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GREEN BAY – It may be late coming, but if Ahmad Brooks and Quinton Dial can add something the second half of the season, the Green Bay Packers gladly will take it.
Brooks returned to action Sunday against Chicago after missing three weeks with a back condition and played 27 snaps as a third-down rusher, his only stat a deflected pass at the line of scrimmage.
Dial returned to practice this week after missing two games with a chest injury that he suffered in Week 3 and tried playing through for a while. He returned to practice Wednesday and said he was hoping to play Sunday against Baltimore.
The Packers need all the help they can get on defense and the two former San Francisco 49ers were picked up off the street because they offered help in two key areas: the pass rush (Brooks) and the run defense (Dial).
“Quinton’s done a nice job of playing the run,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “He’s a big guy in there who does a nice job using his hands, playing with leverage and is pretty good in terms of taking care of his responsibility. He doesn’t get knocked off the ball a lot, so he can be stout and hold the point.
“Ahmad gives you another quick-twitch guy who has the ability to make plays. I think he helps the pass rush when we can put multiple elephants or defensive ends on the field to try to increase our athletic ability and speed.”
Brooks’ return went about as one might expect for someone who had missed three games with a back problem.
“A lot of it is confidence, just gaining that confidence back,” Brooks said. “That’s pretty much assuring yourself that I can go out here and play at a high level. When you’re not as confident, you play not as confident.
“I think that’s how I was. I didn’t know how much I was going to be playing, I didn’t know how effective I was going to be. I probably played like it. I probably played half-assed.”
Now that he’s gotten through a game, Brooks is hoping to add some pop to the team’s pass rush.
An inside linebacker his first few years in Cincinnati, Brooks moved outside in San Francisco and anchored the position for six seasons, becoming a major part of their dominant defense under coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
The Packers are using him to spell Clay Matthews and Nick Perry outside, but they have also shifted him inside on third downs when they rush with three outside linebackers. It’s something Brooks is still getting used to and he learned more about it against the Bears.
“An advantage for me is probably speed,” Brooks said. I think last week I was so close to them (the offensive linemen). Don’t play so close to them. I didn’t give myself a chance.
“I have to make them worry about my speed rush. Once I do that I’ll be able to do a little bit more.”
Prior to his back flaring up in Week 3, Brooks sat out the Atlanta game because of a concussion. So, he has had only one game in which he has played at full strength and is hoping he can show everyone he still has something left in the tank at age 33.
Dial got off to a great start, fitting right in to Capers’ 3-4 defense, combining with Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels to solidify the defensive front. In the time that he has been gone, Clark and Daniels have had to play a large volume of snaps, although the run defense has gotten better.
The 6-5, 318-pound Dial said he got piled on while on his side against the Bengals, but declined to reveal exactly what the injury was. On the injury report, it is listed as chest. Dial said he tried to play through the pain but decided it was smarter to back off.
“You’ve got to look at the longevity,” he said. “It’s a long season. You’ve just got to do what you can do to take care of your body, because you don’t want it to continue to break down, break down, break down, and you can’t come back and help the team.
“You’ve got to make a decision, sit for two games, come back.”
Dial also had the bye week to rest, so he was able to rehab for three weeks before returning to practice this week.
The Packers cut veteran Ricky Jean Francois during that time and really haven’t had anyone who can spell Clark at the nose tackle spot. Dial will resume the role of backing up Clark and possibly playing with him and Daniels in base personnel as he was starting to do when he got hurt.
“It’s feeling all right,” he said. “It definitely affects you but it’s something I’ve been going through for a while. I’m all right.”