Packers lose rookie LB Poppinga to torn ACL

Updated: December 12, 2005, 7:06 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Green Bay Packers won a football game Sunday night but lost, for an extended period of time, a young player the team considered a potentially significant part of its rebuilding plans for the future.

Linebacker
Green Bay Packers

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2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
11 7 4 0 2 0

Coach Mike Sherman said Monday that an MRI examination confirmed rookie linebacker Brady Poppinga, regarded as a future starter, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during Sunday's overtime win against the Detroit Lions, and will be lost for the balance of the season.

Perhaps more key is that Poppinga, a fourth-round choice who will face 8-10 months of rehabilitation once he undergoes surgery to repair the ligament, might not be ready for the start of summer training camp or even the beginning of the 2006 season. The injury, which occurred on a fourth-quarter kickoff, will require reconstructive surgery.

In the short-term, the loss of Poppinga, a former Brigham Young standout, might not mean much to Green Bay, which is suffering through a disastrous 3-10 season. But the long-term prospects for Poppinga were bright and he almost certainly would have vied for a starting job in training camp.

Poppinga made his first start of the season on Sunday night, at strongside linebacker, and registered four tackles. He has appeared in 12 of 13 games this season and has posted 28 tackles and two sacks. Poppinga, who has good size (6-feet-3, 245 pounds), runs well and has a big motor, might have started the rest of this season, if not for the injury.

A defensive end in college, Poppinga had made a solid transition to linebacker in the NFL. Older than most rookies, Poppinga, 26, served a two-year mission at BYU, which delayed his football career for a while.

Na'il Diggs
Diggs

The Packers figure to undergo substantial change in 2006 and the linebacker position is one that will be scrutinized. Na'il Diggs, the regular starter at the strongside spot, is due a base salary of $2.3 million for 2006 and he has been sidelined at various times by knee injuries, and has not played consistently well.

Green Bay viewed Poppinga as a possible replacement for Diggs, a less-expensive player with a notable upside, but that assessment might now be revised because of the knee injury. With Poppinga out, either Diggs or Paris Lenon probably will take over at the strongside linebacker spot when the Packers play at Baltimore next Monday night.

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