Nick Barnett’s Knee: Caution Or Concern?
Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett came roaring back last season after an ACL injury shortened his 2008 campaign. The middle linebacker managed to finish the season as the team’s leading tackler despite the coaching staff limiting his snaps for the first 4 games.
Coming off that stellar 2009 performance, the 8-year veteran’s surgically repaired right knee continued to be a problem, however. In what head coach Mike McCarthy described as a “cleanup” procedure, Barnett underwent another surgery on his right knee in January. The arthroscopic procedure sidelined Barnett for the start of offseason activities, and his participation in training camp was limited.
Mike McCarthy allows his veteran players to sit out one practice session on days when the Packers have “two-a-day” practices. Barnett is one of the many veterans who fall under this exception making it difficult to determine whether Barnett’s knee or McCarthy’s approach limits number 56′s practice schedule.
Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press Gazette notes that the former Oregon State Beaver sat out the team’s second preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks for “precautionary reasons” citing Qwest Field’s artificial surface and the team’s “quick turnaround” for their next preseason game.
After watching Barnett play a little over a quarter during the team’s first preseason game against the Cleveland Browns, the Packers coaching staff may have good reason to limit Barnett’s participation. Packers’ beat writer Bob McGinn noticed that Barnett “moved somewhat awkwardly” during his first preseason action.
After the game, defensive coordinator Dom Capers downplayed any concern over Barnett’s knee. “If you go a period (of time) and you don’t practice you aren’t going to be quite as sharp.” Capers added, “I think he’ll be OK. We’re just trying to be smart in terms of not exposing him too much now. It’s a long season.”
I agree with the decision to sit Barnett in a meaningless preseason game, but I wonder if the fans are privy to the entire truth.
Regardless of what the Packers reveal about Barnett, we should have a pretty good idea whether or not his right knee can withstand the rigor of an entire game on Thursday night when the Indianapolis Colts face the Packers at Lambeau Field. It is still exhibition, but the starters usually play well into the second half during the third preseason game.
Hopefully Nick Barnett will be alongside his teammates on Thursday night to reclaim his rightful position in the middle of the defense.