Green Bay Packers' Not-So-Sweet 16: Will IR Players Be Back on Pack Next Season?
It is well known by now that the Packers have had to deal with the loss of 16 players to the injured reserve. Of those 16 men, at least six were starters at one time during the season.
Some players who are sent to rehab and placed on the IR find themselves on a new team the following year, while others will never see the field as an NFL player ever again.
All the Packers wounded may have been allowed in the Super Bowl team photo, but what are their chances of donning the green and gold next season?
After all, the team earned a Super Bowl berth with backups, rookies and castaways filling in the holes on a well-built roster. It will be interesting to see who will stay in Titletown, and who will be sent packing.
Nick Barnett, LB
Barnett's eighth season as a Packer was cut short when he suffered a wrist injury against the Lions in Week 4. However, he signed a six-year contract extension in 2007 that will keep him on the team through 2012.
He has led the Packers in tackles five years and I expect him to be back at it come next season.
One Packer linebacker, A.J. Hawk, has been the subject of release and trade rumors lately. The Packers most likely will want to extend his contract before next season or it will be in their best interests to part ways with him because of money.
Hawk has shined in Barnett's absence, but if any linebacker will go it will be A.J. because of his contract situation. In many fans' opinions he has not lived up to his expectations after being a first-round draft pick.
LB Desmond Bishop was rewarded a new contract during this season and LB Brandon Chillar has three years remaining on his deal so they will certainly be spending time with Clay Matthews and Barnett on the Packers defense next year.
Morgan Burnett, S
Morgan Burnett was drafted in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft, and soon became the starter at safety. In his second game he snagged his first NFL interception, but two weeks later he tore his ACL against Detroit.
Burnett is locked up for four years and showed promise in his short rookie season. He'll definitely provide the Pack with depth at the safety position in 2011, and will have the opportunity to compete with S Charlie Peprah who has taken over his starting role.
There's a good chance veteran S Atari Bigby will not be back with the team after dealing with injuries all season and with the younger Burnett now in the picture.
Josh Bell, CB
The Packers signed Josh Bell back in 2009 for depth after former CB Al Harris went on the IR, but he only appeared in four games.
In August 2010, Bell went on the IR himself because of a foot sprain, but mostly to clear up roster space.
The only way he'll be back on the Pack next season is if they need extra depth at cornerback. If everyone can stay healthy, Josh Bell will have a hard time finding a place in the Packers secondary.
Brandon Chillar, LB
Brandon Chillar signed a four-year deal in 2009 and could ultimately be the replacement for A.J. Hawk should he leave town.
He was also injured against the Lions in Week 4, and later sent on the IR because of his shoulder. There is no reason to believe he won't be at least a part-time performer for the Packers in 2011.
Jermichael Finley, TE
Jermichael Finley had a breakout year in 2009 and was one of QB Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets in the first four games of 2010 before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 5.
He was expected to have another great season in the Packers offense and be one of the leading tight ends in the league, but unfortunately he'll have to continue that success next year.
Finley said himself that he'll be catching passes from Rodgers for 10 more years, so although he'll have to make a new deal soon—there's no doubt he'll be back with the Pack.
There's no way that Ted Thompson and the Packers would relinquish such a valuable asset; Finley can make the offense even more lethal if he stays healthy.
Ryan Grant, HB
The first and probably the hardest blow to the Packers in 2010.
When Ryan Grant left the game against the Eagles in Week 1, he would never see the field again and Green Bay wouldn't see a running game again until the playoffs with the emergence of rookie James Starks.
Grant's healthy now, in fact he could even play in the Super Bowl had he not been placed on IR, and next year he'll take over at running back once again. It'll be interesting to see if Grant can stay ahead of Starks on the depth chart once he returns.
One of the biggest questions in Green Bay's backfield is Brandon Jackson. He hasn't put up big numbers, but he's a solid third-down back and receiver. Only time will tell if the Packers will offer him a new contract.
