Mark Tauscher, with his trademark No. 65 jersey and scraggly hair, was back on the practice field in the Don Hutson Center.
Tauscher was re-signed on Monday morning, a few days past the 10-month anniversary of him tearing the ACL in his left knee against the Houston Texans on Dec. 7. The injury, and subsequent surgery on Jan. 15, kept him out of the final three games of last season and ruined his chance at earning a significant payday as a free agent. Instead, the 32-year-old Tauscher’s contract runs just through the end of the season.
“I feel fortunate to get another opportunity,” Tauscher said from his locker, which still had a generic “PACKERS” nameplate. “I appreciate the organization giving me another opportunity and I’m excited to get back out there and play.”
Tauscher, the 10th-year pro who has been a bedrock at right tackle since being selected in the seventh round of the 2000 draft, spent most of the practice that was open to reporters standing beside offensive line assistant Jerry Fontenot, then took part in individual drills.
“Mark Tauscher, his plan today was to take him through the jog-through and the individual work and keep him out of the team periods,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “It’s a decision clearly driven by the medical staff. It’s going to probably take him some time to get ready. We’re just getting started today based on signing the contract and so forth, so it will probably be a week on this plan here. I watched him go through the individual. I thought he is off to a good start. He’s in good shape, but it’s like anything. There is a difference in being in rehab shape and getting in football shape, so that’s what we’re working on with Mark.
To make room on the roster, the Packers placed kick returner/cornerback Will Blackmon on season-ending injured reserve with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Even with his familiarity with the offense, Tauscher almost certainly will be watching his replacement, Allen Barbre, playing right tackle on Sunday against Detroit. Tauscher said he’s more in “jogging-down-the-street shape” than he is football shape. That was evident during individual work, when he appeared to wear down quickly during drills.
“Today was a good start, just going out and doing some drills and getting the pads on and hitting again,” Tauscher said. “It’s been obviously a long layoff. So, obviously, to come back and to get back into it, a little bit of time is needed. I don’t think that’s been determined.”
Tauscher, who was born and raised in Wisconsin and played collegiately at the University of Wisconsin, was worked out by the Kansas City Chiefs a couple of weeks ago. He was not offered a contract, and Tauscher wouldn’t answer a “hypothetical” question about whether he would have signed elsewhere or held out hope that he could return to a Green Bay team suffering through some growing pains with his successor.
“I love the organization and obviously they’ve been very good to me,” Tauscher said. “If things made sense and worked out, which they ended up doing, this was a no-brainer.”
McCarthy said it was Barbre’s “responsibility” to keep the job, and noted Barbre “has been a little up and down.” Barbre has allowed 5.5 sacks in four games, but none since allowing two in the first quarter at St. Louis in Week 4. In at least six matchups with the Vikings’ Jared Allen, Allen never got to quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“I think Allen is doing a good job in the run game,” McCarthy said. “I feel he has learned from his experiences each week, but there are some technical things that he needs to improve on in the pass-protection area, and that’s our emphasis with him. I like his tenacity, I like the way he finishes, but he’s got some things he needs to clean up.”
If Barbre doesn’t get those problems cleaned up, then Tauscher provides a wily and experienced safety net.
Tauscher offered no timetable about when he’d be ready to compete at the position at which he has made 120 career starts. As he pointed out, there is a reason why teams hold minicamps and training camps.
“Right now, it’s getting the rust off and getting into it,” Tauscher said. “I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out. It’s going to come down to how I’m playing and how the group’s playing. I’m just going to go day to day and we’ll see how things fall into place. There’s no expectations.”
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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 email@example.com, 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.