Barnett Returns to GB Practice
Next game: Saturday, August 22nd vs. Buffalo
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Nick Barnett isn't all the way back from the knee injury that ended his 2008 season, but the veteran Green Bay Packers linebacker took a big step forward Monday when he practiced for the first time in training camp.
The Packers activated Barnett from the physically unable to perform list Monday morning, allowing him to practiced for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee last Nov. 9 at Minnesota. While he was withheld from 11-on-11 team periods, Barnett took part in individual drills, the jog-through sessions and 7-on-7 work -- all of which he said he enjoyed.
"It felt great to be out there," said Barnett, who sat out all of the team's offseason organized team activity practices and the mandatory minicamp. "The knee felt great. I don't think I was babying it. I felt good hitting the bags, throwing the pads on with the helmet.
"The next step is hitting some people. But we'll take it one step at a time."
While Barnett was out, backups Brandon Chillar, who has been filling in for Barnett at the "mack" linebacker spot, and Desmond Bishop, who plays the "buck" linebacker spot, have had outstanding camps. Barnett took offense when asked if he felt either player might challenge his starting position.
"They've made some great plays and been playing great when I've been out," he said. "(But) I know what I can do. I feel like I'm the leader of this defense. For me to be sitting here talking about me feeling pressure about my (starting) spot, that's a little ... out of the ordinary."
Defensive coordinator Dom Capers has praised Chillar's play repeatedly in camp, and has also said that having so many quality inside linebackers for his 3-4 scheme is a good problem to have. He reiterated that stance after the team's preseason-opening 17-0 victory over Cleveland.
"Every one of those guys will be contributors in certain packages," he said.
That could mean Barnett, who in the previous 4-3 scheme stayed on the field for all three downs, could be replaced by Chillar on third downs this season. Barnett took exception to that as well Monday.
"That's not going to happen," he said. "I'm not really a two-down linebacker."
Asked Monday if he thought he'd shown enough in Barnett's absence to merit playing at least in the nickel package, Chillar replied, "It's his position, but I think I showed that there should be a place for me on the field somewhere. I think I'll be in some nickel packages."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the plan with Barnett is to hold him out of contact drills for the rest of this week, keep him on the sideline for Saturday night's game against Buffalo, then try to get him ready for the team's Aug. 28 game at Arizona.
"We really do not want him in any potential pileups, meaning (in) the team drills," McCarthy said. "We'll go through Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday with Nick and we'll evaluate him and then have a plan for him next week. I do not see him playing against Buffalo."
Barnett said his knee didn't give him any problems, physically or mentally, on Monday.
"The worst I feel the knee is when I wake up in the morning. That's when it's a little stiff," Barnett said. "When I start walking around, all thoughts are off the knee."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)