Packers slowly get healthier, reset season after bye week
By Genaro C. Armas
AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. — The shock of seeing Aaron Rodgers go down has worn off for the Green Bay Packers.
The sight of Rodgers walking around Lambeau Field as he recovers from a collarbone injury gives teammates a lift.
Maybe, just maybe, the Packers won’t be as snake-bitten with injuries for the rest of the season.
With Rodgers out, it can’t get any worse.
A bye week allowed the Packers (4-3) to get much-needed rest and push the reset button following two straight losses. The streak started with the loss on Oct. 15 at Minnesota, where Rodgers got hurt.
“I think at this point the whole kind of disaster, if you want to say, when you lose your starting quarterback that we had in Minnesota is behind us now and we’re focused on everyone in this locker room and what we need to do to move forward,” said veteran linebacker Clay Matthews, Rodgers’ TV commercial co-star.
“I don’t think much as changed as far as the message. It’s just about getting it done with the guys we have.”
The injury report ahead of the game Monday night against the Detroit Lions (3-4) was down to 12 players, and that included two Packers who went on injured reserve during the week. Five others were full participants for the most important day of the practice week on Friday.
This is progress for a team that had 14 players on the injury report two weeks ago.
Besides Rodgers, injuries this season have taken a toll especially on the secondary and offensive line. Cornerback and running back were areas hit hard last season, though the volume of maladies team-wide didn’t come close to what Green Bay has had to deal with this season.
The Packers focused on self-scouting during the bye week, as has been their custom under McCarthy. One task involved an evaluation of injuries.
When asked last week if the volume of injuries may have led the team to take a big-picture evaluation of prevention, training and rehab — or if that was a task reserved for the offseason, McCarthy said, “No, it’s an ongoing process.
“It’s like anything in this business. You’re always collecting data, evaluating data and applying what comes out of the evaluation,” he added.
That evaluation gave the Packers information on whether “you adjust or tweak things going forward, which is the norm what comes out of those type of reports.” One detail that McCarthy shared was that there were a high number of ankle injuries.
“You look at those and it really just makes you go back through the process a little deeper,” McCarthy said.
Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde is very familiar with the Packers’ training routine after having played in Green Bay the previous four years.
He has reached out to a few of his former teammates. But the injury bug isn’t limited to Green Bay.
“It’s football man, it’s tough,” Hyde said recently. “People like to think that it’s the offseason workout and whether it’s the training camp schedule. But being there and being here, it’s similar schedules. It’s similar practice times. It’s similar everything.”
There’s a feeling of helplessness in some respect.
“It’s just the football gods saying it’s the Packers’ year to have the injuries,” he said. “And it’s really nothing you can do about it.”
What the Packers are concentrating on is getting more out of healthy players on both sides of the ball to try to stay in playoff contention regardless of whether or not Rodgers returns. A best-case scenario would be Week 15 against Carolina.
For now, backup Brett Hundley will be under center.
“I don’t like when people come out and say everyone else has to do a little bit more, because if you can do a little bit now, why weren’t you doing that little bit more earlier?” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “So, everyone still has to just prepare the same, go out and play to the best of our ability and just believe in Brett.”
Cornerback Davon House, who returned to the Packers as a free agent in the offseason after spending two seasons in Jacksonville, said before the bye that there was no sense of doom in the locker room. Backups are eager for opportunities to prove themselves.
A week of rest can do wonders to boost spirits.
“Guys look like they’re as fresh as we’ve been in some time as far as injuries,” Matthews said. “Took some time away from the game, hopefully we can come back, bounce back and get us a big win because we really need it.”