The Green Bay Packers aren’t big on self-pity. Injuries are a part of the game. Next man up. They don’t make excuses. They don’t whine.
Since they don’t, allow me to: waaaaaaah! Boo-hoo! This is awful! So many injuries! And really important players, too! At least one starter a week, it seems. Life is so unfair!
Moving past my pool of tears and self-pity (it’s not really self-pity since I don’t play for the team, is it? “Team-pity”?), the injuries are continuing to be a huge concern for the team. The win over the Arizona Cardinals was great and all, but came at a cost. Receiver Jordy Nelson, having just recovered from a hamstring that kept him out the previous week, injured his ankle diving for a pass. Though coach Mike McCarthy said Nelson’s injury wasn’t serious, it wouldn’t be surprising if he missed another game or two.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga also left the game with a hip injury. McCarthy had no information on Bulaga’s injury, as he is awaiting a report from the medical staff. With Bulaga out, left guard T.J. Lang moved to right tackle and backup Evan Dietrich-Smith stepped in at left guard.
I thought the offensive line played very well considering the injury, not allowing any sacks in the second half. Hip injuries are tricky things, however, and I worry that this one could bench Bulaga for a little while. Dietrich-Smith has played well in the past, and I think he’ll be serviceable should he have to play for an extended period, but after him, there is precious little depth on the offensive line. I mean, who the devil are Don Barclay and Greg Van Roten? I pray that I don’t have to find out this season.
Now, for the worst of them all, the Claymaker himself: Clay Matthews. Everybody’s favorite golden-tressed linebacker suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday’s game. McCarthy’s initial remarks suggested Matthews would miss a couple of weeks. Matthews has been dogged by hamstring problems for a few seasons now.
In the past, Matthews has been held out of most practices in order to avoid aggravating his hamstring. Most likely, this will be an issue that will have to be monitored all season long.
The bye week is obviously very welcome, not just for Nelson, Bulaga, and Matthews, but for Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Jerel Worthy, John Kuhn, and Sam Shields, all of whom have been banged up. Charles Woodson, Cedric Benson, and Greg Jennings will be one week closer to returning, as well.
Aside from the bye, the Packers and their fans can be optimistic about the way the backups and young players have played when pressed into duty. I’ve really loved the way rookie linebacker Dezman Moses has been playing, and Erik Walden has been putting together a solid season as well.
Those two will most likely receive the bulk of Matthews’ snaps. Rookie cornerback Casey Hayward has intercepted four passes in the first nine games of his career, which is tied for third in the league. Linebacker Frank Zombo was activated from the PUP list this week. On offense, James Jones and Randall Cobb have eased the loss of Jennings and Nelson in an impressive way.
All the “next man up” talk is cliched, sure, but the Packers have bought into it as a team. The young players are expected to play like first-stringers. The backups understand this is their chance to make the most of their opportunities. So perhaps I should follow the lead of the Packers and shelve my team-pity and despair and trust that Green Bay will do what it’s always done: step up and make plays!