Two of the Packers’ newest defenders, Erik Walden and Howard Green, couldn’t be happier to be in Green Bay.
Walden’s high school, Dublin (Ga.), used the Packers’ color scheme, and Walden remembers cheering for Ahman Green’s frequent breakaway runs.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Walden, an outside linebacker, said on Thursday.
Green might be taking a circuitous route to New York. The big nose tackle played in two games for the New York Jets before being released on Monday. On Tuesday, his truck was packed and he was driving back to his home near Baton Rouge, La. About a half-hour from home on Wednesday afternoon, Green got a call from his agent saying the Packers had signed him off of waivers.
“I stopped on the side of the road, grabbed a few things out of my truck and I’m here now,” Green said.
If only it were so easy. Because of bad traffic, he missed a flight out of Baton Rouge on Wednesday evening. So, he drove to New Orleans and hopped on a connecting flight to Atlanta that night. Storms in Atlanta, however, canceled his next flight, so he spent the night in the airport. He finally arrived in Green Bay after Thursday’s practice but in time to tell his tale to reporters.
“About 20 hours,” Green said of his travel time. “Then I’m just going to say a good 30 hours easy with no sleep, so I haven’t been to sleep yet. It’s funny but it’s all worth it. It’s worth it for the love of the game.”
Having Green available for Sunday’s game — against the Jets in New York, of all places — would be a boost to a defensive line that might be without starting ends Cullen Jenkins (calf) and Ryan Pickett (ankle) and lost rookie defensive end Mike Neal (shoulder) to injured reserve. All of those injuries have put an enormous burden on starting nose tackle B.J. Raji, who played all but one snap in the first 58 minutes against Minnesota. But getting immediate help from Green might be asking too much considering the short timeframe to get a grasp on the defensive playbook.
“He has history with Dom Capers. Dom drafted him in Houston,” coach Mike McCarthy said of Green, a sixth-round pick in 2002 from LSU. “I was with him in New Orleans. We’re hoping for some carryover as far as the defenses that he’s played in compared to our defense, but we won’t know that until we have time to work with him.”
While Green wasn’t at practice, Walden took some reps at right outside linebacker. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, Walden has a better build than the presumed starter, Frank Zombo. Walden had 22.5 sacks at Middle Tennessee State, including 11.5 as a junior in 2006. He’s played in 28 games in the NFL, including Weeks 2 and 3 for the Dolphins this season after failing to make their roster at the end of training camp.
“It’s been a scramble,” Walden said. “I got on a flight Tuesday, had to catch three layover flights to get here, worked out (late Tuesday). I’m blessed that I got signed and have been stepping on it ever since then. I’m enjoying everything and just proud to be a Green Bay Packer.”
Walden was a college defensive end but has been a 3-4 outside linebacker since entering the NFL. The Packers are incredibly shorthanded at that position, with only Clay Matthews, first-year player Robert Francois, undrafted rookie Zombo and newly signed Diyral Briggs.
For this week, however, his ticket to the 45-man roster will be special teams.
“Basically, I say special teams is a ‘want to,’” he said. “You want to make the tackle or you want to make the block. It’s as simple as that.”
Bulaga will start at right tackle
At some point, the Packers are going to have a big decision to make at right tackle. That decision won’t be made this week.
While veteran Mark Tauscher’s injured shoulder has steadily improved, rookie first-round pick Bryan Bulaga will make his fourth consecutive start on Sunday, McCarthy said. Bulaga, who generally played well during his first two starts, turned in his most impressive performance in handling the Vikings’ Ray Edwards last week.
Packers injury report
Did not participate: WR Donald Driver (quad), DE Ryan Pickett (ankle). Limited participation: S Nick Collins (knee), DE Cullen Jenkins (calf), T Mark Tauscher (shoulder), CB Charles Woodson (toe). Full participation: T Chad Clifton (knee), T Marshall Newhouse (back).
The only change was Clifton going from limited to full participation.
McCarthy said he will need the “full week” to make a determination on Jenkins and Pickett. McCarthy indicated they might not be tested on Friday.
Jets injury report
Full participation: C Nick Mangold (shoulder), LB Calvin Pace (foot), CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring).
— With Brad Jones, Neal, Tauscher and Brandon Chillar having sustained serious shoulder injuries, McCarthy said the training staff is checking for a common thread in those injuries but hasn’t found anything.
— The New York Giants signed former Packers defensive back/kick returner Will Blackmon. Blackmon played at Boston College for Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Blackmon, who was waived at the end of training camp with an injury settlment, would have been eligible to re-sign with the Packers next week.
— Jets coach Rex Ryan on Jenkins: “Cullen Jenkins is an excellent player. I think they need to rest him a week,” a smiling Ryan told Jets beat reporters. “With those calf injuries, you don’t want the thing to persist all season. I definitely he needs to rest. He really is a tremendous player, big, athletic and fast, just like his brother (injured Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins). He’s not as big, but he’s a tremendous player in his own right.”
— In the latest odds from Bodog.com, the Packers are 11-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl. That’s the same as the preseason odds. The Jets and Steelers are the favorites at 13-2.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.