“Next guy up.”
That was linebackers coach Winston Moss’ answer to how the Green Bay Packers move on without sacks leader Nick Perry.
But what happens when you’re running out of next men up?
Perry is out indefinitely with an injured hand. Clay Matthews has a bad shoulder. Kyler Fackrell most likely will miss a third consecutive game. Outside linebacker was arguably the deepest position on the team entering the season. Not anymore.
At times like this, you can laugh or you can cry.
Moss chose to laugh.
“Datone Jones. Julius Peppers. Jayrone Elliott,” Moss said in rattling off the remaining names on the depth chart.
And then he added, “Winston Moss.”
OK, so maybe that one is unrealistic — the open spot on the roster notwithstanding. But the Packers are going to need big efforts from Jones, Peppers and an injured Matthews if they’re going to upset the Seahawks on Sunday afternoon.
The play of Matthews, in particular, had Moss — who played linebacker in the NFL for 11 seasons — speaking with admiration. Never mind that Matthews didn’t record a single tackle against Houston.
“I just know that from my playing days, I’ve had a lot of bumps and bruises that I’ve had to play through, and it takes a lot,” Moss said.
Moss pointed to a bump popping up from behind his left shoulder, the result of “the separation of shoulders and torn pec(toral)” muscles from a career that included 146 starts.
“To be able to fight through and play through those issues and now having to deal with some of that as I’ve gotten older, those guys really put a lot on the line,” Moss continued. “They put a lot on the line when they know they’re not healthy and they’re (being) unselfish and really give themselves up for the team. Clay epitomized giving himself up for this team because he knows how important it is for us to try to do as well as he can. We’re in a mode now in which we don’t have any more mulligans. Clay took the shot, so I commend him on giving all that he had, and that to me, point blank, that says a lot.”
Matthews said he knew the shoulder wasn’t healthy enough for him to be an impact player after the first three snaps against Houston. He played 26 more.
Matthews said the injury “has really progressed.” Still, he might not be healthy enough to deliver a vintage Matthews performance. That puts the onus on Jones and Peppers to make life difficult for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Jones, with his power, will be asked to fill Perry’s sizable void.
“We count on Datone any chance he gets into the ball game,” Moss said. “We’re going to find a way to put guys on the field that can contribute and can perform at a high level and can make plays and help us win. Datone will just be another one of those parts. I’ve got to say, Datone has been doing some really good things all year. Go back and look. Datone got after it pretty good. So I feel good that if he’s in there and doing his thing, it should help us out.”
Peppers, with his streak of three consecutive games with a sack, will need to continue his late-season resurgence.
“I’m not sure this was the plan — to have everybody get injured to where I’d be forced to play more — but that’s the way it’s worked out,” Peppers said. “And I feel good. There’s only four games left. I can play four more games. Four for-sure games. Obviously, we’re hoping for the playoffs, but I’m talking about four regular-season games. I could do that, easily.”
So, the Packers will make do with what they’ve got.
And no, Moss isn’t part of the equation, though he appears to be in tremendous shape. He’ll turn 51 on Christmas Eve.
Said Moss: “They would have to run directly at me and the ball-carrier would have to literally fall into my lap to be a factor.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.