Packers will try to move on after losing Kampman, Harris for season

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers feared the worst after watching two of their top defensive players be carted to the locker room Sunday, and things didn't look any better the next morning. Cornerback Al Harris and linebacker Aaron Kampman both will have season-ending knee surgery.

Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that losing the two veterans will be a major challenge to the Packers (6-4), who are in the middle of the NFC wild-card race after Sunday's victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

With a Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit just three days away, McCarthy says Green Bay's coaches still are considering their options at each position.

"Not seeing '74' and '31' in the huddle, it's going to be different," McCarthy said. "It's a challenge to our players, they're going to have to step up and get ready in a short week for Detroit."

Even in the wake of two devastating injuries, McCarthy said moving on is part of life in the NFL.

"You don't want to see the individual go through it," McCarthy said. "But as far as our football team, trust me. They're here today, they're getting treatment, they've worked out, they're watching film. And we'll be ready for Detroit."

Harris and Kampman both were taken to the locker room Sunday after being hurt on separate plays in the second half. McCarthy wouldn't confirm specific details of either injury, but both appeared to hurt their left knees.

Kampman and Harris have been two of the Packers' most durable players.

When Kampman sat out the Packers' Nov. 15 victory over the Dallas Cowboys because of a concussion, it marked the first game he missed because of an injury since 2003. Harris missed four games because of a ruptured spleen last year, the first serious injury of his Packers career.

McCarthy said he spoke to both players, and they're doing as well as can be expected.

"They're both professionals," McCarthy said. "I think we have a lot of confidence they'll both respond very well. They're both in great shape, both take great care of their bodies."

McCarthy said replacing Harris, a standout player known for his physical coverage style, with No. 3 cornerback Tramon Williams is the natural move. Williams is a good player, but the Packers still must come up with nickel- and dime-package options at a position where they aren't particularly deep.

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"We're looking at all our options," McCarthy said.

Green Bay has a little more depth at outside linebacker, where seventh-round draft pick Brad Jones played well after Kampman sat out the Dallas game. Veteran Brady Poppinga also could return to a starting role.

"We've got some talented guys in this room," cornerback Charles Woodson said Sunday. "It (doesn't) matter at this point, they've got to play. So we look for those guys to be prepared come Thursday."

The injury could be particularly costly to Kampman, whose contract is up at the end of the season.

Kampman has been one of the NFL's elite pass rushers in recent years, but his productivity has dipped in this year's transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers. While Kampman has gradually become more comfortable with the idea of dropping into pass coverage, he has just 3.5 sacks this season -- and now faces a lengthy injury rehabilitation.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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