Packers' Future Riddled With Injuries

If the Vikings are concerned about the Packers mounting a comeback in the second half of the season like they did last year, Green Bay will have to do it without some of their top offensive playmakers, two of which were injured against the Vikings.

It's hard to think the Packers, firmly entrenched in last place in the NFC North, will be able to mount a second-half challenge for the title in what otherwise is a mediocre division still up for grabs.

After coughing up a 17-0 halftime lead and letting host Minnesota revive its seemingly hopeless season with a 23-20 victory Sunday, the Packers' collective psyche was dealt a major blow as they dropped to 1-5.

"At 0-4, you feel like you're in a dark place," linebacker Nick Barnett said of the Packers' initial horrid start. "Now that we're 1-5, it still feels like a dark place. It's not a great feeling. If you have the heart of a champion, it hurts."

Yet, repercussions from a physical standpoint will sting for a longer time with the three-time reigning division champion. The Packers will head to Cincinnati this weekend without much of an offense to speak of, at least in terms of recognizable, impact players.

An extensive injury list grew substantially longer when featured running back Ahman Green and starting wide receiver Robert Ferguson were taken off the Metrodome turf with serious leg injuries.

Green aggravated a strained quadriceps tendon above his right knee about midway through the fourth quarter. He had missed the Packers' previous game, a 52-3 win over New Orleans on Oct. 9 prior to the bye, because of the injury that also entailed a bruised knee.

The indefinite loss of Green, whose season-long running woes persisted before he got hurt again, leaves the offense in a serious bind. Top backup Najeh Davenport suffered a season-ending broken ankle as Green's replacement in the New Orleans game.

Now, the Packers will have to count on third-down specialist Tony Fisher, with only one start in his four-year pro career, and unproven journeyman ReShard Lee to try to bolster a running attack that ranks among the league's worst and has yet to have a 100-yard rusher in a game.

Opposing defenses will be able to continue to configure their alignments toward stopping the pass, a task that figures to be made easier after the Packers lost another receiver.

Ferguson appeared to have strained his left knee early in the second quarter Sunday while coming down with a 44-yard reception. Coach Mike Sherman later said Ferguson suffered an ankle injury.

Green Bay was down to starter Donald Driver and young, nominal backups Antonio Chatman and Jamal Jones as the wideouts for the remaining 43 minutes. The receiver corps had already been rocked by season-ending injuries to top playmaker Javon Walker (torn ACL in Week 1) and promising rookie Terrence Murphy (bruised spinal cord in Week 4).

"This is the hand we're dealt," Sherman said. "Some years, you're dealt other cards. This year, we're dealt these cards. And, these are the cards we have to play with. This is the way it is. Whoever is out, we have to replace them with somebody who needs to step in and do the job.

"Everybody has to play the cards they're dealt, whether it's on the football field or in life. So, we have to play our cards."

The road to recovery, and attempting to salvage what's left of the season, gets only more treacherous for the Packers, who wrap trips to Cincinnati and Atlanta around a home encounter with Pittsburgh in the next three weeks.

Falling to 1-5 for just the fifth time in franchise history — and the first time since 1991, a year before quarterback Brett Favre's arrival — surely has an incredibly short-handed team under the gun.

"There won't be too many good things written and said about us, and that's OK," Favre said. "But, for us, we still have football to play. We can try to turn it around, or we can just give in to what people think about us. I hope our guys continue to fight."


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