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By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - After having nearly seven months to vent over a shocking early exit from the postseason, the Green Bay Packers begin their quest for redemption with a visit to Qualcomm Stadium for a preseason-opening matchup with the San Diego Chargers.
The 2010 world champion Packers loomed as the favorites to repeat as title- holders after steamrolling through last year's regular season with a 15-1 record, but that success failed to carry over into the NFC Playoffs. Green Bay was bounced from the tournament with a 37-20 upset loss to the eventual Super Bowl-winning New York Giants in the Divisional Round, with an uncharacteristic four turnovers playing a large role in the team's defeat.
Despite the offense's sloppy performance against the Giants, Packers general manager Ted Thompson turned his offseason attention towards repairing a defense that allowed the most yards in the league a year ago. Green Bay's first six selections in April's draft came on that side of the ball, with several of those picks ticketed for immediate playing time.
Southern California's Nick Perry, the Packers' first-round choice, will make his debut Thursday as a starting outside linebacker opposite All-Pro Clay Matthews, while second-round cornerback Casey Hayward is contending for a major role in a rebuilt secondary in which playmaking veteran Charles Woodson is shifting from corner to strong safety. Hayward entered camp battling special-teams mainstay Jarrett Bush and second-year pro Davon House for the right to man Woodson's former spot.
Michigan State lineman Jerel Worthy, another second-round pick, is in the mix to start at right defensive end along with holdovers C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn and Mike Neal.
Green Bay has far fewer concerns on an offense directed by reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers, so it's likely that the prolific quarterback sees minimal action in Thursday's game. He'll also be operating without two key members against the Chargers, with Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings and starting left tackle Marshall Newhouse both ruled out after sustaining concussions in a recent scrimmage.
San Diego is also well set at the quarterback spot with four-time 4,000-yard passer Philip Rivers at the helm, and he's expected to have limited snaps as well in the opener. Backup Charlie Whitehurst won't play at all due to a strained knee, leaving the majority of Thursday's duties to journeyman Kevin O'Connell and undrafted rookie Jarrett Lee.
Slot receivers Eddie Royal and Roscoe Parrish will also sit out for San Diego due to groin injuries, while regular left tackle Jared Gaither is questionable after missing some practice time with a sore back.
Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove is eligible to play in the contest despite being handed an eight-game suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his participation in the New Orleans Saints' pay-for-performance scheme during his tenure with the team from 2009-10.
This clash will also contain a historic first, with Shannon Eastin slated to become the first female official to work an NFL game when she serves as referee. Eastin was among the replacements hired by the league while it remains at an impasse in labor negotiations with the Referees Association.
The Packers and Chargers have faced one another three times previously in the preseason, with each team winning once while also playing to a scoreless tie in the 1980 Hall of Fame Game. San Diego won the most recent encounter, a 17-3 decision at Qualcomm Stadium in 2006.
These teams also went head-to-head last November in regular-season play, with the Packers prevailing in a 45-38 shootout in San Diego behind four touchdown passes from Rodgers.
08/08 13:57:17 ET
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