Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini was going to spend a few nights in the office, and it had nothing to do with getting ready for Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.
“Yeah, I don’t feel too bad,” Mangini said during a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Wednesday morning. “I’ve got three young kids at home, so I’m not going to take any chances. I’ll be here, I’m not going to take any chances possibly getting them sick.”
Mangini was at team headquarters in Berea, Ohio, but a dozen of his players were sent home because of the flu. That lengthy list includes six starters: center Alex Mack, tight end Robert Royal, fullback Lawrence Vickers, safety Brodney Pool, nose tackle Shaun Rogers and outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. Wimbley, the team’s leading sacker, missed Sunday’s game vs. Pittsburgh because of the flu. He was driven to the game separately from the rest of the team but wasn’t able to play.
Mangini wasn’t sure if it was the H1N1 virus — aka swine flu — but said testing would be conducted. Meanwhile, he did his best to conduct business as usual, even though it was hard to run practice from a pure numbers standpoint.
“I’m going to scale it back some and slow it down some and maybe eliminate the afternoon meetings just to try to get the guys a little more rest,” Mangini said. “It’s that time of year, and we’re really being proactive with if there’s any signs of it, trying to send those guys home so it minimizes the risk to the player and minimizes the risk to the group.”
Left tackle Joe Thomas, the former University of Wisconsin star, is one of the healthy players. The Pro Bowler lined up with a scout-team offense to give the defense a look.
“We had flu shots a couple of weeks ago and now we’re on some meds trying to keep the flu or whatever is going around down a little bit,” he said during a conference call later in the day. “Obviously, washing your hands, passing around vitamins, Vitamin C, doing things like that, trying to get as much rest, stay off your feet as long as you can to try to prevent it. I think with the flu, if you’re going to get it, you’re going to get it, but you’ve got to be able to try to do everything you can to get yourself back as quickly as you can and try to keep it as mild as possible.”
If it’s swine flu, the NFL has roster provisions in place. A memo from Commissioner Roger Goodell dated Oct. 2 states: “If a club has at least six players unable to participate as the result of confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu, it can receive roster exemptions for those players and promote players from its own practice squad to replace them. A club can receive a max of 8 such exemptions. They must be medically confirmed cases of swine flu. This procedure does not apply to any other type of flu or illness. There is a deadline for promoting practice squad players pursuant to these procedures at four hours prior to kickoff.”
Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said he wasn’t worried about catching something from the Browns. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who said he didn’t get a flu shot, joked: “Hopefully there’s no sacks and it won’t be an issue.”
Clifton watches practice
Veteran left tackle Chad Clifton watched rookie T.J. Lang take all of the first-team reps on Wednesday. Coach Mike McCarthy said Clifton is “a lot further ahead” than he was when he originally sprained his ankle against Cincinnati back on Sept. 20, and said he’d “shoot for” having Clifton practice on Friday.
Otherwise, the Packers face life with a rookie left tackle in the starting lineup.
“You just go by his performance,” McCarthy said of Lang. “I definitely think a full week of practice will help him. It will help him as we go through the week, but T.J. has really shown a lot of toughness. He’s been productive in his times in there. It’s kind of the same conversation; I feel like Groundhog’s Day up here every time I talk about a young lineman that goes in and starts at one position and then goes to another. We’re just kind of working him through that. But hey, we’ll line up and play with him. I like his toughness. He competes. The other players noticed that right away. We’ll get him ready to play.”
Meanwhile, Scott Wells took the snaps at center in place of Jason Spitz, who remains out with back spasms.
Favre’s former coach
Mangini was coach of the New York Jets last season, when Brett Favre was their quarterback. Mangini was fired at the end of the season, due in no small part to Favre’s injury-induced late-season slump sending the team on a 1-4 skid to end the year.
“I talked to him a little bit before he made his decision,” Mangini said, “and the thing I said to him is, ‘Do whatever you want to do. Both decisions, either staying retired or coming back, have really positive things and both have some negative things. But whichever decision you do decide to make, you’ll make it right.’ He was a good guy to have around. He was a good guy to coach. I enjoyed him. I learned from him. Hopefully he learned something from me. And things were going pretty well and we ran into some bumps at the end."
Favre, who lit up the Packers for three touchdowns at the Metrodome a couple weeks ago, makes his return to Green Bay next week. The 40-year-old Favre enters this week ranked third in the NFL in passer rating behind only Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.
“No, I think Brett’s a really good player,” Mangini said when asked if he was “surprised” by Favre’s play. “And he can make some things happen that other people can’t. He’s got great instincts, he’s got a ton of experience. What hasn’t he seen in football? He’s been facing defenses for a long time. I think guys enjoy playing with him and playing for him.”
Packers injury report
Out — FB Korey Hall (calf); WR Jordy Nelson (knee); RB DeShawn Wynn (knee). Did not participate — LT Chad Clifton (ankle); FB Quinn Johnson (ankle); C/G Jason Spitz (back); DE Jarius Wynn (hamstring). Limited participation — RT Mark Tauscher (knee). Full participation — DL B.J. Raji (ankle); QB Aaron Rodgers (foot).
Rodgers’ sore foot isn’t the same foot he broke in 2006. He smiled when questioned about it but clearly wasn’t in a mood to discuss it. “You know, it just bothered me a little bit at the end of the game. Got some treatment yesterday, practiced today. I just heard they put me on the list. Not going to comment any further than that.”
Browns injury report
Did not participate (illness) — RB Jerome Harrison; OL Alex Mack; DB Anthony Madison; DB Brodney Pool; NT Shaun Rogers; TE Robert Royal; WR Chansi Stuckey; LB Jason Trusnik; FB Lawrence Vickers; DE Corey Williams; LB Kamerion Wimbley. Did not participate (injuries) — WR Joshua Cribbs (knee); K Phil Dawson (calf); TE Steve Heiden (knee). Limited participation — LB David Bowens (knee); DL Kenyon Coleman (groin); OL Rex Hadnot (knee); DB Brandon McDonald (shoulder). Full participation — QB Derek Anderson (ankle); LB Eric Barton (shoulder); DL Robaire Smith (calf); OL Floyd Womack (ankle); P Dave Zastudil (right knee).
— Clay Matthews III is one of five nominees to be the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week. To vote, click here.
— The Browns rank 32nd in defense, 31st in offense and 28th in turnovers. No wonder they’re 1-5.
— Thomas, who grew up in Brookfield, Wis., had to shell out a few bucks to take care of his friends and family. “Yeah, we got about 73 people coming out to the game, a pretty big group from Wisconsin.”
— The Browns ran about 20 snaps out of the Wildcat last week, with Cribbs at quarterback. Rodgers, however, doesn’t see a need to add that wrinkle. “The way we run our offense, I honestly don’t think we need that element to our offense. I think we’re dangerous enough with our short passing game, and our play-action game and our move-the-pocket stuff. If that comes at some point, it’s working in Miami, Cleveland does a lot of it. There’s numerous teams, Philly, who have worked on the package. If we do that, we have to find a way to keep the rhythm of the offense intact while still doing that.”
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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.