GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -For Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, an on-field demotion at Dallas felt more like getting fired.
``That's kind of what it is,'' Colledge said. ``The minute you're not the starter, you're not the starter anymore. That's a demotion, no matter how you look at it. But they gave me the opportunity to compete, and that's awesome.''
After starting the Packers' first 12 games at left guard, Colledge was benched midway through their Nov. 29 loss at Dallas.
Now he's back in the starting lineup after the player he had been competing with in practice, Junius Coston, was placed on injured reserve with a calf injury he sustained in the Packers' regular-season finale against Detroit.
Colledge's opportunity might have come by default, but it's still a chance to show coaches that he can be counted on when it matters the most. Colledge is expected to start at left guard when the Packers play their first playoff game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 12.
``I'm excited to have the opportunity to play and try to help the team win a championship,'' Colledge said. ``I feel bad for 'Juice' (Coston). I don't want to say I enjoyed our competition, but I felt like we were both doing well, we were both competing. This is not the way I wanted it to happen; that makes it hard. But beyond that, I'm excited to have an opportunity to get back in there and play.''
Colledge's play will be critical for the Packers, whose 13-3 record and impressive offensive production came despite instability on their interior offensive line. In addition to counting on Colledge in the playoffs, the Packers also must hope that their best guard, Jason Spitz, can return from a quadriceps injury to start at right guard next week.
Spitz sat out the Packers' practices on Friday and Saturday, meaning Colledge didn't get to work consistently at left guard. Colledge practiced at several positions as the Packers tried to work less-experienced players such as Tony Moll and Allen Barbre into their rotation.
``We're kind of with the guys we have to make it through the championship with,'' Colledge said. ``We can't bring anybody else and teach them the system in time. No matter what happens, we've got to find some guys to play certain spots.''
Colledge, a second-round draft pick out of Boise State in 2006, started 15 games as a rookie and went into this season as the starter. But after being benched at Dallas, his playing time dwindled in the last three games of the regular season.
``It was my fault,'' Colledge said. ``It was my position, and I was the one that gave somebody an opportunity to come in there and take it away from me. So I've got nobody to be mad at but myself. It's a matter of me perfecting my game and becoming better every single week.''
Packers coach Mike McCarthy has never doubted Colledge's attitude.
``I have no problem with Daryn Colledge the person and the work ethic,'' McCarthy said. ``I think he does a very good job, especially for a young player.''
But McCarthy made it clear that Colledge's play needs to improve.
``He has not played as well as he would like, as far as over the long term,'' McCarthy said.
Colledge improved in the Packers' victory over Detroit on Dec. 30, a game in which he rotated with Coston at guard before moving to left tackle when starter Chad Clifton was taken out of the game to rest for the playoffs.
McCarthy said Colledge has spent extra time in the office of offensive line coach James Campen of late, giving up his scheduled off days to work on his game.
``It's important to him,'' McCarthy said. ``You see more urgency. You see improvement. That's what you're looking for. Like everybody up front and our whole football team, he needs to play his best football right now. That's what we're holding each other accountable for. Look for him to line up and play well for us at left guard.''

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