Jennings’ outlook optimistic
Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Jennings will miss two to three weeks with a knee sprain, but is likely to return for the postseason.
“We have three games left,” McCarthy said. “Yes, I would think it’d be safe to say he’ll be back for the playoffs.”
Jennings hurt his left knee when he landed awkwardly in the third quarter of Sunday’s victory over Oakland. Jennings had to be helped from the sideline to a cart and was taken to the locker room.
At 13-0, the Packers can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory at Kansas City on Sunday. But losing Jennings will be a significant—if only temporary—blow to a team best known for its dominant passing game.
“We feel fortunate that it is only a couple weeks,” McCarthy said.
The Packers are monitoring several other injuries this week.
Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and backup running back Brandon Saine both left Sunday’s game with concussions. McCarthy is optimistic both players will be available this week, but first will have to clear post-concussion testing protocols.
The Packers also are missing veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, guard Josh Sitton, running back James Starks and inside linebacker Desmond Bishop.
McCarthy said Sitton is “making progress” on his right knee injury and may practice this week. Bishop is “close” to returning from a calf injury. And McCarthy said he was hopeful Starks (right knee/ankle) could practice Wednesday.
And McCarthy hasn’t given up on getting back Clifton, who has been out since injuring his hamstring in the Packers’ Oct. 9 victory at Atlanta, then hurting his back during the rehabilitation process. McCarthy said Clifton may be able to return to practice next week.
“I wouldn’t say it was too late for Chad Clifton,” McCarthy said. “Actually, Chad was in the training room when I was in there. He looks good, had a hard workout today.”
But the biggest concern was Jennings, and the Packers appear to have dodged the worst-case scenario.
“I have not seen Greg today, but I was told his spirits were (high), he was upbeat,” McCarthy said. “He was in here for treatment, had a process to go through it with the medical staff.”
After making his first Pro Bowl in 2010, Jennings has 67 catches for 949 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He’s just as valuable when he isn’t catching the ball, occupying defenders and creating opportunities for the Packers’ other receivers.
“We feel that we have enough to move forward,” McCarthy said. “Greg will be missed, but with that, it’s more opportunity for the other perimeter players.”
Now the rest of the Packers’ deep and talented group of receivers will have to take up the slack.
“Greg’s a playmaker, and it’s hard to fill in (for) a guy like that,” tight end Jermichael Finley said Sunday night. “But we’ve got playmakers all through our offense. Young guys are going to have to step up, or the guys that already in will have to step up. Next man up.”
The Packers still are loaded with pass-catching talent, as Finley, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver and rookie Randall Cobb all can provide big-play threats.
“I think we know that everybody has a job to do,” Driver said. “It gets to a point where somebody has to step up, I think we can do it. It’s been a proven fact that guys have stepped up to fill other guys’ shoes.”
Still, Packers players acknowledged that losing Jennings is significant.
“It’d be a tremendous loss,” Clay Matthews said. “Obviously, I think he’s an elite receiver in this league, and you hate to see players get injured. Hopefully we’ll have him back soon enough. I’m not sure what happened, but hopefully he’s not out too long.”