Let's hope fullback William Henderson will return in three weeks rather than six. Reports have indicated that Henderson may have sustained cartilage or ligament damage to his right knee during the first half of Green Bay's 38-10 preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.
The Packers are expected to announce more details of Henderson's injury later this afternoon. For now, however, Henderson's absence on the field and in the locker room will be noticeable. The 35-year-old fullback is one of the true leaders on the team. He stays long after each practice working with younger players and also his own skills, whether it is doing pushups, catching balls off the Jugs machine or running pass routes. In the locker room, he is always there for advice and to often act as an unofficial spokesperson to the media. On the field, he gives the Packers a bonafide threat out of the backfield and a solid blocker for Green Bay's running backs.
The otherwise durable Henderson has missed just two games in his Packers career - Week 1 in his rookie season in 1995 (left knee cartilage) and Week 4 in 2002 (sprained left knee). Now Henderson's availability for the season opener against Chicago is up in the air. If he suffered torn ligaments, Henderson will miss more than the season opener.
Vonta Leach takes over as the full-time fullback for the Packers. Leach may be a slightly better blocker than Henderson, but he is not a dependable receiver. Leach dropped what would have been a sure touchdown pass against the Falcons on Saturday. That's no surprise, because Leach often drops passes in practices, and even off the Jugs machine. When he does catch the ball he does not have the moves to make the first defender miss him.
But Leach has some starting experience (five games last season), is a regular on special teams and did manage to hold onto five passes for a total of 19 yards.
Still, the Packers' offense will suffer without Henderson over an extended period of time. His experience and ability is an asset. With Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport coming off major injuries, and Brett Favre in need of all the protection he can get, the sooner Henderson returns the better.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.