Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said today that Junius Coston will start in place of Jason Spitz on Sunday when the Green Bay Packers play the New York Giants in the Meadowlands. Spitz is still not totally recovered from a calf injury that he sustained late in training camp.
Coston, a third-year pro, will be making his first career start. The versatile lineman has filled in at other positions on the offensive line in practice, but has little experience. He played in one game last season for the Packers, filling in at right guard when Scott Wells lost his shoe and had to leave the game for two snaps. Coston dressed but did not play in seven other games. As a rookie, Coston was only in on three offensive snaps at the end of one game at left tackle.
Against the Giants, it is possible that Coston will play the entire game for Spitz, who aggravated his calf injury last Sunday against Philadelphia. Coston stepped in for Spitz in the third quarter against the Eagles and played the rest of the game.
“My hard work is paying off,” said Coston after practice today. “It was a long, hard road up to this point. I’m grateful that I’m getting a chance to start.”
The Packers are seeking a spark of some kind for an offense that was abysmal in Week 1, mustering all of 215 total yards and 46 rushing yards.
“I wouldn’t say the spark,” said Coston. “I know I’m going to go out there and do the best to my ability and play hard. That’s the only thing I can promise you.”
Coston played with the first team offense during practice this week.
“It feels like we’re ready to go as a unit.”
Jennings, Morency likely to sit out
Both wide receiver Greg Jennings and running back Vernand Morency did not practice today, and it appears very likely that neither will play Sunday against the Giants. Both players also sat out of the season opener last Sunday against Philadelphia.
Jennings, who has been bothered by a hamstring injury he sustained in practice on Sept. 6, did not make any progress after he practiced on Wednesday with the team. Team doctors also have not given Morency the green light, either. He has been out since the first day of training camp with a knee injury. He practiced Wednesday, but continued to experience lingering soreness in his knee Thursday and today.
McCarthy hinted today that the Packers probably will keep both players out of Sunday’s game.
“(Jennings) has been up and down,” said McCarthy. “He felt real good Wednesday, pushed it Wednesday. He was sore yesterday. When you are dealing with hamstrings of perimeter players, you don’t want to get on this merry-go-round where you’re doing this every week. It’s kind of the same thing with Spitz with the calf. We need to back off of him and get him healthy, and see how he feels Sunday.
If Jennings is unable to play Sunday, rookie James Jones will make his second straight start opposite veteran Donald Driver. Last week the Packers actually opened the game with three wide receivers – Driver, Jones and Ruvell Martin.
Clowney or Francies likely to get called up
If Jennings does not suit up against New York, look for the Packers to activate rookie David Clowney or second-year pro Chris Francies. Both players are currently on the team’s eight-man practice squad.
Clowney likely will get the call based on his ability to double as a kickoff returner.
Carlyle Holiday’s condition likely will determine if the Packers sign either Clowney or Francies to the 53-man roster. Holiday injured his knee last Sunday against the Eagles and has been limited in practice this week. He did not practice on Friday.
“He’s got some swelling, the swelling has decreased, and he feels a lot better today,” McCarthy said about Holiday.
Manning practices for Giants; Umenyiora is probable
The Giants received good news on the injury front today, but Tom Coughlin declined to say whether the affected players will be in uniform Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
Quarterback Eli Manning (right AC joint contusion) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (irritation to the lateral meniscus of the left knee) both practiced, their first such work since suffering their injuries last Sunday night in Dallas. Manning is listed as questionable for the game, while Umenyiora is listed as probable.
Coughlin is anxious to see how Manning and Umenyiora feel when they arrive for work tomorrow. A final decision regarding their availability will be made no later than 90 minutes before kickoff on Sunday.
“(Manning) took some snaps,” Coughlin said. “He threw the ball out there. He threw it pretty good. But we’ll see.”
Jared Lorenzen took the remainder of the snaps with the first-team offense. Coughlin, asked if he was more confident Manning would play, said, “No, I’m not confident. That isn’t the key term. The key term is, ‘How is he going to be in the morning and then what are the medical people going to say?’”
Manning did not speak to the media today.
“He seemed to throw the ball pretty well,” Coughlin said. “If you really watch closely he did the smart thing. He loosened up pretty good and started to get into the velocity throws a little bit later on. He has actually thrown the ball on the side pretty well, even from day one.”
Lorenzen said he was glad to have Manning back on the field.
“It was good to see him out there,” Lorenzen said. “He was with us the whole time, he wasn’t doing soft toss on the side. He got a lot of reps, which is awesome.
“He took probably about half of (the reps) in everything. He threw some good balls. I think he can go out there and play.”
Lorenzen has said all week that he expects Manning to play.
“This is Eli Manning, he is going to go out there and play if at all possible,” Lorenzen said. “I would love to play, I think I am prepared to play, and I think all the guys are starting to believe in me. But this is Eli’s team. We are going to go as far as he can carry us.”
Coughlin’s evaluation of and prognosis for Umenyiora was very similar to Manning’s: the news was good, but let’s wait until tomorrow to render a more definitive verdict.
“Osi practiced and appeared to do pretty well,” Coughlin said. “But we’ll see. These things are all based, of course, after they do work, how are they going to come back?”
Umenyiora said he has “no idea” if he will play, but is much more optimistic now than he was when he sustained the injury on the Giants’ first defensive series in Dallas.
