Chad Clifton

End of the line?

The Green Bay Packers aren’t giving up on tackle Chad Clifton yet, but the day may be fast approaching.

Clifton, who’s been out since tearing a hamstring on Oct. 9, was supposed to return to practice this week, but that isn’t going to happen. Coach Mike McCarthy revealed Clifton recently suffered a back injury, Wednesday.

The next step could be placing the veteran on injured reserve, which would end his season. It seems like the Packers aren’t quite ready to do that yet.

“I don’t know if it’s one week, two weeks,” McCarthy said of Clifton’s return. “It’s something that’s knocked us off schedule. We thought this would be the week he would practice — I didn’t know if he’d be able to play this week. Any time you’re dealing with backs there’s always a little more uncertainty, and that’s in Chad’s case.”

The injuries may just end Clifton’s Packers career. Assuming he’ll be out two more weeks, Clifton would return to practice in week 15, when the Packers play the Kansas City Chiefs. In all likelihood, the team will ease Clifton back in and hold him out of that week’s game, meaning the soonest he would play is week 16 against the Chicago Bears.

While the team may want the veteran to face Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, you have to wonder if they would upset the continuity of the offensive line. The Packers would have to remove Marshall Newhouse, who by that time will have started nine games in a row at left tackle, for a potentially-gimpy Clifton.

Granted, Newhouse has had his ups and downs, but he hasn’t gotten anyone killed, he survived Jared Allen and played well against Detroit.

If Clifton is able to go, the Packers may very well put him back in the starting lineup, but they could also use him as an insurance policy in case Newhouse falters or goes down. Of course, he may also end up going on injured reserve, which would effectively end his Packers career. Clifton is 35 and in the final year of his contract and the Packers have another youngster waiting to play tackle in first-round pick Derek Sherrod.