[Packers] Packers hope to get their wish — no Thanksgiving game in ’05
By Rob Demovsky
The Green Bay Packers were spared a dreaded Thanksgiving Day game this season, but there’s no guarantee they won’t be forced into playing on the holiday in 2005.
The Packers, who were regular participants in the game at Detroit until Vince Lombardi put a stop to it in 1963, played on Thanksgiving in 2001 and 2003 after playing on the holiday only four times from 1964 to 2000. Detroit has hosted a Thanksgiving Day game since 1934, and Dallas has done so since 1966.
Packers President Bob Harlan said he was unaware of any pattern to the scheduling of opponents for Dallas or Detroit for the Thanksgiving games or whether anything should be read into that the Packers played on Thanksgiving in the last two odd-numbered years.
Because the Packers are in the NFC North Division with the Lions and play at Detroit every season, there’s always the chance they could play on Thanksgiving.
“We were a little surprised when we went back last year,” Harlan said. “But I’m sure the NFL wanted to take advantage of having Brett Favre on national television because it’s a huge day for ratings. We don’t get any say in it.”
When the NFL schedule is completed each spring, Harlan said he typically gets a call from the league office informing him where and when the Packers will play that season. Before that, he has little or no contact with the schedule makers.
During his tenure with the Packers, never has any NFL executive asked Harlan whether the Packers want to play on Thanksgiving. If someone did, Harlan almost certainly would tell the league the Packers would rather not play on that day.
“I’ve never had a coach here who really looked forward to it,” Harlan said.” I know (former General Manager) Ron (Wolf) hated it. It just makes for a tough week whether you’re home or away. It’s tough to get ready.”
Harlan said there have been discussions at the annual owners meetings about varying the sites for the Thanksgiving games instead of keeping them in Dallas and Detroit every year.
“Someone always stands up and says it’s a huge advantage for Dallas and Detroit,” Harlan said.
“And then Dallas and Detroit stand up and says ‘Look at our records. It’s not that good.’”
Detroit is 33-30-2 on Thanksgiving after Thursday’s 41-9 loss to Indianapolis. Dallas is 23-13-1 after Thursday’s 21-7 win over the Chicago Bears.
Moving up? Last week, the Packers promoted running back Walter Williams from the practice squad because of a hamstring injury to Najeh Davenport.
This week, fullback Vonta Leach might get the same call. With fullback Nick Luchey questionable because of a separated shoulder, Leach said he has been working with the regular offense in practice in addition to his scout-team duties in preparation for Monday’s game against St. Louis.
“They just talked to me about being ready,” Leach said after Thursday’s practice. “I probably won’t know until the end of the week.”
Leach, an undrafted rookie free agent from East Carolina, impressed some of the scouts and coaches in training camp and has been on the practice squad since September.
Luchey did not practice on Thursday.
Running back update: Starting halfback Ahman Green missed practice again Thursday and refused to discuss his health situation with reporters after practice.
Green, who was listed as questionable with sore ribs, wouldn’t say whether he would try to use a protective jacket.
“That’s up to the individual, and how he’s able to handle the pain,” offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said.
Green was injured in the first half of Sunday’s win at Houston and couldn’t finish the game.
Meanwhile, Davenport took part in all of Thursday’s practice but said he still didn’t run at full speed.
Listed as probable, Davenport said he would need to practice at least once at full speed to know if he can play Monday against the Rams.
“I think I should,” Davenport said. “They told me not to (on Thursday).”
The Packers have only two healthy running backs in Tony Fisher, who finished Sunday’s game at Houston, and free-agent pickup James Jackson.
Running backs coaches Johnny Roland and Edgar Bennett have given Jackson a crash course in the offense since he signed Tuesday, but the Packers’ offensive terminology is completely different from what he knew with the Cleveland Browns.
“He seems to be a fast learner,” Rossley said. “Johnny keeps coming back saying he’s a real pro.”
Williams, who sprained his ankle against the Texans, also missed practice and is questionable.
Odds and ends: Linebacker Torrance Marshall was added to the injury report as probable with a hamstring injury. He did not practice Thursday. Tight end David Martin (questionable, knee) and cornerback Michael Hawthorne (probable, ankle) also missed practice. Safety Darren Sharper (probable, knee) said he took part in the entire practice and hoped he could increase his role against the Rams. The past two weeks, he has played only in the dime defense. … Several rookies and first-year players fell for the Packers’ annual Thanksgiving turkey prank. Along with the help of a local supermarket, the players were told free turkeys were available to them at the store. When they got there, they were told they would have to pay for the turkeys. Each player is videotaped so it can be shown to the rest of the team.