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Age could take toll on Packers in 2011

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted Aug. 03, 2011 @ 11 a.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Growing old is no fun at all.

Every morning, it seems, I wake up with a new bruised and battered body part, and while I do try to go out of my way to stay in relatively good shape, my occupation can hardly be considered overly strenuous.

It's a different story altogether for professional athletes, particularly pro football players, whose body clocks can begin malfunctioning at a moment's notice as the years wear on.

It is with this cruel fact of life in mind that I propose the biggest nemesis facing the defending Super Bowl champion Packers this season — aside from the tremendous pressure to pick up where they left off last February — could be Father Time.

While the Packers appear to have an outstanding young core of key players led by QB Aaron Rodgers, OLB Clay Matthews, NT B.J. Raji and CB Tramon Williams, they also have their share of old coots being counted on, by all accounts, to continue performing at a high level.

To wit:

* Entering his 14th season, Pro Bowl LCB Charles Woodson turns 35 on Oct. 7.

* Entering his 13th season, WR Donald Driver turned 36 on Feb. 2.

* Entering his 12th season, Pro Bowl OLT Chad Clifton turned 35 on June 26.

* Entering his 11th season, DLE Ryan Pickett turns 32 on Oct. 8.

In all four cases, injuries have taken their toll in varying degrees.

Woodson managed to make it through every game last season, but his 13th pro campaign ended on an unlucky note when he broke his left collarbone in the Super Bowl diving to break up a pass late in the first half.

Driver had to deal with a nagging quad injury much of the season and also went down for the count in the Super Bowl with both a knee and an ankle injury that turned out to be just as serious as the ankle injury that ended RB Ryan Grant's season in Week One.

Clifton was able to start every game last season, but the previous season he missed four games because of injury and was forced out of four others, counting the playoffs. If not for a streamlined practice regimen in an effort to preserve a pair of knees that have suffered cruel and unusual punishment of the highest order for more than a decade, it's highly unlikely he would have been able to protect Aaron Rodgers' blind side in every game.

Pickett was forced to contend with a high ankle sprain last October that kept him out for the better part of four games.

The good news was that the Packers showed an amazing ability to overcome injuries on the road to the Super Bowl, with one replacement part after another stepping up to pick up the slack.

Can they count on that same super brand or resiliency to keep them in the league's heavyweight class? In a perfect world, that's a question they won't have to worry about answering.

But Father Time thrives on shattering best-case scenarios to pieces. He just keeps on ticking, while his victims keep on taking a licking.

Memo to Packers Nation: Consider yourself warned.

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