Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was the bearer of bad news Monday, as his weekly Monday press conference was littered with questions about the deteriorating health of his football team.
In fact, McCarthy was delayed over a half an hour in getting to the press conference because his meeting with team doctors was so lengthy.
"I apologize for being late," McCarthy said. "I'll start with the medical report." Good idea, Mike.
The most concerning of injuries McCarthy discussed was the concussion suffered by quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the last play of his afternoon Sunday. Rodgers, whose interception on the play set up the Redskins' winning field goal, was struck in the helmet by a Washington blitzer and was unable to attend his normal post-game questioning with reporters.
McCarthy was unsure of Rodgers' availability for next Sunday, but made it clear that he would miss some practice time this week.
Concussions have become a prominent theme in the 2010 season, with the NFL and team doctors focusing more and more on protecting the long term health of NFL players. Meaning that, even if Rodgers thinks he's able to play, he'll have to pass a battery of tests before that option is made available to the Packers.
If Rodgers can't go Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, the Packers will be forced to turn to Matt Flynn, a 2008 seventh-round draft choice who has never started an NFL game.
Flynn is mostly an unknown, and you'd have to figure that the Packers offense would suffer mightily if in fact Flynn is forced into duty. The Dolphins defense is ranked seventh in the NFL in yards given up (299/game), so Flynn would have his hands full in his first career start.
It wouldn't be a stretch to think the Packers would be underdogs in Lambeau Field if Flynn is the scheduled starter. If the Packers fell to 3-3, Green Bay would be in serious trouble as the upcoming schedule does them absolutely no favors.
The injuries don't stop there, however. McCarthy announced that tight end Jermichael Finley will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery that will keep him out of the Packers lineup three to six weeks. It's another blow to an offense that struggled to score points Sunday in a 16-13 loss to the Redskins.
However, Finley's replacement wasn't immune to the injury bug either. Donald Lee, who's fumble on the Packers first possession set up Finley's injury, also injured his shoulder/chest and could possibly miss two weeks.
That leaves the Packers thin at tight end, a position that was as deep a position as the Packers possessed heading into Week One of the season. The load will have to be picked up by two rookies, Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree.
If there is a bright spot to the injuries, it's that the Packers will get a good look at both Quarless and Crabtree and how they'll fare in leading roles.
Quarless was efficient filling in for Finley Sunday, as he caught four passes for 51 yards including a 21-yard catch that set up Mason Crosby's clank off the left upright with one second remaining in regulation. Quarless is big and athletic, in the same mold as Finley, but the Packers will miss Finley's big play potential while he is out.
Crabtree has seen the field in big sets for the Packers already this season. Crabtree has the ability to fill in for Lee as the blocking tight end, and I'm certain that Crabtree will get his chances in the passing game as well.
If Flynn is the starter Sunday, expect to see a good dose of Crabtree as the Packers will probably focus more on the running game with Rodgers out.
And while the offense certainly took a beating, the defense kept right up with its own extensive list of injuries.
Leading the way is Clay Matthews, who again injured his hamstring and was forced to sit out the majority of the fourth quarter against the Redskins. For anyone who doubts what Matthews brings to this defense, re-watch that fourth quarter and tell me if you see a difference. It was like night and day.
Matthews seemingly received good news, however, as it appears his injury is not as bad as the hamstring pull that kept him out of the preseason. That said, the chances of him not playing Sunday seem rather realistic.
Fellow outside backer Frank Zombo also found his way onto the injury list with a knee injury, and his status for Sunday is still up in the air.
If both are out, the Packers would be left with a combination of Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga for the outside linebacker positions in Green Bay's 3-4. It wouldn't be a stretch to then say the Packers will struggle Sunday getting pressure on the Miami Dolphins.
McCarthy also reported that Nick Barnett, while not injured Sunday, decided to have surgery on his wrist. His timetable for a return can't be set until after the surgery is done, but early estimates have it from anywhere between eight weeks and the rest of the season.
That means that Desmond Bishop will have to continue his solid play he displayed against the Redskins for the Packers defense not to miss a beat. Bishop recorded 13 tackles and a sack Sunday, and also did a commendable job covering Chris Cooley.
In more encouraging linebacking news, Brandon Chillar will try and practice this week. The Packers are taking things slow with Chillar and his chronic shoulder, and he'll be re-evaluated as the week progresses.
Defensive end Ryan Pickett has an ankle sprain, but McCarthy was unable to give a timeline on his injury. The replay looked serious, and there was never a chance that Pickett was going to return to the game. If Pickett can't go, the Packers will need second-round pick Mike Neal to fill the gap along the defensive line.
Lastly, it appears that Packers safety and special teamer Derrick Martin might be lost for the season. At the very least, McCarthy said Martin will miss a couple weeks after injuring his knee. He was in a lot of pain after the injury, and usually McCarthy gets a pretty good read whether or not the injury could be season-threatening.
Through five weeks, the Packers haven't got much of anything from Lady Luck. The injuries continue to mount, and Green Bay will be asking a lot out of its backups come Sunday to win a big game against the Miami Dolphins at home.
All the injuries posted above would be bad enough alone, but the Packers already have injuries to its starting running back (Ryan Grant, season), starting right tackle (Mark Tauscher, shoulder), starting safety (Morgan Burnett, ACL) and lead blocker (Quinn Johnson, glute).
Get your programs out, because once you add all these injuries up, and you're going to see a much different looking Green Bay Packers team come Sunday against Miami.
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