Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin called Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield the type of player who would have been the first pick in a childhood flag football game.
Winfield wouldn’t be anyone’s first pick this week. The Pro Bowl cornerback has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a foot injury.
“I think he’s one of the best tacking corners in football,” Philbin said of Winfield. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who does it better. He plays with a lot of confidence. He’s aggressive but he’s smart and instinctive. He’s not aggressive to the point where he puts his team in a bad position.”
Unlike the Packers’ standout Charles Woodson, who lines up at left cornerback in the base defense but goes to the slot in nickel, Winfield lined up only at left corner, according to Packers receivers coach Jimmy Robinson.
He was replaced last week at Pittsburgh and will be again by fifth-year veteran Karl Paymah, who was signed away from Denver in free agency and has three career interceptions. Philbin said the Vikings’ didn’t play any differently with Paymah, which means the Packers might be able to line up Donald Driver or Greg Jennings and target Paymah with specific routes.
“Credit to (Winfield), it is a weakened defense, and that’s because of what he brings,” Jennings said. “Will they come out firing on all cylinders? Yeah. Oh yeah. Just because they don’t have him, doesn’t mean that they’re not going to be able to do the things that they do. Playing against him, knowing what to expect against him, he’s a complete player. You miss a player like that.”
The 6-foot Paymah is one of the fastest cornerbacks in the league, but he doesn’t attack the run with the vengeance of the 5-foot-9 Winfield. That also could be a plus for the Packers, who have run well to the right behind Allen Barbre and Josh Sitton.
“That’s probably not his strength,” Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier told reporters at Winter Park on Thursday. “It’s kind of tough to compare him to Antoine; really no one can compare to him in that regard. You probably saw where Pittsburgh tried to run more to our left than we’ve had all season. That’s going to happen now that Antoine is not in the lineup. Karl will have to continue to work on his tackling and continue to improve in that area to help us in our run defense. I’m sure we’ll see runs to our left again on the perimeter and we’ll need him to step up in that area.”
Tight end Jermichael Finley remains very much in the Packers’ plans, even though he hasn’t practiced all week.
If Finley’s knee, sprained last week at Cleveland, tests out OK on Saturday, he’ll be worked out at Lambeau Field on Sunday. McCarthy said Finley is “making a lot of progress,” and discounted concerns that he’d be putting a young player at risk.
“We would never put someone in that position,” McCarthy said. “That's the way we operate. They have to first be cleared by Dr. (Pat) McKenzie, so he has the final say on that. A player would have to overcome some type of situation like that, but I'm not going to put Jermichael in a situation where we feel he can further hurt himself.”
The new guys
Right tackle Mark Tauscher and running back Ahman Green are expected to be available for Sunday.
Green almost certainly will play in a third-down sort of role, and he’s a possibility to play special teams or even return kicks, McCarthy said.
“I think he'll have a chance to contribute. He looks good,” McCarthy said. “You do worry, he hasn't been in live action this year. That's a concern, no question about it. But we have history with Ahman, and there's history between Ahman and his position coach Edgar Bennett, so we're going to rely on that to make some decisions.”
As for Tauscher, he’s been a full participant at practice the last two days but there’s no sign that he’s beaten out Barbre. A platoon situation with the line is not an option.
“You have to remember (Mark) hasn't played in a full football game in a long time,” McCarthy said. “There's a reason why we've taken the path that we have with Mark. We're going to make sure he's put in a situation to be successful, too. Allen Barbre is the starting right tackle, and I've said this from the day Mark Tauscher came back. It's Allen's responsibility to keep that job, and that part hasn't changed.”
Packers injury report
Out — FB Korey Hall (calf); WR Jordy Nelson (knee). Doubtful — TE Jermichael Finley (knee); C/G Jason Spitz (back). Questionable — T Chad Clifton (ankle); S Derrick Martin (hamstring); DE Jarius Wynn (hamstring). Probable — LB Clay Matthews (jaw); QB Aaron Rodgers (foot); G Josh Sitton (hand); T Mark Tauscher (knee); CB Charles Woodson (hip).
Out — CB Antoine Winfield (foot). Questionable — WR Bernard Berrian (hamstring); LB Jasper Brinkley (hamstring); WR Percy Harvin (illness); WR Darius Reynaud (hamstring). Probable — QB Brett Favre (hip); LB E.J. Henderson (knee); LB Ben Leber (calf); CB Karl Paymah (quadriceps); FB Naufahu Tahi (probable).
The only player not to practice was Winfield.
— Packers fans at the Lambeau Field Atrium and the Packers’ wide receivers more than doubled the amount raised by the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive line, $11,501 to $5,192, to gain victory in The Salvation Army Red Kettle Challenge.
Hundreds of fans came through the Atrium to donate money, get an autograph, take pictures and wish the players good luck in Sunday’s matchup against the Vikings. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Brett Swain and Jake Allen were on hand while Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar and members of the team’s defensive line rang bells at Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis.
— Rodgers’ foot is not an issue, McCarthy said. “I thought he was very sharp today.”
— Since allowing the Vikings to convert 8-of-14 third downs, the Packers have yielded a mere 2-of-22 the last two games.
— Rodgers and Favre are getting plenty of help from their friends. Favre ranks second in the NFL and Rodgers third in passing yards compiled after the catch. Tony Romo has 890, Favre 835 and Rodgers 824.
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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.