For the fourth consecutive week, all five of the Green Bay Packers’ starting offensive linemen are on the injury report. You have to go all the way back to Week 9 against Carolina for all five starters to be full participants at all three practices.
Those problems reached critical mass last week, when left tackle David Bakhtiari missed the game with an ankle injury and right tackle Bryan Bulaga missed most of the second half with an ankle injury. The result: nine sacks in a 38-8 loss to the Cardinals.
“It’s tough when guys are shuffling around and new guys are playing new positions and they haven’t played next to each other,” Bulaga said following Wednesday’s practice. “It’s a tough deal. While it is tough to do that, when guys are put in there, they’re expected to win and perform at a high level.”
Before Thursday’s practice, coach Mike McCarthy said it would take all week to get a gauge on whether Bakhtiari and Bulaga would be ready for Sunday’s NFC North championship game vs. Minnesota. Just like Wednesday, Bakhtiari did not practice while Bulaga, left guard Josh Sitton (back), right guard T.J. Lang (shoulder) and center Corey Linsley (ankle) were limited.
“For the most part, we’ve handled it,” McCarthy said of the injuries. “Last week, we didn’t handle it. Without getting into specifics or anything, just some things that we were trying to get done, supposed to get done, we did not. It’s definitely something we’ll learn from. I really like our group. It’s clearly the most flexible group we’ve had in my time here and it’s definitely the deepest offensive line group. As I’ve stated earlier and a number of times before, this is the best offensive line we’ve had in my time in Green Bay.”
The return of Bakhtiari and Bulaga would be huge against a powerful Vikings defense. Bakhtiari hadn’t been charged with a sack in his past nine games. Without him, Don Barclay gave up four to the Cardinals. When Bulaga dropped out early in the third quarter, Josh Walker gave up a sack-strip before he was replaced by J.C. Tretter.
Bakhtiari said he felt "210 percent" but jokingly added, "my scale, I can't tell you that." If Bakhtiari can't play, the Packers might have to explore options other than Barclay. One possibility would be Tretter, who played left tackle at Cornell.
Bulaga, who said he was rolled into by “two or three guys” as Rodgers tried to escape to his right and was sacked, said he’s in day-by-day mode.
“I knew I’d be able to do some stuff,” he said. “Testing it out, pushing off it and seeing how it felt and also just wanting to be involved in the game plan. I want to stay fresh on what’s going on and any adjustments we’re making so I can actually go out there and do what we’ve put in.”
Along with Bakhtiari, defensive tackle Mike Daniels (groin), tight end Justin Perillo (hamstring), outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott (quad) and outside linebacker Mike Neal (hip) did not participate. Nose tackle B.J. Raji was back after exiting the Arizona game with a concussion. Sam Shields, who has missed the last two games with a concussion, practiced again.
Once again, linebacker Clay Matthews (ankle) was full participation. He had been limited at all nine practices the past three weeks.
“Probably last week might have been the first week when my foot, the whole deal from Denver, really started turning the corner,” Matthews said. “Hopefully it’s the right time headed into the playoffs and hopefully there’s zero limitations. It felt good to be a full participant and take the reps that I needed to out there. I’m feeling good and excited about physically how I feel at this point in the season.”
Packers Injury Report
Player (injury): Wednesday, Thursday
LT David Bakhtiari (ankle): DNP, DNP
RT Bryan Bulaga (ankle): Limited, Limited
DT Mike Daniels (groin): DNP, DNP
OLB Jayrone Elliott (quad): DNP, DNP
DT Letroy Guion (foot): Limited, Limited
CB Casey Hayward (ankle): Limited, Full
RB Eddie Lacy (rib): Limited, Limited
G T.J. Lang (shoulder): Limited, Limited
C Corey Linsley (ankle): Limited, Limited
LB Clay Matthews (ankle): Full, Full
OLB Mike Neal (hip): DNP, DNP
TE Justin Perillo (hamstring): DNP, DNP
OLB Nick Perry (shoulder): Full, Limited
DT B.J. Raji (concussion): DNP, Limited
CB Sam Shields (concussion): Limited, Limited
G Josh Sitton (back): Limited, Limited
Vikings Injury Report
Player (Injury): Wednesday, Thursday
DT Sharriff Floyd (knee): Limited, Limited
DE Everson Griffen (shoulder): Limited, DNP
S Anthony Harris (hip): Full, Full
DT Linval Joseph (foot): DNP, DNP
LT Matt Kalil (lower leg): Limited, Full
RB Adrian Peterson (ankle/shoulder): DNP, DNP
S Harrison Smith (hamstring): Limited, Limited
WR Adam Thielen (low back): Full, Full
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.