Tauscher Out for Season
Next game: Sunday, December 14th at Jacksonville
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Mark Tauscher may have played his last game for the Green Bay Packers.
The veteran right tackle will miss the final three games of the season after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament during the second quarter of Sunday's loss to the Houston Texans. It's another tough blow in a disappointing season for the Packers (5-8), who will likely miss the playoffs after three straight losses and now must replace a veteran cornerstone of their offensive line.
"He's the guy you point to," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's a true pro."
After nine seasons with the Packers, he'll become a free agent at the end of the year. And even before the injury, it was unclear whether the team intended to make a major push to keep Tauscher.
Given his outgoing personality and state ties that include his college days at Wisconsin, Tauscher is one of the Packers' most recognizable and popular players -- especially in the post-Brett Favre era.
Tauscher has been reliable and rock-solid on the field, quietly holding opponents in check while rarely being called for penalties.
But if the Packers are concerned about Tauscher's ability to bounce back from a major injury at age 31, his popularity and reliability might not be enough to bring him back -- unless he finds few interested suitors on the open market and is willing to return at a discount.
McCarthy said the Packers' immediate focus was on Tauscher's injury, not his contract.
"As far as his future, time-wise, really our focus just coming out of the medical meeting, is really to get the rehab started," McCarthy said.
McCarthy said Tauscher was scheduled to begin rehabilitation exercises and would likely have surgery next week.
Tauscher, a former walk-on who worked his way up to becoming a starter as a senior at Wisconsin, was drafted by the Packers in the seventh round in 2000. But he started 14 games as a rookie and has started all 16 games in five of his last seven seasons.
He tore his left ACL in the second week of the 2002 season and sat out the rest of the year. His only other major injury came in 2006, when he was inactive for five games because of a groin injury.
Packers center Scott Wells noted that Tauscher was the Packers' representative to the players' union, a sign of his respect.
"He is a leader in this locker room," Wells said. "It's tough to have it happen, as a friend and as a teammate, to go through something like that for the second time in his career."
Tauscher's injury likely will make the Packers take a hard look at third-year player Tony Moll, who is expected to start Sunday's game at Jacksonville.
"It's a tough way to come across it," Moll said. "You lose one of the better guys on this team, leadership-wise, seniority. Very unfortunate for Mark, one of my better friends on this team. But I'm definitely ready to step in."
Moll filled in for Tauscher on Sunday and generally held his own in pass protection, even when matched against dominant Texans defensive end Mario Williams.
Williams, who switches sides on the Texans' defense and immediately went to work on Moll after the Tauscher injury, occasionally disrupted Aaron Rodgers with pressure but was held without a sack and had only one tackle all afternoon.
But Moll admitted he needed to correct his footwork in run blocking.
"Tony played OK," McCarthy said. "Tony's tough. He competed, just like you knew he would."
Moll's play also was marred by a fourth-quarter holding call that went a long way toward costing Green Bay the game.
With the game tied at 21 and under five minutes remaining, Rodgers completed a 59-yard pass to Donald Driver to put the Packers in position for a potential go-ahead score. But Moll was called for holding two plays later, and Rodgers was sacked one play after that to knock the Packers out of field goal range.
The holding call was questionable, and a touchy subject after the game.
"Next question, please," Rodgers said.
Moll didn't seem convinced that he held on the play, calling it a "tough call" and "very unfortunate." But he stopped short of criticizing officials.
McCarthy said Moll "did exactly what he was taught to do" on the play.
It was yet another tough break in another close loss for the Packers, who have lost five of their eight games by four points or fewer.
"It's like a bee that won't go away," Moll said. "You've just kept getting stinged. We've got to figure out how to nip this in the bud and move on. It's just unfortunate."
Notes: After the Packers' season-long series of defensive disappointments continued Sunday, McCarthy praised defensive coordinator Bob Sanders as a "tremendous human being" and offered a vote of confidence. "I have confidence in Bob, and will continue as we move forward," McCarthy said. ... McCarthy said FB Korey Hall would be "challenged" to play against Jacksonville on Sunday after spraining his knee. ... Several other injured players will be re-evaluated later in the week.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)