"We just got the confirmation on both Al Harris and Aaron Kampman's results and both individuals will have season-ending knee surgery," McCarthy said during his Monday morning news conference. "It will be a big challenge for our football team. Both Aaron and Al have meant a lot to us and our football team. Both have over 100-plus starts. I just think about it, walking down here after visiting with Aaron, not seeing 74 and 31 in the huddle, it's going to be different. It's a challenge. Our younger players, they're going to have to step up and get ready on a short week for Detroit."
McCarthy spoke to Harris on Sunday night and Kampman on Monday morning. Both mentally are "as good as can be expected" McCarthy said, and he's hopeful both will bounce back from the injuries because they're in such good shape.
But with Kampman a free agent at the end of the season, he might have played his last game with the Packers. Kampman turns 30 at the end of the month and has been a good but not great fit in the new defensive scheme. Harris' long-term prospects with the team are in question, as well. While he's under contract through 2011, he is the Packers' oldest player and turns 35 in December.
"I would hope not, but those are all questions for the future," McCarthy said when asked about Kampman's future. "Right now, we just want to make sure they get the best care, just like we do for all of our players and just make sure we're part of their decisions and help them the best that we can. They've meant a lot to our organization and have been great representatives of the Green Bay Packers. We want to make sure they're taken care of."
Tramon Williams will replace Harris in the starting lineup at right cornerback, but McCarthy isn't sure about who will replace Williams in the nickel and who would be the fourth corner in the dime. At outside linebacker, the coaches will determine who will replace Kampman during their meetings on Monday. Thursday's matchup against Detroit will weigh into that decision.
Mike McCarthy and teammates surround Al Harris.
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
At outside linebacker, the Packers like their depth and probably won't go on shopping on the waiver wire. Rookie seventh-round pick Brad Jones played well while starting for Kampman last week against Dallas, and veteran Brady Poppinga and second-year player Jeremy Thompson are in the mix, too. Linebacker Brandon Chillar probably will stay on the inside. The in-house cornerbacks are Jarrett Bush and rookie sixth-round pick Brandon Underwood. Derrick Martin, who played some cornerback for Baltimore, likely will stay at safety.
Former Packer Mike McKenzie is one of the veteran street free agents available at cornerback, as is Patrick Surtain.
McCarthy said no roster moves would be made today, and there's no guarantee the team will have its 53-man roster filled by Thursday.
In the cold, hard reality of professional sports, life goes on. The Packers have six games remaining in the regular season and the playoffs are very much within their grasp as one of three teams at 6-4 vying for two wild-card spots.
"It's the National Football League. Really, our hurt right now is for the individual, just because of what Aaron and Al have (meant). You don't ever want to see the individual go through this but it's part of the game. You have to overcome injuries. It's something you can't control. We're going to play the game just like we always play the game against Detroit. We're going to play to win. Our coaches need to be creative. These are challenges that you don't always prepare for, but this is what your offseason program (is for), to give you flexibility to overcome these types of situations. This is a challenge that we'll meet and this is the challenge that we're working on today. It's the National Football League. You lose good players."
Riding a two-game winning streak in which the offense lit up the 49ers on Sunday and the defense played six smothering quarters against Dallas and San Francisco before giving up some big plays with the game in hand in the second half on Sunday, McCarthy says there's plenty to build on, even after the loss of Kampman and Harris. With a standout quarterback and an improving running game, the offense will have to pick up some of the slack.
"Our goal is to outscore them every week. We have that ability," McCarthy said. "The most important thing for us offensively is to stay balanced. I felt, for the most part, we were balanced in yesterday's football game. When you have the ability to run the football and the things that come off of the run game, everything improves. It improves your play-action pass, it improves your pass protection. We feel our perimeter's as good as anybody's in the league. We feel very confident that we can play whatever game we need to play. We're still going to be aggressive on defense. We will meet the challenge. Our younger players will step up and we will keep this thing going."