Dom Capers took a philosophical approach to his banged-up group of inside linebackers.
“You prepare for the worst and, if you get good news, then you’re happy about that,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Thursday evening.
The Packers will line up a couple of people at that position for Sunday’s home game against the Houston Texans. Just who they’ll be is anyone’s guess at this point in the week.
Second-year starter Jake Ryan hasn’t played a snap on defense the last three weeks after injuring an ankle on a first-series punt at Tennessee on Nov. 13.
Rookie starter Blake Martinez sustained a knee sprain late in the game at Washington on Nov. 20 and didn’t play on Monday night at Philadelphia.
With both players inactive against the Eagles, Clay Matthews was moved from outside linebacker to inside linebacker and started alongside Joe Thomas.
Matthews, however, sustained an injured shoulder on the opening series when he was leveled by Eagles right tackle Allen Barbre on an end-around. Matthews played most of the game after going to the locker room for a painkilling injection.
Ryan was cautiously optimistic about his prospects for playing on Sunday.
“It feels good in practice but we will see.” Ryan said.
Without Ryan, the Packers gave up a 75-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray to open the game at Tennessee. Without Ryan and Martinez at the end of the Washington game, Rob Kelley tore through the defense for a 66-yard gain to seal the Redskins’ victory. Without both players for the Philadelphia game, the Eagles averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
Even while essentially missing the last three games, Ryan is the team’s leading tackler. Martinez is third on the team in tackles. When he went down at Washington, he feared he had suffered a significant injury.
“You always fear the worst,” he said. “It was just like, ‘Oh, no, it’s something in my knee.’ Yeah, I was kind of worried about it. Once I calmed down and started moving with it, I felt a lot better.”
Martinez, who didn’t practice last week, called Thursday a step in the right direction.
“It’s great to be out there with all the guys again,” he said. “It’s been crappy standing on the sideline and watching.”
While Matthews played well in his return to inside linebacker last week and could figure heavily into the Packers' plans again because of the Texans' strong running game, Capers is looking forward to having his starting tandem back together.
Whenever it happens.
“We’d love to have them both back,” Capers said. “Obviously, we like the way those guys were playing when they were in there together and they were healthy. We look forward to having them both back.”
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.