Packers look to get well for long haul, not just Dallas game
They’re reeling from injuries suffered in the hard-fought 37-26 win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day.
Receiver Donald Driver, defensive backs Charles Woodson and Aaron Rouse, right tackle Mark Tauscher and defensive linemen Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Ryan Pickett and Colin Cole were among the players hurt in the game.
“Yesterday’s game was a true challenge for our football team,” coach Mike McCarthy said Friday.
The casualties on defense came as the Lions kept possession of the football more than 34 minutes, which contributed to their rally from a 34-12 deficit to within 34-26 late in the game.
“I was pleased with the way we fought through it,” McCarthy said.
Cole suffered a fractured forearm and will be out for at least a game, but McCarthy said the status of the other players for the game Thursday night at Dallas won’t be known until early next week.
The Packers, winners of six straight, and Dallas share the best record in the NFC at 10-1.
While the questions began in earnest about the significance of the game and its implications for the playoffs in January, McCarthy is placing a higher priority on getting his team well again for the long term.
“I just think you need to be smart with injuries at this time of year,” he said. “We have five games left, and I understand the importance and the excitement of the upcoming game at Dallas, but we just need to be smart as we go through these individual injuries and keep in mind there’s a lot of football left.”
Never mind that the winner of the impending matchup will have the inside track to securing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
“I don’t think it would be smart to treat this as a playoff game, where there’s so much that rides on the outcome of this game,” McCarthy said. “We plan on winning the football game. We’ll do everything in our power from our preparation to win this football game. But, we’re going to be smart with the football team because there’s a lot of football left to be played.”
McCarthy rewarded his players with a day off Friday, but some were at the team’s Lambeau Field headquarters for further examination and treatment.
Woodson sustained an injury to his right big toe on a long punt return Thursday and didn’t play the final three quarters.
The four-time Pro Bowl cornerback said after the game the toe wasn’t broken.
McCarthy said team doctor Pat McKenzie didn’t classify the injury as turf toe, which kept Woodson from playing in the Pro Bowl after the 2001 season when he was with Oakland.
“There’s a lot of swelling. There’s history of an injury there in the past,” McCarthy said. “So, those are the things he has to work through. We’ll have a lot better diagnosis as the week goes on.
“You just have to get the swelling out of there right now.”
Gbaja-Biamila suffered sprains to an ankle and a knee on a sack of the Lions’ Jon Kitna in the second quarter.
“It did not look good on film,” McCarthy said. “He’s very flexible, and I’m hopeful that he was able to save himself from being in a bad position.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said Woodson and Gbaja-Biamila have been playing extremely well this season.
Woodson has a team-high four interceptions and two touchdown returns. Gbaja-Biamila is second on the team with 9 1/2 sacks.
“Hopefully, we won’t be without them long,” Sanders said. “But, the guys that we have behind them, the expectation level is they’re on the Green Bay Packers, step up and play as best we can. You don’t want to lose any of your starters at any position – special teams, defense, offense – and those two guys are excellent players and excellent leaders.”
Starting tackle Pickett returned to the game Thursday after aggravating a sprained knee on the second play.
Rouse missed most of the second half because of a sprained knee. The rookie made his third straight start at free safety in place of an injured Nick Collins.
The Packers also will be in recovery mode on offense.
Driver finished the game on a slightly sprained ankle. He suffered the injury in the fourth quarter when he was leg whipped from behind on a run by Ryan Grant.
Tauscher aggravated a sprained ankle and was replaced by Tony Moll for the final quarter.
McCarthy emphasized that he and the team’s medical staff would err on the side of caution when handling injured players who might argue that they’re fine to play for the big game next week when they might not be ready physically.
“We’re going to make decisions that are in the best interests of the health of the player. Always,” McCarthy said. “I will never attempt to put a player out there that we feel is going to put himself in harm’s way for one football game, even more importantly with five left.”