“When it first happened I thought I was going to be out for a while, but it doesn’t look like I am going to be out for that long right now,” he said. “I feel pretty well. I feel actually alright.”
Will the determining factor be how much pain he can stand or how great the risk of further injury he faces?
“To be honest with you, it is probably a little bit of both,” Umenyiora said. “You don’t want to actually bring injury. Whatever the coach wants. If they feel like I am ready to play, whatever the coach and medical staff feel like I can play, the fact that I will can help the team.”
Michael Strahan told reporters that Umenyiora said to him it was a “miracle” how well he felt.
“African genetics, man - real quick healing,” Umenyiora said. “I just hope I am able to play.”
Other Giants injury news
Kicker Lawrence Tynes (calf strain), linebacker/long-snapper Zak DeOssie (back) and linebacker Gerris Wilkinson (knee) are questionable. Cornerback Kevin Dockery (ankle) is doubtful. Running back Brandon Jacobs (knee) and wide receiver David Tyree (wrist) are out.
Tynes kicked today for the first time this week and pronounced himself fit.
“I did everything today. I hit about 30 balls, so I went a little bit more than I would have on a (normal) Friday,” Tynes said. “I felt really good. I didn’t have any setbacks or limitations. I kicked off in the stadium; I kicked from 60 in the stadium. It feels really good. It feels actually pretty fresh having a couple of days off.”
Coughlin seemed uncertain about the status of DeOssie, whose back locked up on him last night.
Safety Gibril Wilson, who was limited yesterday with a quad injury, is listed as probable.
* Giants backup center Grey Ruegamer played three years for the Packers (2003-05). He started 11 games in 2004, making his first start against the Giants on Oct. 3. Ruegamer understands how heavily the Packers rely on quarterback Brett Favre to make a play for them.
“When things are slow you need a spark, and Brett has always been the guy to do that,” Ruegamer said. “He rifles that ball in there. He wants to win and he’s on the field acting like it and playing like it.
“Brett is a unique individual. He’s a great quarterback. He’s a great guy to rally around. He’ll chew you out if you’re doing the wrong thing. But he’ll pat you on the butt, too. He gets you excited, he gets you fired up. Brett’s a great guy on top of it. He just wants to go out and play football and win.”
The Favre play that is best remembered by Ruegamer occurred the last time the Giants and Packers met. On Oct. 3, 2004 in Lambeau Field. With the game scoreless in the third quarter, Favre was hit hard by William Joseph on a second-down play and was forced to leave the game. Green Bay gained one yard in two plays with Doug Pederson at quarterback. Pederson was in the huddle, seemingly calling the play on fourth-and-five, when Favre ran onto the field as the crowd at Lambeau cheered wildly.
Favre then dropped back and threw to the right side to Jevon Walker, who caught the ball at the four, then fought his way into the end zone. It was later learned that Favre was not medically cleared to return to the field and had run into the huddle on his own. He never returned to the game after throwing the touchdown pass. After the game, it was announced that Favre had suffered a concussion.
“He had a concussion and threw a touchdown pass,” Ruegamer said. “Then he couldn’t remember it after the game (which the Giants won, 14-7).”
* The Packers lead the regular season series, which dates to 1928, 24-21-2. Green Bay also leads the post season series, 4-1. All five of the team’s post season matchups were in NFL Championship games between 1938 and 1962 with the Giants only victory coming in their first post season meeting.
* The Giants are 5-4 against the Packers in Giants Stadium and 14-13-2 as the home team against Green Bay. Five of the last seven games between the two teams have been in Giants Stadium. They last met here on Jan. 6, 2002 (the 2001 season finale), a 34-25 green Bay victory. The visiting team has won the last three games in the series.
* The Giants are 45-33-4 in home openers all-time and 17-14 in Giants Stadium openers. The Packers have 48 wins in road openers, the most in NFL history.
* There are a limited number of seats available for this Sunday's home opener against the Green Bay Packers. You can purchase them by logging onto www.ticketmaster.com. Visit any tri-state area Ticketmaster outlets or the Continental Arena Box Office.
* With the home opener on Sunday, fans are reminded that they must follow the new parking procedures at Giants Stadium.
The construction of the new Meadowlands football stadium has resulted in the loss of 5,000 parking spaces at the sports complex. As a result, only fans with pre-paid parking permits will be allowed onto the complex. Those fans without a parking permit will be directed to off-site parking areas where a shuttle bus service will be provided to the sports complex. In addition, reserved parking is no longer available in parking lots 4 and 18. All ticket holders are strongly encouraged to car pool to help reduce the demand for parking.
Parking permits only grant a ticket holder access to the parking lots at the complex. It does not entitle the ticket holder to a reserved parking space in a specific parking lot. The parking permit entitles the ticket holder to one parking space for his/her vehicle and tailgate set-up. Adjacent parking spaces may not be used for grills, chairs, tents etc.
The off-site parking lots are located approximately two miles from the Meadowlands Sports Complex at 1050 Wall Street West in Lyndhurst. Signage will be strategically located to direct ticket holders to off-site parking lots. The cost to park in the off-site parking lots is $20 per game. Shuttle bus service will be provided to the complex. All forms of tailgating will be prohibited and strictly enforced in the off-site parking lots.
Note: Michael Eisen of the New York Giants public relations department contributed notes on the Giants.