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Packers might be facing a huge potential loss


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Brown, Westbrook suffer severe injuries in win


By Len Pasquarelli



The Packers might be facing a huge potential loss, literally and figuratively, to their starting defensive unit.

Gilbert Brown, a key to the club's run defense, suffered a torn right biceps in Saturday's preseason victory at Atlanta.

Brown exited the Georgia Dome with his right arm in a sling. A further exam on Sunday revealed that the biceps is torn. Brown's availability for the season might depend on his tolerance for pain.

Some players, but not many, have been able to perform with a torn biceps.

Reserve defensive back Bryant Westbrook, whose physical style prompted the coaches to move the longtime cornerback to safety two weeks ago, will definitely miss the year after rupturing his right Achilles tendon in Saturday's preseason victory at Atlanta.

If the nine-year veteran is forced to the sideline, Green Bay may have to scramble to locate an adequate replacement, and it could rekindle interest in Dan Wilkinson, recently released by the Washington Redskins. The veteran nose tackle was close to an agreement with Detroit just a few days ago but a deal was never struck.

Several teams, including New England, told the representative for Wilkinson that they might be interested, but wanted to see how their incumbent tackles played over the weekend. In the case of the Packers, losing Brown would certainly fuel some consideration of Wilkinson.

Rod Walker, the backup to Brown, has been suffering through injuries. Recently signed veteran Steve Martin has yet to distinguish himself in camp.

Brown, 32, two weeks ago eschewed a more lucrative offer from the Redskins to re-sign with the Packers, netting a six-year contract that included a $400,000 signing bonus and just minimum base salaries throughout the term of the pact. One of the NFL's premier run-stuffers, Brown had 36 tackles in 12 games in 2002. But his importance to the Packers cannot be measured solely in tackles, because he typically plays a two-gap style and occupies a pair of blockers.

A former Lions first-round choice (1997), Westbrook was signed by the Packers in the middle of the 2002 season to help the team compensate for a rash of injuries in the secondary. He played in six games and performed well enough for Green Bay to re-sign him this year.

Normally a cornerback, Westbrook has been playing safety and might have been provided an opportunity, had his solid performances continued, to vie for a starting job. The injury marks the second time that Westbrook has suffered a ruptured Achilles in his seven-year career.

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