Packers’ Rodgers hobbled
Rodgers limped away from Sunday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings with a sprained toe on one foot and a nagging sprain on the other. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers could miss time in practice this week but is expected to play Sunday at Tampa Bay without losing mobility.
Rodgers has been sacked a league-high 31 times this season, including six by Minnesota on Sunday.
“Our sack numbers are clearly out of balance,” McCarthy said. “That’s something we’ll continue to work through.”
But Rodgers’ inability to stay upright is only one of the glaring problems facing the Packers (4-3), who were put in their place—a distant second place in the NFC North—by their former quarterback, Brett Favre.
“Their quarterback has made a big impact,” McCarthy said of Favre. “That’s something, that quarterback productivity, they haven’t had in the last three years that we have played them.”
Meanwhile, the Packers keep showing they’re not quite ready for prime time.
They’re smarting from yet another round of costly, preventable penalties and trying to quell criticism of Dom Capers’ new 3-4 defense from yet another veteran player.
Beyond that, McCarthy said linebacker Brandon Chillar has a broken hand and was scheduled to have surgery Monday. He is expected to miss at least two weeks before returning to play with a club cast, and his role will be filled by A.J. Hawk or Desmond Bishop. The so-called “Big Okie” package, where Chillar plays in place of a safety, is on the shelf for now.
McCarthy was typically measured in his assessment of the Packers’ play Monday, but had sharp words for defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, whose personal foul head-butting penalty wiped out a third-down stop and set up the Vikings’ first touchdown of the game.
Jolly didn’t seem particularly repentant Sunday night.
“It is what it is,” Jolly said. “That didn’t cause (us to lose) the game.”
Jolly’s comments didn’t sit well with McCarthy, who has drawn some criticism for his team’s penchant for penalties over the last two-plus seasons.
“There’s no reason for it, there’s no explanation for it,” McCarthy said. “He needs to be more accountable for that.”
McCarthy said he planned to have discussions with Jolly and fellow defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, who said after Sunday’s game that the defense—which failed to sack Favre in two games—was “in handcuffs” in Capers’ scheme.
“It’s tough,” Jenkins said. “You come into the season with new stuff and you’re told we’re going to give you opportunities to do this and do opportunities to do that, and then you’re not given them.”
McCarthy seemed to suggest that Jenkins’ comments sounded selfish.
“I’m not interested in having Pro Bowl players and having a 27th-ranked defense,” McCarthy said. “Our interest and our focus is on being a top-three defense in the league. It’s utilizing all of our players. Sometimes players are asked to do things, to sacrifice so someone else can benefit from it, and that’s part of the deal. That’s the way we operate. We have a lot of good players on defense. It’s not about one guy getting his.”
Cornerback Charles Woodson took issue with Capers’ play selection after the Packers’ first loss to the Vikings Oct. 5, earning him a talking-to. Woodson didn’t speak out after Sunday’s game.
Capers said he had spoken with Jenkins, and was confident that everyone was on the “same page.”
As for not putting enough pressure on Favre, McCarthy said a team’s defensive scheme or game plan doesn’t matter if players aren’t consistently beating the guy in front of them.
“It’s about winning one-on-ones, whether you are run blocking or you’re in a pass rush,” McCarthy said. “That’s football.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy did not commit to a starting offensive line, saying he would take the week to examine his options.
McCarthy had veteran tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher active on Sunday, but chose not to replace rookie left tackle T.J. Lang or third-year right tackle Allen Barbre. Vikings defensive ends Jared Allen and Ray Edwards combined for five sacks on Sunday.
In all, McCarthy said the season isn’t lost but the Packers must improve.
“We’re 4-3 for good reason,” he said. “I think we have not handled two prime-time games very well. I’m confident that we’ll learn from these experiences. I thought we would have learned more from the first game (in Minnesota) to this one. We had some repeated mistakes. That’s frustrating, and something that we take with full accountability as coaches.”