Green Bay Packers linebacker Frank Zombo takes part in Friday's practice in the Don Hutson Center. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette
Even a rookie like Frank Zombo knows the adage that a starter can’t lose his job because of an injury doesn’t apply in today’s NFL.
Zombo had been listed as the starting right outside linebacker on the Green Bay Packers’ depth chart throughout the playoffs even though he had not played in a game since Dec. 12, when he sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee at Detroit. That injury paved the way for Erik Walden to take over.
On Friday, Zombo was back in action and believes he will be available for Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he’s pretty sure he’s no longer the starter.
“No, I don’t believe so,” Zombo said. “Walden’s been playing some great football. I don’t know how that’s all going to work out, but I’m just here to provide depth if they need me and do what I can.”
Zombo actually did work with the starters on Friday during the Packers’ first practice since Sunday’s NFC championship game at Chicago but only because Walden is being held out of all practices until the team gets to Dallas. That will give him time to rest his sprained left ankle, an injury he sustained in the third quarter against the Bears. It was a non-contact injury that he said was the result of the poor footing on the turf at Soldier Field, which he called “terrible.”
“I rolled it because it just got stuck in the grass,” Walden said.
Walden said his injury wasn’t the dreaded high-ankle sprain and that he should be able to practice on Wednesday for the first scheduled workout of Super Bowl week.
Meanwhile, Zombo said there were no restrictions on him during practice and he was pain-free during and after the workout. He will wear a brace on his knee.
He believes he would have been back much sooner had he not tried to rush back. He practiced once during the week leading up to the Dec. 26 game against the New York Giants and experienced a setback.
“If I would have just relaxed for three weeks, I would have been back in three weeks,” Zombo said. “But I tried to get back as soon as I could, and it was just counter-productive.”
Zombo was officially listed as a limited participant in the practice, which was not in pads. Walden was the only player who did not participate. The NFL made the teams designate statuses for the injured players even though the Super Bowl is more than a week away. Both Walden and Zombo were listed as questionable.
Also limited in practice were left tackle Chad Clifton (neck), linebacker A.J. Hawk (knee) and receiver Greg Jennings (knee). All were listed as probable.
The Packers will practice Saturday and Sunday – not in pads – before leaving for Dallas on Monday. Coach Mike McCarthy said two of the practices on site at the Super Bowl will be in pads.
McCarthy gave the players the early part of this week to take care of any arrangements that needed to be made in advance of the Super Bowl so that when practice resumed on Friday, they were all business.
Each player is given two free tickets to Super Bowl XLV and has the opportunity to purchase an additional 13 tickets.
“We got enough time to do all that,” Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. “The coaches and everybody really expressed to us to try to get everything passed off to someone else. For me, my wife stepped in, and she’s taking care of everything. So I’m real thankful for that. She’s let everybody know to kind of just leave me alone during this time and just handle everything through her.”
Tim Masthay said he might take a few shots in practice at hitting the video board that hangs above Cowboys Stadium, but the Packers punter didn’t think it would come into play during the Super Bowl.
The Packers kickers will get the chance to practice inside the stadium on Wednesday, Masthay said.
During an exhibition game in 2009, a punt by A.J. Trapasso of the Tennessee Titans struck the high definition video board that hangs over the playing surface. That forced the NFL to implement a rule that says if a ball strikes the board, the play will be a do-over. That shouldn’t impact Masthay, who prefers to directional kick toward the sideline.
“I can’t imagine it coming into play,” Masthay said. “It’s only happened once in a preseason game.”
Coach in demand
The Philadelphia Eagles are believed to be interested in talking to Packers safeties coach Darren Perry about their vacant defensive coordinator position.
Comcast Sports Net (CSNPhilly.com) in Philadelphia was the first to report the Eagles’ interest in Perry.
They would have to wait until after the Super Bowl to interview him, and the Packers could prevent Perry from interviewing because he is under contract for next season. They did that with quarterbacks coach Tom Clements last offseason after the Chicago Bears wanted to talk to him about their offensive coordinator position.
Odds and ends
The Associated Press announced a change in their postseason awards schedule. They will announce the defensive player of the year on Monday. Previously, that had been scheduled for Feb. 5, the eve of the Super Bowl. Perhaps the change was made because the winner is on one of the two Super Bowl teams, and there’s no access to players on the Packers and Steelers on the day before the game. … Packers General Manager Ted Thompson was back in Green Bay on Friday after spending part of the week scouting at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. He said he wanted to be back in time to fly with the team to Dallas on Monday. … McCarthy said he has never attended a Super Bowl. “My daughter, Alex, it was something she always wanted to go to,” McCarthy said. “And I said, hey we’re going to go when we play in it. It’s finally here. She’s 19.”