiced Thursday after missing the previous day to recover from a bruised thigh he sustained in the last game. Kampman is probable for Monday.

--C Mike Flanagan didn't practice Thursday because of an abdominal strain. He was added to the injury report as probable for Monday's game. Scott Wells filled the void in practice with the first-string offense.

--RB Najeh Davenport also missed practice Thursday because of a sore right hamstring. He was added to the injury report as probable for Monday. Davenport expects to practice Friday.

--WR Javon Walker said he's scheduled to undergo surgery next week in his native Texas to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Walker suffered the season-ending injury in the third quarter of the opener Sept. 11 at Detroit.

The fourth-year veteran earned his first Pro Bowl spot last season by leading the team with 89 catches for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Panthers:
--DT Jordan Carstens will be under pressure on Monday night to help defend against the run. The Panthers are 0-6 in the last six games they've given up 100 yards on the ground, including a loss last week to Miami when Ronnie Brown blistered the Panthers for 132 yards.

--CB Ken Lucas has practiced all week and seems to have recovered from a shoulder injury. He should help out Carolina's defense immensely against the Packers.

--LB Will Witherspoon was back on the practice field and said he expects to play against Green Bay. He was the team's leading tackler after two games but missed last week because of an LCL knee sprain.

--WR Keary Colbert will remain the starting receiver, even though he has just two catches for 11 yards this season. Coordinator Dan Henning said the reason is Colbert is more familiar with the offense than Rod Gardner.

--WR Drew Carter, who stood out in two preseason games, has not been active yet.

--DT Attiyah Ellison was re-signed to the practice squad.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Packers:
Seeing as how their secondary will be confronted with its biggest challenge of the season thus far, the Packers aren't moaning about having a longer week of practice that comes with playing a game on Monday night.

Green Bay's frustrating quest to notch its first victory may hinge on whether it has a full complement of defensive backs to thwart Carolina's Steve Smith, who has an NFL-high-tying 23 receptions for 342 yards and a co-league-best four touchdowns. As of Thursday, that's not a certainty.

Ahmad Carroll, who had reclaimed the starting job at left cornerback with a solid performance Sunday, missed practice for the second straight day. Carroll suffered a bruised left knee in the 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay and is questionable for Monday's game.

Although Carroll said he plans to get back on the field in some capacity Friday, he acknowledged that he won't be cleared for action until swelling in the knee subsides.

"It doesn't hurt that bad. It just hurts when I do certain things. When I try to go side to side, it kind of hurts," Carroll said Thursday. "Good thing we have a Monday night game; we get an extra day. But I expect to be playing on Monday night ... hopefully."

If the knee continues to plague Carroll into the weekend, Joey Thomas will get the start. Thomas had his own medical issues last week in the wake of a mild concussion suffered in the Week 2 loss to Cleveland. Thomas started in place of a demoted Carroll in that game and was able to finish it after taking a blow to the head while making a tackle in the first quarter.

Thomas, though, experienced recurring headaches and was sensitive to bright lights throughout the subsequent week. He didn't play Sunday, which enabled Carroll to jump back ahead in the seesaw competition at the spot opposite Al Harris.

Carroll responded with a fourth-quarter interception that put the Packers in position to overtake Tampa Bay, to no avail. Last year's first-round draft pick also wasn't penalized for the second straight game, after he committed four infractions in the season opener and took a back seat to Thomas on the depth chart.

"Sometimes, it's a wake-up call," defensive coordinator Jim Bates said of how Carroll has rebounded since the one-game demotion.

Bates, though, is growing tired of what has become a weekly predicament of not knowing who will be available at cornerback. Rookie Mike Hawkins, who worked as the nickel back with Thomas out Sunday, didn't practice Thursday because of a groin injury and is probable for Monday's game.

"Right now, it's hard to get some stability," Bates said. "The injury situation is really keeping it in turmoil to get the continuity we're looking for."

Unlike last year's season opener at Carolina, when Harris reckoned he covered Smith for all but "maybe two plays," the scheme employed by Bates in his first season with the team keeps the cornerbacks on their designated sides of the field. Harris held Smith to six catches for 60 yards before the Panthers standout suffered a season-ending broken leg late in the game.

This time, Harris doesn't anticipate seeing the ever-moving Smith lined up on his side more than 50 percent of the time.

Since Carroll possesses more quickness and is better suited for operating from the outside than Thomas, who's been relegated to the slot on passing downs, the Packers would be better served if all that's been ailing them clears up by Monday.

Panthers:
The Carolina Panthers should be pretty healthy entering Monday night's game against Green Bay.

Weakside linebacker Will Witherspoon was back on the practice field Thursday, one day after getting a second opinion on his right knee. Witherspoon said he went to see well-known sports physician Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., and was cleared to play.

Witherspoon has a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain.

"I really want to get back out there," Witherspoon said. "I just wanted to be sure."

Witherspoon is walking a fine line because he wants to be back on the field for his teammates - he is very much a team player - but he also has to worry about his financial future. He's hoping for a long-term contract extension from the Panthers, but if not he will become an unrestricted free agent after the season, so he can't afford a knee problem.

Witherspoon and cornerback Ken Lucas, both of whom missed last week's game against Miami, are expected to play Monday night against the Packers.

"There's a little soreness, but that is to be expected," Witherspoon said. "It's nothing I can't handle."

The only player to miss practice on Thursday for Carolina was backup defensive end Kemp Rasmussen, who is questionable with a knee injury.

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