Packers notes: Driven to build continuity, Clifton practices again
By JASON WILDE
GREEN BAY Mark Tauscher loves to tease his buddy and fellow Green Bay Packers veteran offensive tackle Chad Clifton about being "The Big Lamborghini," as Tauscher dubbed him a few years back.
The moniker came from Clifton's limited practice time caused by terminally balky knees with Tauscher likening it to how a Lamborghini owner wouldn't take his prized vehicle out for anything but a Sunday drive.
But after a disappointing effort against Minnesota's Jared Allen in last Sunday's loss to the Vikings, the Packers are driving their Lamborghini to the grocery store, to pick up the kids from school and any other daily errand they can think of.
For the second straight day, Clifton was a full participant in practice Thursday, marking the first time this season he's taken his full complement of reps in individual drills as well as 11-on-11 on both Wednesday and Thursday.
Against the Vikings, Clifton allowed a sack to Allen that resulted in a safety, indirectly caused a second sack, gave up a pressure to Allen and missed a key back-side block on a running play late in the game.
"We need a little more continuity. That's one of the things we feel like has maybe slowed us down a little bit," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said when asked if Clifton's extra practice work was the direct result of his play against Minnesota. "We want to be smart, obviously. We're not going to grind the guy so he's taken out in an ambulance out to the field on Sunday so he can play. But continuity is important, and we believe in practice."
Asked to assess Clifton's season, offensive line coach James Campen said, "I think he's played well at times, and at times he hasn't played so well. Just like every guy on that line. There's been times they've played well and there's times they have not played well. He had a couple plays against Allen I'm sure he'd love to have back."
While Philbin was careful in his criticism of Clifton's performance against the Vikings "I don't think it was a, 'My God, he couldn't do anything right' type of game," Philbin said the coaches clearly believe Clifton needs more practice time.
Campen said Clifton has tried to make up for missed snaps with extra film study, "footwork in low-impact situations" such as the early-practice jog-throughs, and watching film of practices in which left guard Daryn Colledge fills in for him to get mental reps.
"But nothing ever replaces actual practice," Campen said. "Never will."
Watching like a Hawk
Linebackers coach Winston Moss said that new starting middle linebacker A.J. Hawk whom the coaches still won't officially name as injured starter Nick Barnett's replacement has "looked good" at the position in practice.
Hawk is moving over from his customary will linebacker spot.
"From a player's standpoint, he's just going to have to get comfortable and get ready to make plays," Moss said. "From a scheme standpoint, you can teach a guy, 'Hey, if you get this look, this is your responsibility.' That can be coached. He can get all that down on paper. The issue is how quickly can he get comfortable based upon what specifically Chicago's going to give him this week."
The Packers have yet to put Barnett, who is out for the year with a torn ACL in his right knee, on season-ending injured reserve. They'll have a spot on the 53-man roster to fill when they do.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) practiced in full, including individual drills. "He took everything today. I thought that was definitely a good sign," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Hopefully, that's where we are the rest of the season." ... Punt returner Will Blackmon (bruised quadriceps) was back in action on a limited basis. ... Defensive end Jeremy Thompson (groin) was limited in practice and looks unlikely to play Sunday against Chicago. ... The Packers signed defensive tackle Anthony Toribio to the practice squad and released defensive tackle Fred Bledsoe. ... McCarthy said he had yet to decide who'll get the second radio headset in his helmet Sunday, in addition to Hawk. "That's a good question," he said. "Probably Desmond (Bishop) or one of the (other) linebackers. (Safety) Nick Collins has done it. It could be A.J. and Nick."