Packers Alive Despite Injuries

The Packers have been hit harder than the other NFC playoff contenders — especially the Bears, who have none of their preferred starters on injured reserve.

The Green Bay Packers will play for a playoff berth on Sunday against Chicago.

Well, what passes as the Packers.

The Packers have six of their preferred starters on injured reserve and they've lost 77 games from 10 starters entering the regular-season finale against the Bears.

By contrast, the Bears don't have a single starter on injured reserve and only backup linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer could even be considered a key player.

"You don't talk a lot about injuries," Bears coach Lovie Smith told Packers beat reporters in a conference call on Wednesday. "To me, it says a lot about the depth of their team, that they continue to win, losing some of those players. I know they've lost some good players, but the core of their team is still in place and it's showing in the games. They've played good throughout the year, but last week seemed to get it all together."

How important is it to be healthy? In the NFC, Atlanta and Chicago figure to have the first-round byes. Neither team has a starter on injured reserve.

Only the Buccaneers have more starters on injured reserve than the Packers among the NFC playoff contenders (seven), including starting offensive linemen Jeff Faine and Davin Joseph and big-play cornerback Aqib Talib.

"The thing that's most impressive, a lot is made of injuries this time of the season with every team," Saints coach Sean Payton said this week. "But you maybe will find one or two other teams that have lost as many starters as Tampa has, and yet each week they've improved. They're playing at a high level. They've had some big wins of late."

Still, the Buccaneers' injured reserve list includes just 31 games lost from their preferred starters. Green Bay has lost double-digits games from Ryan Grant, Morgan Burnett, Nick Barnett, Mark Tauscher and Jermichael Finley. The Bucs' injuries have come late in the season.

"You'll never hear us use injuries as an excuse," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "We haven't once this year. We've had our share — it's a fact. I think we've had guys step in. I think that if you start using that as a crutch and taking a victim mentality, then all of a sudden, that's the approach that everyone around you takes. Whether it's Clay Matthews or Brad Jones or Brady Poppinga or Frank Zombo or Erik Walden, whoever we put out there, we expect them to play and play at a high level. I think for the most part, all of those guys have done that. I think if you take another approach, they might not feel the sense of urgency and the sense of responsibility to go out there and play."

Here's a look at the injuries among the NFC contenders:

Green Bay Packers: 14. Starters (6): T Mark Tauscher, S Morgan Burnett, LB Brad Jones, TE Jermichael Finley, RB Ryan Grant, LB Nick Barnett.

Chicago Bears: Three. Starters: None.

Philadelphia Eagles: 10. Starters (5): Starting S Nate Allen, DE Brandon Graham, CB Ellis Hobbs, C Jamaal Jackson, FB Leonard Weaver.

New York Giants: 14. Starters (2): FB Madison Hedgecock, WR Steve Smith.

Atlanta Falcons: 4. Starters: None.

New Orleans Saints: 10. Starters: None.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 13. Starters (7): CB Aqib Talib, C Jeff Faine, G Davin Joseph, DT Gerald McCoy, S Cody Grimm, DE Kyle McCoy, LB Quincy Black.

St. Louis Rams: 10. Starters (3): WR Donnie Avery, WR Mark Clayton, LB Na'il Diggs.

Seattle Seahawks: 11. Starters (2): G Max Unger, DE Red Bryant.


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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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