Banged-up Packers focused on Arizona
GREEN BAY The Green Bay Packers played without eight starters last weekend, and coach Mike McCarthy added two more players to the injury list on Monday.
The flood of injuries affected Green Bay’s practice schedule in the run-up to Sunday’s lackluster 24-15 victory over Jacksonville, but McCarthy isn’t about to use them as an excuse.
“The injuries are part of the game. It’s unfortunate on a personal level,” McCarthy said. “There’s things that go on in our world in the game of football that are just unsaid. It’s just the way you go about your business. It’s what you accept and it’s part of the grind of an NFL season.
“People ask me, ‘How does it impact your football team?’ I’ve never taken the time to try to quantify the impact it has on your team.”
Wide receivers Greg Jennings (torn abdominal muscle) and Jordy Nelson (hamstring), fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) and running back Cedric Benson (sprained foot) were among the starters who missed Sunday’s game. Safety Charles Woodson (broken collarbone), cornerback Sam Shields (ankle) and linebackers Nick Perry (knee), D.J. Smith (knee) and Desmond Bishop (hamstring) also were out.
Jennings was scheduled to undergo sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but McCarthy said it was postponed because of the superstorm on the East Coast.
“Exactly when he will go? That has not been determined yet,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also added defensive ends Jerel Worthy (concussion) and Mike Neal (knee) to the list of injured players.
The increasing amount of injuries affected Green Bay’s preparations for the game against Jacksonville. For instance, with so many players down, McCarthy cut practices short on Wednesday and Thursday. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements estimated that the team lost roughly 15 percent of its regular practice snaps.
“Which we had to do just because of the injury situation trying to keep guys healthy,” he said. “But we didn’t have as many ‘live reps,’ if you want to call them that.
“Obviously when you don’t have quality guys like (Jennings and Nelson), you have to overcome it. (But) injuries are a fact of life in the NFL. You try to avoid them, and it’s unfortunate when top guys get hurt, but you have to play with the guys who are there.”
Said defensive coordinator Dom Capers: “You have to adapt based on who you have out there, but I don’t think it’s made us any less aggressive. If you look at our numbers over the last three weeks, we’ve been the most aggressive. So maybe it goes the other way. But you adapt.”
Amid Green Bay’s health-related misfortune, there is good news: It should get most of the ailing players back. Benson is on injured reserve but has been designated for return, which he says he is on schedule to do.
“That is the positive,” said Benson, who could play in the Dec. 9 game against Detroit. “Everybody’s expecting to come back and looking forward to coming back and really excited about coming back. That is the positive thing in all these injuries.”
And the Packers (5-3) are still winning despite all the missing players. They have won three in a row heading into Sunday’s home game against Arizona.
“Especially if you can get victories now with your key playmakers down,” outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. “Getting those guys back, they should return with fresh legs, healthy, ready to make an immediate impact. If we’re looking down the road, guys like Charles Woodson, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, a healthy B.J. (Raji), you get all these guys healthy, you have your team at full strength, and that’s when you want to peak is at the end of the season.”
NOTES: Third-year running back James Starks, who had an 8-yard run and 9-yard reception Sunday, won’t see his role expand significantly but could see slightly more playing time, according to McCarthy.