Injuries Trending In Painful Direction

A year after the Packers were relatively healthy — especially compared to 2010 — the injury bug has returned with a vengeance. Desmond Bishop sustained a potentially serious injury on Thursday night. We analyze what it means for the defense and D.J. Smith.

Injuries tend to run in cycles.

In 2010, the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl with 15 players on season-ending injured reserve, a list that included six starters.

In 2011, the Packers went 15-1 with six players on injured reserve, with only Nick Collins being a starter.

It's early, but 2012 could be a painful year.

The Packers had 18 players not in uniform for Thursday night's preseason loss at San Diego, including receiver Greg Jennings and left tackle Marshall Newhouse with concussions. The list grew longer with what could be a major blow for a defense that's looking for answers after last year's disastrous performance.

On the first play of San Diego's second possession, standout inside linebacker Desmond Bishop sustained a potentially serious injury to his right leg while tackling San Diego's Ryan Mathews. Bishop was helped off the field, with coach Mike McCarthy saying the early prognosis is a knee sprain and possible hamstring injury.

"You don't want to see any of your players get hurt," McCarthy said. "We left a lot of people at home. Injuries were an issue for us coming into this game. Desmond's injury didn't look very good. Hopefully we'll get some good news as further testing goes on. It's up in the air, talking to Dr. McKenzie."

Bishop, who missed three games last season as well as the start of training camp with calf injuries, reportedly was on crutches in the locker room and wearing a large brace.

Bishop was replaced by D.J. Smith. Smith, then a rookie sixth-round pick, was impressive last season with games of nine, 12 and nine tackles when in the starting lineup. In the base defense and nickel package, Smith figures to line up with A.J. Hawk. When Bishop was out in training camp, Smith was the lone inside linebacker used in dime.

"He did really good," Bishop said earlier in the week when asked about Smith. "He was himself. Very smart, instinctive, definitely reminded me a lot of myself. I just tell him, ‘You've got to keep working and you'll be able to get everything that you want. You just have to be a bit patient, but just keep getting better.'"

Smith's a solid player but Bishop is the one dynamic player in the position group. Last season, he set career highs with 142 tackles and five sacks while forcing two fumbles, Defensive coordinator Dom Capers used Bishop frequently as a blitzer but wasn't afraid to match him up against top tight ends.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, Bishop had a run stop on 10.9 percent of his snaps against the run (28 stops in 258 snaps). That rate led the team's inside linebackers, with Smith second at 8.2 percent (eight stops in 97 run snaps). Bishop ranked fourth in the NFL among inside/middle linebackers with one missed tackle for every 17.6 attempts. Smith didn't get enough snaps to qualify among the leaders but was a tad better than Bishop with one missed tackle for every 18.0 attempts. .

"You've got to be excited about him," inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said of Smith during offseason workouts. "He came in last year without an offseason, and by the end of the year had a substantial grasp of this defense to where we obviously felt comfortable putting him in. He's in a tough position where he has guys in front of him that have stripes. He will have to continue to work hard and do the things that we're asking him to do, and if he wants to play more, he's going to have to take somebody's job. It's as simple as that."

A second potential significant injury was sustained by cornerback Davon House (shoulder) while serving as a gunner on the punt team in the third quarter. House was outstanding on defense and solidified his front-runner status as the second cornerback in the base defense (when Charles Woodson is at safety) and the third cornerback in nickel. He was in excellent position to deny a third-down pass on the first series, knifed into the backfield to drop the runner for a loss of 3 yards in the second quarter and had a couple of physical tackles after giving up catches.

"I'm pleased with where Davon is," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said on Tuesday. "I'm excited to see how he does under the lights. He's right on track, and I'm very pleased with him."

The severity of injuries to House and Sam Shields (elbow on Monday) is unknown but potentially serves as a knife through what was one of the team's deepest positions — deep on paper, at least. That leaves Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush and second-round pick Casey Hayward, along with Brandian Ross and undrafted rookies Dion Turner and Otis Merrill.

The list of Packers in street clothes or left at home: Woodson, RBs Duane Bennett and Brandon Saine, FB Jon Hoese, CB Sam Shields, TEs Eric Lair, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor and Jermichael Finley, LB Frank Zombo, DL Johnny Jones and Mike Daniels, OL Reggie Wells, Ray Dominquez, Newhouse and Sherrod, and WRs Jennings and Tori Gurley.

Along with Bishop and House, receivers Diondre Borel (groin) and Shaky Smithson (ankle) joined the list of the walking wounded.


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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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