Rouse May Replace Woodson at Safety
Next game: Monday, December 22nd at Chicago
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Although Pro Bowl cornerback-turned-safety Charles Woodson is still seeing practice time at his new position, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy hinted this week that the experiment is over and second-year safety Aaron Rouse may start against the Chicago Bears on Monday night.
McCarthy hinted Rouse will be the starter, although he didn't come right out and say it.
"We're going to still have the flexibility to play Aaron at safety as the starter, and also have Charles ready to go at safety," he said. "We're just going to make sure we're covered both ways."
Rouse, who started four games while Atari Bigby was out with a hamstring injury earlier this season, admitted he didn't understand the coaches' decision to move Woodson from cornerback to safety after the team's Nov. 24 loss at New Orleans. Rouse suffered an ankle injury during that game that deactivated him the following week.
I just do what's asked of me," said Rouse, who has been active for the past two weeks. "I'm a young player on this team, so coaches want me to play special teams, that's what I do. I guess when they feel like they want me in there, Ill get in there."
Asked if he's gotten any explanation from the coaches about their decision, Rouse said, "It hasn't been spelled out. It's a good question. It's kind of been, I don't want to say guessing game, it just is what it is."
Bigby, meanwhile, was placed on injured reserve Thursday, ending his season. Bigby, who missed five games with a pulled hamstring suffered Sept. 14 at Detroit, saw action in just seven games this season and hasn't played since suffering a shoulder injury against Carolina on Nov. 30.
YAC attack: The Packers receiving corps led the NFL in yards after the catch last season, gaining 2,294 yards running after the catch, 51.4 percent of their passing yardage overall. The NFL average YAC was 1,596, and only two other teams (New Orleans with 2,112, and New England with 2,052) eclipsed the 2,000-yard YAC barrier.
This season, entering Monday night's game at Chicago, the Packers are a middling 14th in the NFL in yards after catch with 1,439. Arizona is first with 2,094, and New Orleans is second with 2,034.
"We're not doing enough," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "Once we get the ball in our hand, we're supposed to break three, four tackles. And we haven't been doing that. We're supposed to make something happen after making the catch."
Health watch: Often-injured defensive tackle Justin Harrell, who missed last week's game at Jacksonville with a hip problem associated with his offseason back injury, has been ruled out for Monday night's game, and the 2007 first-round pick's season could be over. The Packers close out the season at home against winless Detroit on Dec. 28.
"He's had a setback," McCarthy said. "It's unfortunate. He just can't quite get healthy."
Asked if Harrell, who underwent two surgeries during the offseason for a ruptured disc in his back, might need another surgery, McCarthy replied, "We're really not that far along. ... I hope not. Most of the pain is in the hip, which could be related to the initial injury. We're going to see if we can get him through rehab and see if we can get him ready for Detroit."
Starting fullback Korey Hall (knee) has done next to nothing in practice all week and is listed as questionable for Monday night, but McCarthy said he is "going to have a real challenge to make it. If I had to choose today, I would put him out."
No. 2 running back Brandon Jackson (wrist) also is questionable but did more in practice Friday than coaches expecting and may be able to play. If not, No. 3 DeShawn Wynn would back up Grant.
Jackson did individual drills, hit the blocking sled and took snaps in 11-on-11 wearing a different wrist brace than he tried earlier in the week, McCarthy said.
"It's really the (issue) of carrying the football properly is one of the biggest concerns," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said cornerback Al Harris (shoulder) "looked good" in practice and is listed as probable. "He looks like he'll be ready to go," McCarthy said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)