Starting offensive lineman T.J. Lang was among six players held out of the Green Bay Packers’ practice on Thursday.
While McCarthy said he’ll give those players “every opportunity” to play on Sunday night, early indications are Lang will not play and undrafted rookie Don Barclay will make his first NFL start at right tackle against the Detroit Lions.
Barclay played well when thrust into action during the first quarter against Minnesota last week.
“It was good. It was definitely nice getting my feet wet,” Barclay said. “I’ve watched the film a couple times and I took a lot of things away from it with different stuff I can work on to get ready for this week.”
Barclay earned strong reviews from the coaching staff, with the highest praise coming from McCarthy, who said he didn’t deviate from his game plan with Barclay in the lineup.
“He went through the first couple series, like anyone probably would, you’ve got to get into a rhythm with the guy next to you, and I think he did that,” offensive line coach James Campen said on Thursday. “He came out in the second half and made the corrections on the fly, which is a good trait to have, and adjusted well on the sideline. He did a good job.”
Meanwhile, the Packers figure to be short-handed on the defensive line. Defensive ends C.J. Wilson (knee) and Mike Neal (shoulder) were out again, meaning Green Bay is down to B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels.
It’s a calculated gamble but the Packers can get by with four as long as there are no other injuries. When the Packers played the Lions last month, they played nickel or dime on every defensive snap, meaning they never had more than two defensive linemen on the field.
“If we have four, we go with four,” McCarthy said. “We’ve gone with four before. Also have the option of doing something at the end of the week from a roster standpoint. That’s what we’re looking at.”
Jordan Miller (6-1, 309) is the lone defensive lineman on the practice squad. Miller, an undrafted rookie last year, spent training camp and the first 15 games of the regular season on the Bears’ practice squad before being promoted for the finale. Signed to Green Bay’s practice squad on Oct. 23, he has not taken a regular-season snap in his career.
Packers injury report
Did not participate: RB James Starks (knee); LB Clay Matthews (hamstring); G/T T.J. Lang (ankle); WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring); DE Mike Neal (shoulder); DE C.J. Wilson (knee). Limited: WR Donald Driver (thumb); LB Terrell Manning (shoulder); C Jeff Saturday (foot); DB Charles Woodson (collarbone). Full: CB Sam Shields (ankle).
Woodson was “very limited,” according to McCarthy, but did participate in the padded practice, which would hint that the Packers are aiming to get him back on the field next week for an NFC North showdown against Chicago. That seems to be the plan, as well, for Matthews, though he was held out of practice.
The only change was Shields going from limited to full.
Lions injury report
Did not participate: DT Nick Fairley (quad); DT Corey Williams (knee). Limited: T Jeff Backus (hamstring); T Gosder Cherilus (knees); S Louis Delmas (knee); CB Chris Houston (ankle); DE Lawrence Jackson (concussion); CB Jacob Lacey (foot/Achilles). Full: WR Kassim Osgood (finger); LB Ashlee Palmer (thumb).
Fairley was downgraded while Cherilus, Delmas, Houston and Lacey -- all starters -- returned to work.
-- In Time magazine, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell floated a proposal that would do away with kickoffs in the name of player safety. After a score, the “kicking” team would be given a fourth-and-15 from its 30-yard line. The team could punt or go for a first down with either an offensive play or fake punt. “I read it this morning,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. “It would change the game quite a bit. I think there’s some things that will be different. I think the field position will change. Punting the ball will be less predictable than a kickoff in terms of the flight of the ball. I haven’t had a chance to really digest it all but I think it would definitely have an effect on the game.”
-- Running backs coach Alex Van Pelt, on Ryan Grant: “It would be unfair to him to put him in there and give him a ton of carries in this game and expect him to do a lot and step in and not miss a beat. There’s obviously some rust to knock off after coming off of a break from football. The best part about it is he’s done it before. He’s been productive in the past. He’s helped win big games here with the same teammates. It’s good to have a familiar face back in there (and) familiarity in the system, as well.”
-- Speaking of running backs, 5-foot-8 DuJuan Harris has caught the coaches’ eye. The big question is whether he can pass protect. “That’s rule No. 1,” Van Pelt said. “You’ve got to be able to protect the quarterback or else you don’t get on the field.”
-- The Packers practiced in pads on Thursday. They have one padded practice left for the remainder of the regular season. That one will not be used next week, with the team coming off a Sunday night game.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.