GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers got two of their veteran leaders – one on each side of the ball – in Sunday’s 45-41 victory over the Detroit Lions. One will regain his starting job; the other will create a tough decision for coach Mike McCarthy.
Left tackle Chad Clifton, who hadn’t played since suffering a major hamstring injury Oct. 9 at Atlanta, started at left tackle and played 25 snaps before calling it a day after three offensive series. Marshall Newhouse, who has started in Clifton’s place since the injury but started at right tackle Sunday for an injured Bryan Bulaga, shifted to left tackle after Clifton reached the maximum snap count set by the coaches.
“I watched Chad a lot. I thought he started off a little hesitant the first series. But I think once he got in the flow of the game, he did very well in the pass protection,” McCarthy said, referring to how Clifton gave up a sack that resulted in a Matt Flynn fumble on the Packers’ opening series. “We were hoping to get (Clifton) around 25 plays today, and he actually played 25 snaps. That’s exactly what we needed. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. We’ll work him.”
Clifton said he had some soreness after the game in his hamstring and that his back was “not terribly sore” afterward. His comeback from the hamstring injury was set back by a back injury suffered the week before the team’s Dec. 4 game against the New York Giants.
“I’m sure we’ll look at this film and they’ll make some decisions. Yeah, I felt it went decently,” Clifton said. “(I was) a little rusty at the beginning, just getting back out there in a game situation, but I think as it went on, I got better. I felt like as the game went on, I started playing a little bit better – especially from the first series.”
McCarthy said last week that he would use the playoff bye week to determine whether Clifton or Newhouse would start at left tackle for the team’s first postseason game, Jan. 15 against Detroit, Atlanta or the Giants.
“The players are off Monday and Tuesday, and we’ll be in a normal Wednesday-Thursday on the practice field,” McCarthy said. “So, we need to work him a full week and make sure he’s ready. But he’s taken the steps, he feels good, he felt good coming off at halftime. So, I think we definitely hit the target with Chad today.”
There’s no such uncertainty regarding veteran defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who returned to action after missing two games with a concussion suffered Dec. 11 against Oakland. Pickett played extensively and pronounced himself ready for the postseason. After watching the defensive give up 199 yards rushing to Chicago on Christmas night, Pickett’s return was a welcome one.
“I felt great. I went out there and felt good,” said Pickett, who likely would have been one of the players McCarthy rested Sunday had he not missed the previous two games. “I definitely needed it, because when I first started off, I felt some rust. But I played a few snaps and I got back the groove.”
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