Injury Bug Swarms Beat-Up Packers

Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley and Clay Matthews potentially could miss next week's game. All three players will undergo further testing on Monday. Finley and Matthews didn't think their injuries were too serious. Still, the Packers had chances to win.

Aaron Rodgers: concussion.

Clay Matthews: hamstring.

Ryan Pickett: ankle.

Jermichael Finley: hamstring tendon.

Donald Lee: shoulder.

Derrick Martin: knee.

Throw in those six injuries with Ryan Grant and Morgan Burnett on injured reserve, nickel linebacker Brandon Chillar (shoulder) and third corner Sam Shields (calf) missing a second consecutive game, Nick Barnett (wrist) possibly out for the year and Mark Tauscher (shoulder) out for Sunday, and the Packers' injury situation is at a critical level.

"In 10 years, I've never seen it like this before," Pickett said after the 16-13 loss in overtime at Washington. "I just hope we're getting them all out of the way so we're good later in the season."

Matthews said this injury isn't nearly as bad as what happened on Family Night, which kept him out for a month. Finley's injury is different than the knee sprain that kept him out for three weeks last week. The severity of Rodgers' concussion was not known. All three players could miss next week's game against Miami.

"It was a challenge," coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think when you have injuries, you have to make the appropriate game-plan changes. I felt that we had some spots in the red zone, particularly in the first quarter, that we were able to be smart. Particularly the two injuries to your veteran tight ends took us out of some packages, but overall I thought the players really stepped up today."

Had Rodgers' interception not been turned into the winning field goal by Washington, backup Matt Flynn would have taken over at quarterback. Rodgers was hit high by Jeremy Jarmon on the interception. Further testing will be done on Monday and throughout the week in accordance to the NFL's concussion policy. The Bears went without Jay Cutler this week after he sustained a concussion last week at the Giants, so Rodgers' starts streak could end at 37 games.

Even with injuries to some of their most important players, the Packers felt like they let another game slip away. While the defense suffered without Matthews, it easily played well enough to win with just 13 points allowed in regulation.


Donald Lee celebrates his touchdown, then went to the locker room with a shoulder injury.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Mike Neal did a fine job picking up the slack for an injured Pickett. He had his first NFL sack and helped limit the Redskins' running backs to 41 yards on 17 attempts. Desmond Bishop had 13 tackles and a sack in place of Barnett. While Barnett and Chillar are the team's best linebackers in passing situations, standout tight end Chris Cooley (seven catches, 69 yards) certainly wasn't the deciding factor while working frequently against Bishop and A.J. Hawk. The Packers missed Burnett's speed on a couple of long passes but Charlie Peprah added a physical, sure-tackling dimension.

"It'll be interesting to see when our injury report comes out to see what the status is going to be of guys moving forward this next week," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Because, obviously, you start moving people around. We moved Jarrett Bush to safety. He took a lot of reps at safety this week, so we put Pat Lee in at nickel. We left (Charles) Woodson outside. Desmond Bishop played the whole game. We worked Brady (Poppinga) at outside and inside linebacker because if we had an injury, he'd have had to go inside. We ended up with Pickett going out early and with Clay going out you had (Frank) Zombo and Brad (Jones), and Brad's just been coming back from his injury."

On offense, Bryan Bulaga held up well in his starting debut at right tackle but he blew a blitz that helped lead to a sack and his false start on the first drive of overtime turned a third-and-7 into a third-and-12.

Losing Finley was huge, even though Quarless had four catches — including a 21-yard catch and run that put the Packers in position to win a the end of regulation. Finley, who has an MRI scheduled for Monday morning, has become a go-to player, and without him, the Packers went 2-for-13 on third down.

Suddenly, a team that embraced the Super Bowl chatter at the start of training camp is 3-2 and has been hammered by injuries. The league isn't going to postpone next week's home game against Miami out of sympathy. Simply, the Packers must find a way to play winning football for 60 minutes rather than in fits and starts on offense (427 yards but just one touchdown and seven dropped passes) and defense (no takeaways and five first downs allowed by penalties).

"I don't think about expectations," McCarthy said. "We're going to get back, we're going to get our team healthy, we're going to get the guys ready to play next week at home against Miami. I answer expectation questions all the time. Our expectation is week to week. That's the realm you're in at this time of year. We're a 3-2 football team and there's many reasons why we're 3-2. We need to improve and get guys ready to play. We can't control the injuries and we really don't spend a whole lot of time discussing those types of things or worrying about them."


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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