Green Bay Packers confident Evan Dietrich-Smith can start for injured Josh Sitton at right guard

Nov. 29, 2011

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Josh Sitton said he’s had this injury before, although he wouldn’t say when.

Based on the fact that his right knee was in a brace on Tuesday and he was walking with a limp, the Green Bay Packers starting right guard likely was referring to the injury he sustained during his rookie training camp in the summer of 2008. Back then, he missed the final preseason game and the first three games of the regular season because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

There’s no concern that Sitton’s latest injury will end his season but if he’s on a similar timetable to that of his rookie season, then he could miss a good chunk of the remainder of the regular season but should be able to return before the playoffs.

“I don’t know, man, we’ll see how the progress goes,” Sitton said when asked about a timetable for his return. “You can’t do anything but take it day by day and see how it feels in a few days and keep trying to do everything I can do to get better.”

The fourth-year pro was injured in the second quarter of Thursday’s game at Detroit. He said there was no pain when he got hurt but that he knew right away something was wrong. Sitton wouldn’t divulge when the injury occurred other than to say a defensive back rolled into him, but he finished the drive before coming out.

It appears he sustained the injury on a first-down running play when Lions cornerback Amari Spievey rolled into his leg. Sitton played the final two plays of the drive, blocking defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on both of them, before giving way to Evan Dietrich-Smith.

The Packers plan to go with Dietrich-Smith this Sunday against the New York Giants. That will put the seldom-used, second-year pro back in the spotlight for the second straight week. On Thursday, he gained attention because he was the one who Suh stepped on, a move that got Suh ejected from the game and a two-game suspension that commissioner Roger Goodell handed down on Tuesday.

Dietrich-Smith, wanting to stay out of the Suh story, was not in the locker room during the media availability on Tuesday, but based on his solid performance in relief against the Lions, several members of the organization expressed confidence in him.

“I thought he did an admirable job,” Packers director of football operations Reggie McKenzie said. “Just like anyone, the more he plays, the better he’ll get. But to be thrown in there when he got thrown in, it’s a tribute to him. He’s a battler, a tough guy, smart. He’ll develop confidence in his technique every time that he plays. It was good to see.”

Barring a roster move, the Packers only other options at right guard were undrafted rookie Ray Dominguez, who was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 12 but hasn’t played from scrimmage, or a more radical change that would have impacted two positions: moving right tackle Bryan Bulaga to right guard and bringing rookie Derek Sherrod off the bench to play right tackle. Bulaga said there’s been no talking of him moving positions.

Instead, the Packers decided to stick with Dietrich-Smith. Cut by the Packers at the end of training camp in 2010, the 6-foot-2, 308-pounder came back to win a roster spot this past summer but had played only special teams before the Thanksgiving game.

“He obviously did some things that need to be corrected, but he was aggressive,” Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “He played fast. That was the one thing we were the most pleased with. He wasn’t hesitant. We didn’t sit around and go, ‘Oh me, oh my, we have to change this, we can’t do this.’ That’s probably the best tribute we can give to him. (He) played decisively and aggressively.”

Perhaps he caught a break that Suh was ejected in the third quarter, but Dietrich-Smith then drew rookie first-round pick Nick Fairley, and held up OK.

In facing the Giants, Dietrich-Smith draws another assignment against a team with a strong defensive front. He got a head start on his preparation by watching the Giants play at New Orleans on Monday night. Sitton, who said he planned to give Dietrich-Smith whatever help he can, called him during the game to make sure he was watching.

“I was talking with him during the Monday night game, so that’s one way (to help),” Sitton said. “Just making sure he was watching it, and he was. We were just chatting back and forth about different things that we saw, so hopefully I’ll be able to help him that way.” and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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