But if Daryn Colledge’s rather remarkable streak of consecutive games played does come to an end this week, his best friend is ready to go.
Colledge, who hasn’t missed a game in his college or professional career – a combined total of 127 games, including playoffs – missed practice on Thursday due to back tightness that cropped up during Wednesday’s workout. Head Coach Mike McCarthy admitted he’s “concerned,” though the game is still a few days away.
If Colledge is unable to play, fellow 2006 draft pick, locker-room neighbor and good buddy Jason Spitz is prepared to step in at left guard.
“He’s a warrior. He’s tough,” Spitz said of Colledge, who also has the longest current starting streak among the team’s offensive linemen, with 44 consecutive starts including playoffs, which began in Week 17 of the 2007 season. “It’s got to be something serious if he were to hold out. So I’m not really too worried for him at this time, because he’s always pulled through.
“If I’m called upon to play, I’m definitely going to play. I look forward to the opportunity. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a (full) ballgame.”
More than a year, in fact. Spitz, who started a total of 47 games including playoffs at the two guard spots and center during his first four seasons with the Packers, hasn’t started a game since Week 4 of last season. That’s when he hurt his back, an injury that eventually required surgery and landed him on injured reserve.
So far this season, Spitz has been one of two reserve offensive linemen active for each game. He has played as a blocker on field goals and extra points, and last week he went into the game for Colledge for a few plays when Colledge had a problem with his shoe.
Should he be needed for more extensive duty this week, Spitz believes he’ll be able to get back in the swing of things quickly.
“I wouldn’t say (I’ll be) rusty,” he said. “We’ll see. Has it been a long time since I’ve played a game? Absolutely. But I practice every day, and you’re prepared to play. We only dress seven guys (on the offensive line), so everyone’s got to be prepared to play, and our coaches do a good job preparing everyone.”
The coaching staff certainly appreciates having experienced players coming off the bench. While it’s tough for a veteran not to be playing regularly but always being ready to, players like Spitz give a unit its best chance to not miss a beat when someone goes down because they’ve seen it all before.
“Jason’s played a lot of football for us, has been a starter here in the past,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “So we’re very confident in Jason, and also T.J. Lang has also taken reps inside (at guard). We feel we’re in a good situation from a backup standpoint throughout our whole offensive line.”
Familiar face, different uniform
Speaking of veteran players, Dallas quarterback Jon Kitna will start a game against the Packers for a third different team on Sunday night.
Kitna, now in his 14th season, also has started against the Packers while playing for the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. Kitna is 1-5 all-time against Green Bay, with the lone win coming in the first of those starts, back on Nov. 1, 1999. He led the Seahawks to a 27-7 win on Monday Night Football in former Green Bay head coach Mike Holmgren’s initial return to Lambeau Field.
In that game, Kitna completed 12-of-19 passes for 109 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 113.7 rating. Since then, though, it’s been all downhill for Kitna against Green Bay. All of his losses to the Packers came with the Lions from 2006-08, though he has thrown for multiple touchdowns and better than 275 yards twice over that span.
All told against Green Bay, Kitna has completed 54 percent of his passes (115-of-214) for 1,332 yards with eight TDs and nine INTs for a 67.7 overall rating. He has been sacked 20 times.
Kitna took over for Dallas starter Tony Romo in the second quarter of the Cowboys’ game against the Giants two weeks ago. He threw for 187 yards and two TDs in a little more than a half of that game and then followed that up with 379 yards and a TD in last week’s loss to Jacksonville. Kitna threw four interceptions in the Jaguars game, but most of them were the result of passes that deflected off the hands of his own receivers.
“Jon’s seen it all,” McCarthy said. “He’s played a lot of football, so there won’t be any surprises as far as what our defense will throw at him. He has excellent command of the offense. I’m sure just from a game-planning standpoint they probably didn’t take a step back at all as far as the volume and the different things conceptually that they’ll probably try to challenge our defense with.”
Role reversal, sort of
The Packers have all kinds of reasons not to look past the 1-6 Cowboys, not the least of which is their own memories of how they felt coming into their game with Dallas last year.
Green Bay was coming off a disappointing road loss at previously winless Tampa Bay to fall to 4-4 on the season while Dallas was riding high off a big divisional win on the road over Philadelphia. But the Packers played one of their most inspired games of the season to knock off the Cowboys, 17-7, and get their season back on the right track.
This year it’s the Packers who are on an emotional high after back-to-back wins over the Vikings and Jets, while the Cowboys have lost two straight home games, and four overall, despite preseason Super Bowl aspirations. The Cowboys’ 1-6 record looks far worse than the Packers’ 4-4 mark at this stage a year ago, but every team is going to have its breaking point.
“We can’t worry about what their record is, especially a talented team like that, because they can flip that switch and get it turned around as easy as this week,” receiver Greg Jennings said. “But we just don’t want that to be (against) us. We’re going in with the mindset that this is a team that has their back up against the wall. We were in this similar position last year, and we view ourselves still, … we like being in that position, for whatever reason we perform better. We have to take that approach and understand that’s the approach they’re taking against us this year.”
Other than Colledge sitting out on Thursday, the only changes to the Packers’ injury report were tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring/knee) and running back Dimitri Nance (ankle) were upgraded to full participants, while tight end Andrew Quarless (shoulder) was upgraded to limited after not participating on Wednesday.
Linebacker Clay Matthews (shin) did only the opening jog-through portion of practice on Thursday and that will be the plan for him on Friday as well. McCarthy said at this point the medical staff’s advice is that the injury will only get aggravated by practicing, so Matthews will essentially be resting up to play in the game before getting to the bye week.
Defensive end Ryan Pickett, who has been limited both days this week by his ankle injury, might test his ankle on Friday. McCarthy indicated he’d like to get more information sooner rather than later on Pickett and not take that decision all the way until gametime.
“I just have to feel good when I test, and they have to have confidence knowing I’ll be able to go a whole game on it,” Pickett said.
Pickett added that the thought of sitting out one more game to get an extra week of rest with the bye week coming up is not part of his approach.
“It’s hard for me to think like that,” he said. “I want to play. I look at it like this -- I have a bye week to recover after the game. I just really want to play this game.”
Meanwhile, cornerback Al Harris is still waiting to find out if he’ll be activated from the physically unable to perform list for this week’s game. Harris hasn’t played since badly injuring his knee in Week 11 last season, so it’s been 11½ months now since he’s seen the field.
“I’m very confident that my body is ready for it,” Harris said of playing in this week’s game. “Don’t know if that will happen. But, if my number was called, I’ll be able to play.
“My knee is fine. I would have to have another catastrophic injury to re-injure my knee. My knee is fine. I don’t think about it. Everything’s good. Just being patient and waiting until they feel that I’m good enough to play.”
The Packers have until Monday to decide what to do with PUP players Harris, Bigby and running back James Starks. The options are to place them on the active roster, put them on injured reserve for the remainder of the season, or release them.
For the Cowboys, tackle Marc Colombo (back), linebacker Bradie James (knee) and cornerback Terence Newman (ribs) all returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis after sitting out on Wednesday. Running back Felix Jones (ankle) also returned to practice and was a full participant.
Additional coverage – Nov. 4