Next Man Up Becomes Featured Player Again

Just like the British in 1939 and the Packers in 2010, it's time to "Keep Calm and Carry On." With 30 percent of the roster filled by rookies and first-year players, the Packers will lean on their remaining established veterans and a bunch of untested players. That's been a winning formula in the past.

2010?

How about 1939?

That's the vintage of the World War II poster that coach Mike McCarthy used as a rallying cry for his bruised, broken and battered Green Bay Packers.

"No one is overreacting," McCarthy said in the middle of yet another press conference dominated by injury news. "Our theme is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.' So, you historians probably appreciate that. In 1939 (posters were) issued by the British government right before World War II in anticipation of the bombing of the major cities. So, that's what we're talking about."

The British won World War II. So, why can't the Packers win another championship with their roster being bombed by broken this and strained that?

In 2010, the Packers won the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers was named MVP of that game but Next Man Up was the team's MVP. A whopping 15 players wound up on season-ending injured reserve. They lost a league-high 91 games from their preferred starters. And yet, they found a way without Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley and Mark Tauscher on offense, and Morgan Burnett, Nick Barnett and Brad Jones on defense.

For this season, Bryan Bulaga and DuJuan Harris are on season-ending injured reserve and Randall Cobb is on short-term injured reserve. Casey Hayward hasn't played a snap. Burnett missed the first three games. Clay Matthews has missed one-and-three-quarters games and will miss at least a couple more. Nick Perry is out for at least a couple games.

They finished Sunday's win at Baltimore with two wide receivers. They might have only two outside linebackers for Sunday's game against Cleveland.

"I've seen stuff like it here, being here," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "You know, the last four or five years, (it) seems like we've had some times where we've gone through a rash of injuries like this but, I mean, I think coach said it. He said, ‘What can you do?' You can't sit here and feel sorry for yourself and really ask why."

If there's a silver lining, many of the injured players can come back. If they can just survive until the calvary arrives, if they can stay afloat and get into the playoffs, Matthews and Hayward and Cobb should be back and the depth should be beyond compare.

"That was crazy how many guys, how many starters got put on IR (in 2010) and we were able to turn it around and squeak into the playoffs and put a run together," Hawk said. "Anything can happen. We know how hard it is though to win in this league. I mean, just look at last week. We battle the whole time and came out on top. I think everyone kind of realizes that, though, even the young guys now. They come in, they're ready."

So, it's Next Man Up, and they had better be ready. With tight end Jake Stoneburner and receiver Myles White promoted from the practice squad, the Packers have 16 rookies and first-year players on the roster. That's a whopping 30 percent of the roster that had never played a professional game until this season.

That's a lot of Next Men Up who need to be wearing name tags.

It will be up to the coaches to replace proven veterans with unproven youngsters with nary a drop-off.

As defensive coordinator Dom Capers put it back in early September, when he was asked about Jamari Lattimore's prospects for getting some playing time amid a glut of talent at linebacker: "I always tell those guys, if you're setting in this meeting room, you better not take it for granted that you're not going to play because you're one play away from being in there, and you owe it to everybody in that room to make sure you're ready to go."

And it will be up to Rodgers and Jordy Nelson and Hawk and Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji and the other established standouts. More than ever, it'll be up to Rodgers to make plays big and small. It will be up to Nelson to make plays while being the focal point for opposing defenses. And it will be up to the defense to play a complete game.

In other words, "Keep Calm and Carry On."

"It's a good message, very good message. Don't panic," Rodgers said. "I said it last year before the Houston game: I don't care what's going on outside the facility. Inside the facility, we have to stay focused on the things that we can control. I'm excited about the guys that are going to be lining up with us, excited about the young guys and their opportunities, and I can't wait to see how we play on Sunday."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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