Packers release veteran tackle Chad Clifton

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The 12-year Green Bay Packers tenure of left tackle Chad Clifton is over.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson confirmed the news Monday afternoon that Clifton was released by the team.

“Chad is a great Packer and has been an integral part of our success over the past 12 seasons,” Thompson said in a written 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.”

Clifton had back surgery after the 2011 season but reported to Green Bay for offseason workouts earlier this month. A failed physical by Clifton appears to be the reason behind the Packers releasing the 35-year-old from their roster.

After quarterback Aaron Rodgers was told of the news regarding Clifton, the NFL MVP posted the following on his Twitter account:

“If ur fortunate enough to play this game long enough, u gotta deal w/ more days like today when close friends become former teammates,” Rodgers tweeted.

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Clifton has played his entire career in Green Bay. He was drafted by the Packers in the second round in 2000 and started 160 games, the second-most in franchise history by an offensive lineman. Clifton trails only Forrest Gregg (187 starts).

Although Clifton is no longer a Packers player, it is possible that he could attempt to continue his career with another team.

During the NFL owners meetings in Florida last month, coach Mike McCarthy seemed relatively optimistic that Clifton would return to Green Bay for his 13th NFL season.

“There’s definitely a possibility,” McCarthy told reporters in March. “He’s going to be on a pitch count. He can’t go through a full training camp, and it’s been like that for some time. It’s a medical decision. That’s what it will come down to.”

After being healthy and playing in every single game during the Packers’ Super Bowl-winning 2010 season, Clifton could not stay on the field in 2011. He suffered a hamstring injury in Atlanta in Week 5, and when he neared a return late in the season, Clifton hurt his back while lifting weights.

Though Clifton did return in a limited capacity in Week 17 of the regular season, he was benched during Green Bay’s playoff loss to the Giants after getting beat by New York’s pass rush.

Releasing Clifton saves the Packers $5.7 million in cap space for the 2012 season.

With Clifton’s long-tenured, successful run with the Packers over, the starting left tackle position likely will be decided between three potential candidates. First, there is a possibility that McCarthy could attempt to switch 2010 first-round pick Bryan Bulaga from right tackle to left. When Thompson used his top pick on Bulaga two seasons ago, it was with the hope that the 6-foot-5, 314-pound Bulaga eventually would settle in to protect the blindside of Rodgers. If Bulaga remains on the right side, the battle will be between Derek Sherrod and Marshall Newhouse. In the 2011 draft, Sherrod was Green Bay’s first-round pick.

However, a poor showing in training camp as a rookie, followed by a season-ending broken leg late in the year, could place Sherrod as No. 2 on the depth chart. If so, he would be behind Newhouse, a 2010 fifth-round pick who beat out Sherrod in training camp last season to be Clifton’s backup. Though Newhouse had his ups and downs while starting 13 games, he would likely fare much better in 2012 with a season of experience behind him.

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