Aaron Rodgers is happy that Mark Tauscher is back on the team.
“I love getting after him,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “It’s easy, plus he’s a terrible cribbage player.”
Rodgers — who also took the occasion to mock Tauscher’s ever-present cutoff sweatpants and blue sweatshirt — will be even happier if Tauscher can keep the sore-footed quarterback upright on Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Tauscher took most of the reps in place of Allen Barbre at right tackle on Wednesday and seems on course to make his first start since suffering a season-ending knee injury on Dec. 7 against Houston. For the first time since being signed after the bye week, Tauscher was not listed on the injury report.
“I think he feels like he has his legs totally underneath him,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “The plan that we have gone through for these three weeks in hindsight was the right plan. I know Dr. (Pat) McKenzie feels better and better about where Mark is every week. His communication has been positive, but we’ll see where he is after every practice. He's hitting different targets every week, but I thought he looked good today.”
Barbre said he didn’t know what was in store and said his only goal is to continue getting better. Occasional breakdowns in technique, he said, were his biggest issue.
Meanwhile, Tauscher’s bookend for the previous nine seasons, left tackle Chad Clifton, was a full participant at practice. How Tauscher and Clifton respond to Wednesday’s work and their availability on Thursday will go a long way toward McCarthy settling on his starters.
Whether the grizzled veterans will be real solutions remains to be seen. Tauscher hasn’t played in 11 months, and Clifton has been limited to three games because of a sprained ankle and has drawn six penalties and allowed a sack during his nine quarters.
Still, Clifton has experience over rookie T.J. Lang and Tauscher can’t possibly be more inconsistent than Barbre, who was abused by Ray Edwards on Sunday after playing relatively well the last two weeks.
“No substitute for experience, and Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton have a ton of it,” McCarthy said. “You see that just in the practice today, just some of the things that they do. Anytime you add experience to your group, it's definitely a benefit.”
Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly used a humble tone after Sunday’s transgressions.
Jolly’s well-after-the-whistle head-butt of Vikings running back Chester Taylor turned a likely field goal into a touchdown. After the game, Jolly said, “It wasn’t deflating at all to me,” and said he “ain’t going to change” the way he plays.
On Wednesday, either McCarthy’s words had hit home or he’s a good actor.
“I shouldn’t have let my emotions take over on that play,” said Jolly, adding that he apologized to his teammates during the game. “Nick (Barnett) made a great play on third down. We could have been off the field. That gave them an opportunity to get three more snaps prior to the touchdown they scored. Next time it won’t happen like that. That was my fault. I take all the blame for it.”
Jenkins, meanwhile, sounded off after the game about feeling “handcuffed” by the defensive scheme. He also had a sit-down chat with McCarthy.
"I think the biggest thing was the fact that I didn't go talk to them about my issues and my situation and I kind of just got frustrated and blurted off a bit and I should've done that,” Jenkins said. “So, I've just got to control myself and if I feel like there's a problem, talk to the coaches. They're always willing to talk to me. I understand the things going on. None of the stuff I said was true, so I've got to do a better job with that."
First-year Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris is the youngest head coach in the NFL. To help with the transition, he tabbed former Packers defensive coordinator Jim Bates to run his defense. Bates has more than 40 years of coaching experience, starting as a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee in 1968.
“Jim Bates, he was always a guy I was able to try to pick his brain as a young coach,” Morris said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters. “They ran a little bit different system than what we run. They were more of a quarters-oriented defense. We were more of a Tampa-2, but you’ve seen the two systems try to intermingle and try to do some of the things that complement each other so well. ... We’re implementing his system, we’re getting the players in place that he needs to be successful. Once we have an opportunity to do that, Jim Bates will be feeling pretty good about being here, loving life.”
Packers injury report
Out — LB Brandon Chillar (hand). Did not participate — WR Donald Driver (neck); TE Jermichael Finley (knee); WR Jordy Nelson (knee); QB Aaron Rodgers (feet); G/C Jason Spitz (back); CB Charles Woodson (hip). Limited participation — FB Korey Hall (calf); S Derrick Martin (concussion). Full participation — T Chad Clifton (ankle).
The seven players unable to practice represent 13 percent of the roster. Nonetheless, it was a good day of practice.
“There is some new learning for our football team, no different than every Wednesday when you present the game plan,” McCarthy said. “We only had a couple of repeated plays, but it was great to get outside. I thought it was solid practice. We'll see what the film shows.”
Buccaneers injury report
Limited participation — CB Aqib Talib (ankle); G Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder). Full participation — WR Antonio Bryant (knee); WR Michael Clayton (wrist).
The Buccaneers, coming off the bye, are practically at full strength.
— Morris said Bates wanted to hire him to be the Packers’ secondary coach in 2005. “I got denied, which turned out to be a pretty good thing for me,” Morris said.
— Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson remain one-two in the pecking order at running back, McCarthy said.
— Asked if injured reserve is an option for Spitz because of a nagging low-back problem, McCarthy said he will give Spitz “every chance” to get healthy.
— Chillar had surgery on his broken hand. He has been ruled out for this week but could play, with a club-cast, next week against Dallas.
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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.