Justin Harrell, DE
Harrell has played in only 14 games in four seasons for the Pack because of backs injuries and the knee injury this season that sent him to the IR.
He's got a few years left on his contract if he can stay healthy, and will find himself buried on the depth chart when he returns to action.
Spencer Havner, TE
Spencer Havner, after being released in September, was re-signed by the Pack in November after Mark Tauscher went on the IR.
Havner himself followed the man who gave him a roster spot onto the IR with a hamstring injury.
He'll probably be released for a second time, unless the Packers find themselves in the same injury situation next season.
Brad Jones, LB
Brad Jones became the replacement for Aaron Kampman after his season-ending injury and signing with Jacksonville in 2009.
Jones hit the IR after a shoulder injury in Week 7, and is expected to be back to contribute on the defense next year.
Anthony Levine, S
Levine worked out for the Packers and was signed as a non-drafted free agent back in May 2010. He was a rookie this season and signed a three-year contract.
Anthony Levine will undoubtedly return with the chance to further prove his worth to the team on the practice squad.
Derrick Martin, S
Derrick Martin played three seasons with Baltimore before being traded to the Packers in 2009. He made an instant impact on special teams and was rewarded with the privilege of being named a playoff captain.
While he is more of a special teams contributor, he had a few opportunities at safety and picked off a pass in 2010 before going down with a knee injury in Week 5.
In February 2010, he signed a two-year contract extension. Martin will return to the Packers special teams unit next year, and as a reserve at the safety position.
Mike Neal, DE
Mike Neal was drafted by the Packers in 2010, and played in two games filling in on a depleted defensive line. In his limited opportunities he recorded three tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.
A shoulder injury sent him to the IR, but he was given a four-year contract upon being drafted. When he's ready to go again he'll contribute to a line led by B.J Raji and Ryan Pickett.
It is unclear whether DE Cullen Jenkins will be re-signed because his contract expires after this season, but his play, in my opinion, has proved him to be worthy of an extension.
The only question about Jenkins is his ability to stay healthy, as he missed most of the 2008 season and the last four games of this year's regular season because of multiple injuries.
Marshall Newhouse, G/T
Marshall Newhouse was a fifth-round pick in 2010, but didn't see the field much in his rookie season before being placed on the IR because of his back.
He signed a four-year deal so he'll back to compete for a starting spot. The careers of veterans Chad Clifton and Mark Taushcer are winding down, so if he plays well he may land a full-time job protecting Aaron Rodgers.
Brady Poppinga, LB
Poppinga has been on the Packers since 2005, and has been a factor on special teams and a solid force at linebacker.
He filled in for Clay Matthews when the second-year beast was sidelined, but hit the IR with a knee injury in mid-October.
With a few more years on his contract, Poppinga will be a back up on the linebacker squad in 2011, barring any injuries to the starters.
Anthony Smith, S
Anthony Smith was cut by the Packers in 2009, but returned to the team in a trade with Jacksonville in 2010.
He was sidelined with an ankle injury filling in at safety, and later placed on the IR to clear up roster space.
Smith's only shot at remaining with the Packers is if he is needed as a backup, and that is if there is room for him.
Mark Tauscher, T
Mark Tauscher has been with the team since 2000 and signed a two-year contract in 2010.
He'll most likely retire as a Packer after next season, unless he chooses to find a short-term contract with another team.
I don't think the Packers will re-sign him again because of his age and the fact he has been injury prone of late. Although, he has given Green Bay many solid seasons, it is finally time for Tauscher to say goodbye to Titletown.
The Pack Will Be Back
No matter what the outcome of Super Bowl XLV turns out to be, the Packers will continue their success in 2011.
With the return of Ryan Grant, their running game will have potential again and Finley's return will make the offense even more potent.
When Barnett, Burnett, and Chillar make it back, the defense will take their ability to dominate to the next level.
The Packers will be Super Bowl favorites again, that is if they stay healthy. Wait, never mind. Even if they have sixteen players on injured reserve, they'll still have a chance.
They proved that this year, so why should anybody ever doubt this team again?