Packers could start fourth RB in as many games

Between the time Ahman Green arrived in a 2000 trade and the end of the 2004 season, the Green Bay Packers used only three other starting tailbacks for a total of just eight games.

On Sunday, with injuries having decimated the depth chart, Green Bay could have its fourth different starting tailback in the lineup in four weeks, when the struggling Packers face the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field.

The latest starter, by default, could be second-year running back ReShard Lee. He was unemployed until three weeks ago, when the Packers signed him after a spate of injuries at the position. A veteran of only 17 appearances, Lee will get his first regular-season start if Tony Fisher, who missed practice on Friday because of a "rib contusion," is unable to play.

Green, who started the first four games of the season, is on injured reserve with a torn thigh tendon. His primary backup, the highly regarded Najeh Davenport, is also out for the season with a broken ankle.

How dicey is the Packers' backfield situation? Lee, who played for the Dallas Cowboys in 2004 and was in the Buffalo Bills' camp this summer, is one of three tailbacks on the depth chart who were not on the Green Bay roster at the outset of the season.

The three -- Lee, Walt Williams and Sam Gado -- have combined for 42 career carries, 189 yards and one touchdown. The trio has an aggregate nine rushes for 19 yards in '05. Gado spent most of last season on the Packers' practice squad. Williams has bounced around the NFL since 2001 but has only six career carries.

"It's all about opportunities, taking advantage of your chances, and this could be one of those times," said Lee, who has eight rushes for 11 yards this season, and who was sitting at home and hoping for the phone to ring after the Bills released him. "You do what you've got to do."

The late-week addition of Fisher to the injury report, he is listed as "questionable," was the latest setback for a Green Bay offense ravaged by injuries, especially at the skill positions. The four-year veteran, who started in last week's game at Cincinnati, got through that contest, then complained this week of pain in the area of his shoulder blade. He underwent an MRI exam on Friday and, while the results were not available, the club reported a rib injury.

Fisher insisted he will play, citing the Packers' dire circumstances, but then hedged a bit.

"I might have to listen to the doctor's advice, because with certain rib injuries and what-not, you don't want to risk a punctured lung or anything like that," Fisher said. "But that's probably the worst-case scenario."

At the beginning of the season, coach Mike Sherman probably could not have envisioned a worse scenario at tailback than the one confronting his team. The Packers opened the year with one of the NFL's deepest and most talented tailback depth charts, led by Green, who had not missed more than two starts since 2000, his first season with the Packers, after being acquired from Seattle in a trade.

Compounding the tailback situation for the Packers, as they look down the road, is the fact that Green, Davenport and Fisher are all eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2005 season.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.