September 05, 2016

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers' offensive line is stuck between a state of shock and the need to move forward.

The surprising release of three-time Pro Bowl left guard Josh Sitton over the weekend has been tough on the close-knit unit.

''He's going to be a tough presence to fill there, a tough void there,'' right guard T.J. Lang said on Monday.

Coach Mike McCarthy announced the Packers are going to fill Sitton's spot with Lane Taylor when the season begins on Sept. 11 at Jacksonville.

The timing of Sitton's release so close to the start of the regular season doesn't help either, Lang said.

''We've got to get ready to play a game in six days,'' the veteran added. ''We've got to move on quick, because Jacksonville's right around the corner.''

A fourth-year pro, Taylor has started two games in his career. He is coming off a preseason finale against Kansas City in which he was penalized twice for holding and once for a false start, and appeared to be late in picking up a blitz that resulted in a sack.

''I've put in a lot of hours, a lot of time, taken a lot of reps. I'm going to look forward to the opportunity,'' Taylor said.

Sitton, who signed with the NFC North-rival Chicago Bears on Sunday, was a second-team All-Pro last season and a durable starter who missed only two games over the previous seven seasons.

''I have all the confidence in the world in Lane,'' McCarthy said. ''He's earned this opportunity.''

While McCarthy said that he likes what Taylor has done in run blocking, ''The pass protection and some of the things - particularly how we do it and what we do - is something he just needs some game experience at. That's part of the leap when you make changes.''

Sitton, 30, was entering the last year of a five-year, $33.75 million extension signed after the 2011 season. The contracts of three other offensive line starters - left tackle David Bakhtiairi, center JC Tretter and right guard T.J. Lang - are also due to expire after this season.

In announcing Sitton's release Saturday, general manager Ted Thompson said the move was made ''with a focus on what is best for the team and the growth of the offensive line.''

Sitton was known to play through injuries. He also caused a minor stir at midseason last year when, during a midweek football show for the Green Bay Press-Gazette newspaper, he said that the Packers' offense had ''become too predictable. Teams know exactly what we're going to do every week.''

Asked if the Packers were better with Taylor, McCarthy said, ''I don't think it's fair to say that about anybody ... Every decision we make is in the best interest of improving all aspects of our program. This is not about one player. This about our football team.''

Lang thought the offensive line would be fine with Taylor, but Sitton had seen just about every look imaginable and could provide tips or wrinkles to combat those schemes.

''That'll come in time with Lane,'' Lang said. ''But I have no doubt he's going to be a guy who can go out there and be the guy and do a good job of it.''

NOTES: McCarthy said WR Jordy Nelson, who is coming back from a knee injury is a ''full go'' for practice this week and is expected to play against the Jaguars. ... The Packers have re-signed LS Brett Goode, who was the starting long snapper for most of the previous eight seasons before getting hurt in December.


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