Bulaga, Grant Out; Collins Has Surgery

Fifteen players are on the final injury report and five are listed as out, including safety Nick Collins, who had neck surgery. Meanwhile, the team is especially short-handed at outside linebacker behind starters Clay Matthews and Erik Walden.

Bryan Bulaga and Ryan Grant will join Mike Neal, Frank Zombo and Nick Collins on the sideline for the Green Bay Packers' game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Grant (bruised kidney) and Bulaga (sprained and bruised left knee) were ruled out for the game by coach Mike McCarthy on Friday.

"There's a protocol that you have to go through and the staff does not feel that he's ready to go," McCarthy said of Grant. "I'm sure Ryan would like to go but he's not been released from the medical staff. Same thing with Bryan Bulaga."

McCarthy said Bulaga's "ahead of schedule" based the medical staff's prognosis on the Monday after last week's game against Chicago. Whether or not he might be able to play at Atlanta next week, however, is unknown.

"He's moving quickly. He's got a great attitude and he's pushing it. We'll probably know more next Wednesday before we practice. He's made a lot of progress and they're very encouraged."

Without Bulaga, 2010 fifth-round pick Marshall Newhouse will make his first career start.

"It's exciting for him, personally," McCarthy said. "We have a lot of confidence in Marshall, just the way we placed our game planning. He did a good job down there in Chicago. He needs to take that next step, clear this next hurdle. It's one thing to go into a game as a backup and replace somebody, but now he's prepared and ready to go for 60 minutes. He's had the full week of preparation, and I think he's done a nice job."

Collins has surgery; future in limbo

Three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins had surgery on his neck, with agent Alan Herman saying the procedure was a success but his client's football future is uncertain.

"Does he continue his career? Is there an issue there that the doctor's recommendation is that he doesn't play? We won't know that answer for another six months," Herman told ESPN Milwaukee's Jason Wilde.

"There's no answer right now. We're not going to know for six months. But there's no a doubt in my mind Nick Collins wants to play football provided he's healthy. He's 28 years old and has got a bunch of years ahead of him if he recovers from this. But he's also a smart guy, and if there's a risk of potentially hurting himself, then Nick will make the right decision."

According to Herman, Dr. Frank Cammisa, the chief of the Spine Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, did a "single spine fusion" in which the ruptured disc was removed, with bone from Collins' hip fused in its place.

"There isn't really a big body of research on players who have had fusions who have returned to play," Herman said. "Yes, there have been players who've had fusions who have played, and there are guys who've had it who haven't played. There wasn't any percentage. Everybody's different. It all depends on the healing process. If the signals throughout his spinal cord are normal, if there's no narrowing of the spinal column, then he has a chance."

Short-handed at linebacker

The injury report is filled with outside linebackers. While Clay Matthews (probable) and Erik Walden will start, the backups have been slammed by bumps and bruises. No. 3 outside linebacker Brad Jones is questionable with a hamstring. Undrafted rookie Jamari Lattimore is questionable with a shoulder. Frank Zombo has been out with a broken scapula. That means undrafted rookie Vic So'oto, who's been out since injuring his back before the season opener, will figure prominently on special teams and might get some action on defense.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers listed So'oto and inside linebacker Robert Francois, who played on the outside last year, as his top options.

"Those two guys, basically," Capers said.

Packers injury report

Out — RT Bryan Bulaga (knee); S Nick Collins (neck); RB Ryan Grant (kidney); DE Mike Neal (knee); OLB Frank Zombo (shoulder). Questionable — OLB Brad Jones (hamstring); OLB Jamari Lattimore (shoulder); CB Pat Lee (back). Probable — LT Chad Clifton (knee); TE Jermichael Finley (ankle); OLB Clay Matthews (quad); DE Ryan Pickett (foot); OLB Vic So'oto (back); CB Tramon Williams (shoulder); CB Charles Woodson (knee/foot).

Broncos injury report

Out — WR Eddie Royal (groin); WR Demaryius Thomas (finger); TE Julius Thomas (ankle). Questionable — CB Champ Bailey (hamstring); DE Elvis Dumervil (shoulder); DT Marcus Thomas (groin). Probable — RB Knowshon Moreno (hamstring); LB D.J. Williams (elbow).

Four-point stance

— McCarthy said his primary ball-carriers will be James Starks and John Kuhn, with third-round pick Alex Green third on the pecking order. Green, however, will "get in there at some point" and see action on special teams.

— With Marshall Newhouse promoted to the lineup, first-round pick Derek Sherrod would be the left tackle should something happen to starter Chad Clifton.

— Zombo had an X-ray on his broken scapula on Thursday. McCarthy said only that Zombo is "getting better" — which might be code that he won't be ready to return to practice next week.

— McCarthy was pleased with the week's work. "Good week of practice. I felt that after yesterday's practice film that we're close to being ready to go. We had, I think, a couple things to clean up this morning on both offense and defense and Shawn hit the rest of the phases that he needed to hit today in special teams. But, they have tight energy, they're excited about playing at home, I actually had to tone it down a little bit in the meetings this morning. They're full of energy, and they're excited to play at home 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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