Packers release veteran LT Chad Clifton

The Green Bay Packers released veteran left tackle Chad Clifton

on Monday, saying goodbye to a player who anchored their pass

protection for more than a decade.

Clifton has been the Packers’ primary left tackle since 2000,

starting 160 games over 12 seasons with quarterbacks Brett Favre

and Aaron Rodgers. He started only six games last season because of

hamstring and back injuries.

It was not immediately clear whether Clifton will retire or try

to play for another team.

”Chad is a great Packer and has been an integral part of our

success over the past 12 seasons,” Packers general manager Ted

Thompson said in a statement. ”He was a member of some of the most

prolific offenses in team history, but more importantly, he is a

great person and teammate. We thank Chad for all that he has given

the Packers on the field and in the community and wish him and his

family well.”

ESPN reported the Packers’ plans to release Clifton earlier

Monday.

Clifton played 165 career games for Green Bay and ranks second

in franchise history for the most games played by an offensive

tackle behind only Forrest Gregg, who played in 187. Clifton was

selected to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2010.

Marshall Newhouse played well enough in Clifton’s absence last

year that it wasn’t a sure thing that the veteran would get his job

back when he returned near the end of the season. Clifton started

the Packers’ playoff loss to the New York Giants but was replaced

by Newhouse in the third quarter.

Speaking at NFL meetings last month, Packers coach Mike McCarthy

told reporters there was ”definitely a possibility” that Clifton

would stay with the team but said it ultimately would be a medical

decision.

”He’s someone we’ll continue to talk about and get the

reports,” McCarthy said at the time. ”He’s down in Tennessee now,

so we’ll see how he recovers.”

With Clifton gone, the Packers’ options at left tackle for next

season include Newhouse and Derek Sherrod, last year’s first-round

draft pick. Sherrod is recovering from a broken leg in the Packers’

Dec. 18 loss at Kansas City.

The Packers also could consider moving Bryan Bulaga from right

tackle.

With the draft set to begin with the first round Thursday night,

Clifton’s future isn’t the only major decision facing the Packers

this offseason. There also is uncertainty over the future of safety

Nick Collins, who sustained a season-ending neck injury last year.

It’s not clear if Collins will be able to return.

There also has been speculation that the team could part ways

with veteran receiver Donald Driver, although McCarthy said at the

league meetings that the Packers ”absolutely” still had room for

Driver.

”I thought Donald, the second half of the season, he played

very well,” McCarthy said. ”His role, as far as opportunities,

was not as high as it’s been in the past, but I thought Donald was

very consistent down the stretch.”