McCarthy says Hawk, Bishop are starting inside linebackers

The money alone makes it hard to imagine a scenario in which the Green Bay Packers keep Nick Barnett in a reserve role this season. But anything can happen at this point, and based on how injuries ripped through the roster this past season, they certainly learned a lesson about depth.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spoke with Packers coach Mike McCarthy at the Wisconsin pro day. McCarthy told him recently re-signed A.J. Hawk and recently extended Desmond Bishop are the projected starters at inside linebacker for 2011. That leaves Barnett and Brandon Chillar on the outside looking in.

Barnett missed most of the season with a wrist injury similar to what sidelined the Chicago Bears’ Brian Urlacher in 2009. Chillar was out with a shoulder injury and McCarthy indicated it’s the third time the veteran has had shoulder surgery. Barnett is on the books for a cap hit of $6.9 million in 2011, not the kind of space anyone wants to allot to a backup.

“We have to see how he comes off the wrist," McCarthy told Silverstein. "Same thing with Chillar. That’s his third shoulder surgery. You know how these things go. I'm glad we aren’t playing this week. The season we had, I spent too much time with the doctors."

Per Silverstein, if the Packers keep all four inside linebacker on their current contracts, they’d have $16 million in cap space tied up. That’s not going to happen. It’s just a matter of time before push comes to shove with one or two players.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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