Friday, August 06, 2010

Tauscher Grins Through Grind

By Bill Huber

August 3, 2010

After rehabbing through his torn ACL last summer and not signing with the Packers until October, veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher is thrilled to be sweating through camp. We talked to Tauscher, Chad Clifton and Joe Philbin to get the scoop.

There are not too many veterans who are excited about the start of training camp.
Mark Tauscher is an exception to that rule.

“Usually there’s a little bit of dread coming into training camp. This year, I’m excited to be here,” Tauscher said.

Last year at this time, Tauscher was enjoying his first month of married life and rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Missing a late-summer training camp for the first time in a couple decades, Tauscher worked and waited — and waited some more — in hopes of signing a contract in Green Bay. And if not Green Bay, someplace else.

He eventually signed with Green Bay and wound up saving the season.

Tauscher, who was born in Marshfield, Wis., and played collegiately at Wisconsin before being drafted by the Packers in the seventh round in 2000, offered salvation after the Allen Barbre Project blew up in the Packers’ faces.

Tauscher wound up starting eight games, and when he settled into a groove, the Packers’ offensive line woes vanished and the offense flourished. Including the playoffs, the Packers scored 33.6 points per game and allowed Aaron Rodgers to be sacked 20 times when Tauscher started. When he was out, they scored 25.5 points per game and Rodgers was sacked 35 times. Even those sack numbers are skewed, because the Packers allowed six sacks at Tampa Bay, when Tauscher debuted by rotating with Barbre in the first half before exiting on the first drive of the second half with a knee injury. Tauscher was on the field for just one of those sacks.

Tauscher was a staple of this year’s offseason practices, with coach Mike McCarthy saying Tauscher looks like his “old self” in terms of strength, explosion and comfort level.

“It’s been about 10 months (and) he looks good,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said after Tuesday morning’s practice. “In fact, I was talking to him last night at practice about how the knee feels. I think his words were he’s got more confidence now than when you’re immediately coming off the surgery. He looks good. He’s moving around and I like what he’s doing so far.”

Tauscher signed a two-year contract in March. Regardless of what the coaches say, he will retain his starting position with nary a challenge from third-year player Breno Giacomini and second-year player T.J. Lang, who has struggled at times while wearing a brace on his surgically repaired wrist.

With the rehab behind him and limited to a one-a-day schedule by McCarthy early in training camp, the 33-year-old Tauscher feels like he’s turned back the clock on his career.

“I sure hope so,” he said. “You know, it feels, you have that excitement. It was just a fun feeling to get back out and have pads and get hit. You feel rusty, you don’t feel quite where you want to be, but like I said, it was great to just get back out there.”

Chad Clifton has been the bookend tackle to Tauscher since they were rookies in 2000. Their strong play down the stretch last season was a key to the Packers’ resurgence and their health this year will be vital for any Super Bowl aspirations.

“He brings a lot to this team and to this locker room,” Clifton said. “He’s been a great player for many, many years. The younger guys can learn a lot from a guy like that. We’re extremely happy to have him back and he’s playing well.”

Tauscher is under contract through 2011 but wasn’t about to discuss his long-term future. He’s just happy to be healthy and grinding through the hot and sweaty drudgery of training camp after sitting at home last summer.

“No question, it’s great to be here,” he said. “You only get so many opportunities in your career to go through the whole journey and the whole process. It definitely makes this a special feeling for me to get back out here and have an opportunity to play on this team.”

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