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Packers’ Driver puzzled by stalled role

By Tom Silverstein and Tyler Dunne, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –

GREEN BAY, Wis. — After another fine training camp, Green bay Packers receiver Donald Driver didn’t envision being frozen out of the game plan in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.

He didn’t even see a reduced role from last year coming, even though it has been clear Randall Cobb was primed for an increased presence in the offense. Driver said playing only the last three plays in the 49ers game Sunday was difficult to stomach.

“Played in this league a long time and not to play is tough,” he said after practice Tuesday. “No one expects it to happen, but if it happens you deal with it. I’m dealing with it in a good way.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers spread the ball around quite a bit against the 49ers, but coach Mike McCarthy narrowed the breadth of his passing game to five players: Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Cobb. Driver, Cedric Benson, D.J. Williams, Tom Crabtree and Brandon Saine, all options Rodgers might have used before, weren’t involved.

Whether Rodgers spreads the wealth this week will depend on McCarthy’s use of receiving options. The fact Jennings could be limited because of a groin injury may open a door for Driver.

It’s also important to note that both Driver and Jones went through periods last year where they weren’t getting playing time and then experienced a renaissance later.

“This is a team that has a lot of guys that can make plays,” Rodgers said. “It’s a long season, as we saw with last season, maybe Game 1, some people didn’t get as many balls as they wanted to. But you realize by the end of the season those guys are all going to be called on at different times to make plays.”

Driver said he’ll wait for his opportunity. When he gets it, he’ll try to make so much out of it that they won’t be able to ignore him.

“I’m going to continue to do what I do,” he said. “Practice well, hoping you get your opportunity to have snaps and play the game and be ready. And I’ll be ready when they call.”

Grounded Benson: There was extra motivation driving Benson in 2009.

“No question,” the Packers running back said Tuesday.

Three years ago when the Cincinnati Bengals played the Chicago Bears — Benson’s original team — he rushed for 189 yards on 37 carries with a touchdown. The Bengals obliterated the Bears, 45-10, as Benson earned a dose of revenge for the Bears releasing him in 2008.

Now, Benson faces the Bears as a Green Bay Packer. He’s still motivated, but now he has a much different reason. In his season debut Sunday, Benson averaged a paltry 2 yards per carry. In the teeth of San Francisco’s defense, Benson rushed for 18 yards on nine attempts. He was a non-factor and the Packers became one-dimensional.

“Coming off of last week, a loss and not being very productive on the ground, we definitely want to get off to it fast and get it started this week,” Benson said. “We have a lot of motivation.”

For the Packers’ offense to open up and start shredding defenses the way it did last season, the running game needs a jolt. James Starks (turf toe) is doubtful to play Thursday.

So again, it still all starts with Benson in the running game.

“It’s a different scheme and different style of running the football,” Benson said of joining the Packers. “Of course it takes a little bit of an adjustment. But I mean that adjustment can be made in a game. It can be found in a game. We only had very few chances at it this past Sunday.

“But I think with a few more opportunities — granted, we learned a lot with this tape — so I think with a few more opportunities we’ll create some big things.”

Bishop coping: Out for the season, injured inside linebacker Desmond Bishop is spending plenty of hours around his teammates. Seeing them in the meeting room and around the team facilities helps him cope. But it stings, too.

This balance of emotions is about “50-50,” he said.

“I’m coping,” Bishop said. “There’s nothing I can do about it. It is what it is. I’m trying to adapt to the adage that everything happens for a reason. And I’m coming along pretty good with that. I’m just hoping the guys do well and I’m out there with them in spirit.”

Bishop was lost for the season with a torn right hamstring in the exhibition opener against San Diego — a crushing blow to Green Bay’s defense. The last two years, Bishop had 263 tackles, eight sacks and four forced fumbles. His void was evident against a 49ers team that gashed the Packers for 186 rushing yards.

For the sixth-year pro, it was difficult to watch Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter slice through Green Bay’s defense.

“Yeah, it was,” he said. “Our guys were out there fighting. I really wish I could have been out there fighting the battle with them. “

No sweat: Last season, Green Bay didn’t experience a loss until Dec. 18. In 2012, the first defeat came early.

But Rodgers isn’t overly concerned.

“I think we’re going to let you guys blow it out of proportion, and inside the locker room we’re going to realize it’s one game,” Rodgers said to one national reporter Tuesday.

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