Packers Have Weakness At Safety, Too

The Vikings will be starting Willie Offord in place of the injured Corey Chavous at safety. But the Packers' starting strong safety for most of the season, Mark Roman, could be a target for the Vikings.

Mark Roman is finishing off one of the poorest seasons by a Packers safety in years, but the coaching staff has not even considered benching him.

"There has never been a discussion," secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer said. "I think Bob (Slowik) feels very comfortable with Mark. So do I."

Ever since Roman beat out Marques Anderson in training camp, the safety position opposite Darren Sharper has been his despite a dearth of big plays and an avalanche of bad ones.

Roman has made 15 starts at strong safety and played extensively in the game that he didn't start.

Bhawoh Jue, who will become an unrestricted free agent in March, obviously would like to start but understands why the coaches have stayed with Roman despite his struggles. In March, the Packers signed him to a three-year, $2.75 million contract that contained a $700,000 signing bonus.

Roman started 16 games for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003 but coach Marvin Lewis didn't make any effort to stop him from leaving as an unrestricted free agent.

"You make a commitment and he had a good preseason," Jue said. "By doing something like pulling a starter out you never know what it would do to him mentally. You can't really do that to a player. I totally understand."

Thus, the Packers have stood by without public criticism. Roman probably has been the worst starter on one of the NFL's worst defenses. He has made no interceptions. He has forced no fumbles. He has recovered no fumbles.

He has defensed three passes.

He ranks third on the team in tackles but also is second on the team in missed tackles with 16.

One reason Anderson was traded to Oakland on Sept. 3 was the fact that he missed a team-high 19 tackles in 2002 and a team-high 20 tackles in ‘03. He played 15 games the first year and 18 games the second year.

Schottenheimer was asked if he considered the number of missed tackles by Roman to be excessive.

"Not when I go back over the last eight ballgames," he said. "Not at all. The open-field tackling, the down-the-field tackling has not been an issue at all except for the Philadelphia game. He's tackling well. Fitting in the right place in the run game."

Meanwhile, Roman has played considerably worse in coverage as the season has gone along.

In the first eight games, Roman allowed 3 1/2 plays of 20 yards or more and just 1/2 touchdown pass. However, in the last eight games, he has allowed 5 1/2 plays of 20 yards or more and four touchdown passes.

The total of nine plays of 20 yards or more allowed by both Roman and free safety Darren Sharper are the most allowed by a Packers safety in a full season (counting playoff games) since Sharper gave up 11 in 1999.

Roman's total of 4 1/2 touchdown passes is the most allowed by a Packers safety since Sharper yielded five in 1998.

"He can't cover and he won't tackle," one scout said about Roman last month. "Just awful."

The Packers, of course, have to be more aware of Roman's many shortcomings than anyone else. Yet, perhaps concerned about what the truth might do to his psyche at this point in the season, the coaches prefer to paint a rosy picture of his performance level.


HONORING REGGIE

The Packers are wearing a helmet decal with No. 92 on it. It is in memory of Reggie White, the retired defensive end who died last week at age 43.

The team wore a No. 3 decal in honor of Hall of Fame running back Tony Canadeo during the 2003 season after his death.

The Packers also announced that White's number will be retired at a ceremony next season.

Sherman indicated that the organization attempted to honor White with an addition to their uniforms, but league officials adamantly opposed it.

"I hope we honor Reggie by how we play the game more so than with a decal on the helmet," Sherman said. "You can put a decal on there, but what does that mean? You honor him by trying to represent him on the field."


OFFSEASON SURGERY COMING

Nose tackle Grady Jackson will undergo an operation on his left knee as soon as the season ends. He said that his left kneecap hasn't been right since he dislocated it on the third play Sept. 13 in Carolina.

"The knee has been staying the same," said Jackson, who almost never practices. "Only way it will get better is if I have some surgery. Little bit of everything. Just like clean it out around the kneecap area. There's arthritis."

Jackson said he has been able to keep his weight at 352 pounds despite not being able to practice. In the last five games, his playing time has dropped from 55 snaps to 46 to 44 to 37 to 33. He was inactive for the finale.

Jackson agreed that his play hasn't been as good as it was in 2003.

"The knee's slowing me down a little bit," he said. "I've got my whole leg taped up and I wear a brace. I just can't move around like I want to move around. You can hardly lift up your leg. It limits you."


OTHER STARTING DT UP IN AIR

Coach Mike Sherman benched three-technique Cletidus Hunt in Chicago and started hustling free agent Cullen Jenkins. Hunt did play 35 snaps compared to 45 for Jenkins.

On Wednesday, Sherman refused to say who would start against the Vikings. He probably will start Hunt because the Vikings can run well inside and Jenkins gets buckled at the point of attack on a consistent basis.




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