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Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Johnson finished: Packers have been there, done that


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When the Green Bay Packers lost Joe Johnson for the season last October, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila stepped in and had a career year.

There's no obvious replacement this time around.

Johnson needs surgery to repair a torn thigh muscle, and his season -- and maybe his career -- is over. He was placed on injured reserve Wednesday and nose tackle Terdell Sands took his roster spot.

"It's a tough hit," linebacker Na'il Diggs said. "We've got to get guys who are hurt healthy."

Although Johnson was the starter, the truth is the Packers wouldn't miss him if backups Aaron Kampman or Chukie Nwokorie weren't also ailing.

Kampman has missed four games with a sprained left ankle and Nwokorie has a left shoulder injury that might require postseason surgery.

Both players were rusty at practice Wednesday but said they felt better.

Other possible replacements include tackles Rod Walker, Kenny Peterson, Larry Smith and Cletidus Hunt, although the Packers are leery of moving Hunt to the edge because of his value inside.

Last year, Johnson had season-ending surgery to repair a torn left triceps tendon after registering just eight solo tackles, seven assists and two sacks in five games.

This year, he had seven solo tackles, one assist and no sacks in six games while battling gout, a sore Achilles' tendon and a right triceps injury before tearing the quadriceps above his right knee Sunday.

Johnson, 33, has been the biggest bust in Green Bay since Tony Mandarich, providing next to nothing for the six-year, $33 million deal he signed before last season.

Johnson, who counts $3.5 million against the team's salary cap this year, will have collected $10 million from the Packers by season's end.

"We never got to see him in the last two years really get to where he was comfortable because he was banged up," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said.

If the Packers cut Johnson before June 1, they must charge $4.33 million of his $6.5 million bonus against the 2004 cap. If they cut him after June 1, he'll count $1.083 million next year and $3.5 million in '05.

Coach and general manager Mike Sherman was grilled at his weekly news conference about Johnson's injury history.

When a reporter recited a long list of injuries Johnson had while with the New Orleans Saints, including a dislocated kneecap, ruptured disk in his back, torn patella tendon and damaged triceps, Sherman said: "I'm familiar with that."

"Obviously, there was a medical history, as there is with most defensive linemen at his age," Sherman said.

But Johnson passed his physical and the team was satisfied his health was fine after interviews and a review of his 2001 season, Sherman said.

He maintained Johnson's injuries in Green Bay "were not the result of previous injuries," although the injury that knocked Johnson out last year was to the same muscle that had bothered him almost all of 2001.

"I've never said I wouldn't make mistakes," Sherman said. "I've never claimed to be omnipotent, all-knowing, and I will make mistakes and will make them in the future.

"Hopefully, I can minimize them as much as possible. I very seldom make the same mistake twice in my career. I learn, and that's what's happened here."