Injuries Pile Up for Green Bay Packers, Push Roster to Breaking Point
The rash of injuries began in August, continued through September and have now come on the hardest in October.
For the Green Bay Packers, the injury bug has provided no breaks during the 2013 season.
On Monday, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy announced that both Randall Cobb and Nick Perry would miss Green Bay's upcoming contest with the Cleveland Browns, and likely more. Cobb hurt his knee against the Baltimore Ravens and is expected to miss "multiple weeks," while Perry suffered a foot injury and has no timetable.
Receiver James Jones, who also left Sunday's contest after hurting his knee early on, has a chance to play against the Browns.
While clearly agitated discussing the various ailments, McCarthy delivered a line fitting of a club that has been hit so hard and so often by injuries.
"When injuries happen, I looked at it as you have to flip the page," McCarthy said. "It's like anything in life. Are you going to cry about it, or are you going to look at it as an opportunity to improve?"
The Packers will have plenty of time to improve, given the early and still fluctuating timetables for Cobb and Perry, and the on-going injury situations of other key players.
According to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Cobb fractured his fibula and will miss six to eight weeks. Perry's broken foot, which was first reported by Chris Havel of 1075-WDUZ in Green Bay, doesn't yet have a firm timeline, although Havel was confident that Perry would return at some point this season.
Cobb and Perry now join a growing list of the walking wounded in Green Bay. Among those still nursing injuries are Clay Matthews (thumb), Casey Hayward (hamstring), James Starks (knee) and Brad Jones (hamstring).
Back in August, the Packers lost starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga (torn ACL) and running back DuJuan Harris (knee) to season-ending injuries, and both Hayward and safety Morgan Burnett suffered hamstring problems that robbed each of playing time early this season. Burnett only returned to the field two weeks ago, and Hayward is still working his way back.
Between then and now, the Packers have also been without Eddie Lacy (concussion), John Kuhn (hamstring) and Jarrett Bush (hamstring) at various points. Backup inside linebacker Robert Francois, who filled in for Jones, tore his Achilles and was placed on injured reserve.
While every one of the 32 NFL teams deal with injuries on a week-to-week, season-by-season basis, the Packers seem to take the brunt more than most.
"It's a component of our game you can't control," McCarthy said.
The Packers "next man up" calling card will be put to the test in coming weeks.
Cobb and Jones are vital members of a passing game that has been stagnant at times this season, and neither have readily available backups on the active roster. The Packers are currently carrying just four receivers, including Cobb and Jones, leaving Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin as the only two healthy members left.
The Packers will have to make a roster move to bring in receiver help in the coming days, and chances are that receiver will have to play a role immediately.
Perry will also be difficult to replace, especially given Matthews' thumb injury. The Packers were playing Perry on Matthews' right side, with Mike Neal starting opposite him on the left. Matthews isn't expected back for another two or three weeks. Green Bay will now have to shift gears at one of their defense's most crucial positions, making undrafted free agent Andy Mulumba the most likely candidate to start alongside Neal.
In fact, after coming into the season with Matthews, Perry, Hawk and Jones as the four starters, the Packers could very well start Mulumba, Neal, A.J. Hawk and Jamari Lattimore at linebacker against Cleveland.
Perry's injury is a bad break for a player who appeared to be coming into his own as a pass-rusher the past two weeks. A first-round pick of the Packers in 2012, Perry had three sacks and two forced fumbles in games against the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns.
A broken foot can have a varying timeline, but it wouldn't be a shock if Perry is looking at a similar recovery period as Cobb's.
If there's any bright side for the Packers, it's that McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson have been down the injury road many times before.
Green Bay was hit hard by injuries at around this time last season and still rallied for an 11-win season. More famously, the 2010 Packers overcame 15 players going on injured reserve, including six starters, to win Super Bowl XLV.
“I actually had a friend of mine call me this morning and say, ‘Hey, man, your team looks a lot like that 2010 team,’” McCarthy said. “And I said, ‘This team is nothing like the 2010 team.’ Then when I got to work and saw the injury report, I wanted to call him back. I didn’t think it was that bad.”
There will be no crying from Mike McCarthy and the 2013 Packers. This feeling now is all too familiar.
But there's little doubt that this run of injuries will put Green Bay to the test. While history tells us the Packers will respond favorably, this is still a roster that is being pushed to its limits.
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