- Associated Press - Friday, February 4, 2011

DALLAS (AP) - Coming out of college two years ago, Ramon Foster wasn’t good enough to be drafted by an NFL team.

Around the middle of this season, Erik Walden wasn’t good enough to be on the roster of an NFL team.

On Sunday, both will be starters in the Super Bowl.

Injuries gave each a chance to show what they could do this season, and both have helped keep their teams humming along. They’re hardly alone.

Walden is among six starters on the Green Bay Packers who got their job as in-season injury replacements. Foster is among three such guys on the Pittsburgh Steelers, although it will probably be four since Doug Legursky likely will replace Maurkice Pouncey at center.

All told, nearly one-fourth of all Super Bowl starters will be fill-ins, which proves something else about these teams. They weren’t just the best in their conferences, they also were the best at the game within the game of pro football _ weathering the injuries that are inevitable in such a violent sport.

“The NFL is the NFL. It’s not supposed to be easy, and it hasn’t been easy,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said.

Here’s how difficult it was: Placed on injured reserve were starters at running back, tight end, right tackle, a safety and a pair of linebackers. A total of 16 players were on injured reserve. What had been a promising season turned shaky. Green Bay made the playoffs as a sixth seed, but now they are the oddsmakers’ pick to win the Super Bowl.

“I think a lot of credit goes to guys like Ted Thompson for picking the right dudes,” right guard Daryn Colledge said. “When teams get in an injury situation, a lot of them go hunting, they try to find guys on the market who are available. Our team doesn’t have to do that much. We have a lot of guys in-house who can get it done.”

Thompson deflected any credit.

“It says something of the character of the leaders on our team,” Thompson said. “They took these guys in. They knew they needed help. They put their arms around them and said, `OK, let’s go. Help us out.’ The resolve of this team has been very special.”

Told that the players credited the front office, Thompson smiled and said, “Maybe that’s the teamwork we’re looking for.”

Thompson wouldn’t say which fill-in most exceeded his expectations because he didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

“It’s like my dad says, `Some of those guys don’t know they’re not supposed to be good,’” Thompson said. “They don’t. They’re just playing. They’re doing the best they can and our coaches are doing a good job of putting them in a spot to be successful.”

Look at the linebacker vacancies. Nick Barnett started in the middle and Brad Jones was the outside guy opposite Clay Matthews. Then Barnett and Jones went down.

Story Continues →