A question for those of you who like a good inner-football discussion: How wary would you be about a playoff team swapping out its left tackle in the final week of the regular season?
The Green Bay Packers presumably will face that issue as veteran Chad Clifton gets closer to a return from hamstring and back ailments that have sidelined him for the past 10 games. It's rare when for a player to miss such a large part of the regular season and then resume playing, but replacement Marshall Newhouse's performance has at least caused coach Mike McCarthy's eyes to wander.
There's little doubt that Clifton could jump back in from a mental standpoint without a problem, but you wonder what condition he's in after such a long layoff and if his ailments are truly healed. Perhaps that's why the Packers plan to get him some game action Sunday against the Detroit Lions: to determine whether it's even worth a consideration.
So I found it interesting listening back to quarterback Aaron Rodgers' weekly radio show on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee. Rodgers didn't sound like a quarterback who was particularly interested in seeing his backside protection changed as the Packers approach the playoffs, nor did he seem to think it was particularly necessary.
"That’s not my decision on who is going to ultimately play there," Rodgers said. "Can’t say enough about the job Marshall has done. Starting the season out, I didn't look at Marshall the way I look at him now. I look at him now as a guy who really has a strong, legitimate chance to be the left tackle of the future. I think he has the personality makeup to do that, the athletic ability to do that, the feet and the smarts to be a very, very solid left tackle for us.
"Chad has been a guy who’s been so consistent for us through the years. Getting him back would mean either depth or a guy that can be plugged in right away and play. Mike has mentioned he'd like to see Chad play some plays this week in order to know if he can go with him in the playoffs.
"That being said, whoever is in there at left tackle, there will be a lot of confidence. Again, I thought Marshall played his butt off on Sunday against the Bears and I'm not surprised. It's not a performance that surprised me when he goes out there and plays the way he does."
Indeed, Newhouse was part of an offensive line that kept Rodgers almost entirely clean during the Packers' 35-21 victory. Rodgers wasn't sacked and was hit once on 33 passing plays, including 29 passes and four scrambles.
At this point, the Packers are just mulling all the options their current personnel provides. Soon, however, they'll have to decide whether to maintain their current configuration or re-install a reliable veteran for their run through the playoffs.