If Nick Barnett had injured his left wrist rather than his right wrist, life would be different.
And not just because he would be starting at inside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers.
“I'm telling you, you really don't know how much you need your right hand. It's hard,” he said on Thursday before going off into a classic Barnett riff. “It's hard to wipe your butt with your left if you're not used to that. It's very awkward. I got a technique down now, I'm not going to disclose it. But when I'm done, I'll be the only person on this team that can wipe their butt professionally with both hands.”
Instead, Barnett is learning to be, shall we say, ambidextrous. And more pressing for the injury-plagued Packers, his season is over after having a tendon reattached to a bone in his wrist.
Barnett suffered the injury during the Week 4 game against Detroit. He went inside the stadium for X-rays, which turned out negative, then played the rest of the game. Barnett said he wouldn’t have had any more testing done had it not been for a “popping” sound when he flexed his wrist. MRI and CAT scans revealed the injured tendon.
Barnett said he considered playing with the injury — or hoped that minor surgery would have allowed him to get back onto the field after just a couple of weeks — but elected to have surgery with his long-term best interests in mind.
“You know, you bang your wrist up and with that tendon not connected to your scaphoid, if you keep hitting it, you risk dislocation of the wrist, all of the bones falling apart to a very high risk of arthritis in your wrist, not being able to use the tendon,” Barnett said. “They said something about fusing bones. There was a lot of downside to possibly banging it up. And, again, some of that stuff couldn't have happened. But for me to risk my right hand just didn't seem like the right thing to do. And I think they agreed with it, too. Could have been the left hand and been a different story.”
Barnett plans on sticking around Green Bay and helping the team in any way he can. The long-term prognosis for the injury is excellent and he said he’d be “perfect” for training camp.
“You can bet your money next year that I will be a beast,” Barnett said. “I guarantee you that. Put it in the bank.”
NFL sacks leader Clay Matthews (hamstring) rebounded well from Wednesday’s practice and appears on track to face the Vikings. In more good news, inside linebacker Brandon Chillar (shoulder), who has missed the last two games, said he’s a “go for sure.” Starting defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle) said he’d probably work out on Sunday in hopes of being cleared.
Meanwhile, PUP players Al Harris and Atari Bigby practiced for the second day in a row. They have not been activated to the 53-man roster, with McCarthy saying that would be done on Saturday, if the team decides to go that route.
“Going day to day,” McCarthy said. “Atari had a nice interception in practice today. Al I think has looked more and more comfortable. He’s still jumping routes, particularly in the team periods. It’s good to have them out there. But I had a chance to watch them on film. We’ll continue to evaluate those guys, day to day, week to week.”
Driver out again
Donald Driver was on the practice field but was limited to spectator status as the offense ran through plays on a chilly, breezy morning.
Driver, who hasn’t missed a game due to injury since 2003, is battling a quad injury suffered at practice last week and aggravated during the game. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and receivers coach Jimmy Robinson are confident Driver will be ready, and Driver thought the same.
“You know one thing about me is if you’ve seen my history, I will play. You don’t have to worry about that part about it,” he said. “I’m feeling better. It’s just one of those things that you get banged up and you feel like you can still go. I think the organization’s got to do what’s best for you. They looked at it and said I’ve never taken days off and I’ve never had something like this and they realized I had to rest for it to be ready for Sunday.”
Packers injury report
Out: DE Mike Neal (shoulder), LB Brady Poppinga (knee). Did not participate: WR Donald Driver (quad), T Marshall Newhouse (back), CB Charles Woodson (toe). Limited participation: LB Brandon Chillar (shoulder), S Nick Collins (knee), LB A.J. Hawk (groin), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), DE Ryan Pickett (ankle), T Mark Tauscher (shoulder). Full participation: T Chad Clifton (knee), DE Cullen Jenkins (hand).
Woodson was excused for a personal matter. Tauscher, who is dealing with a shoulder joint, has been working with a harness. McCarthy said Tauscher would be listed either questionable or doubtful on Friday, and Bryan Bulaga almost certainly will start at right tackle.
Newhouse, a fifth-round pick who has been inactive all season, injured his back at practice on Wednesday but McCarthy didn’t think it was a long-term issue.
Vikings injury report
Did not participate: S Husain Abdullah (concussion). Limited participation: CB Chris Cook (knee), T Ryan Cook (wrist), T Chris DeGeare (ankle), QB Brett Favre (ankle, elbow), WR Percy Harvin (hamstring), LB E.J. Henderson (knee), TE Jim Kleinsasser (groin), CB Lito Sheppard (hand), C John Sullivan (calf). Full participation: DT Letroy Guion (toe), DE Brian Robison (ankle).
— Brady Poppinga had knee surgery earlier in the week, with McCarthy saying more damage was found than expected and that Poppinga’s long-term diagnosis has not been determined.
— Asked about the weather, McCarthy interrupted to say there is a 40 percent chance of rain for Sunday night. “I don’t think it really affects you as much as I think people think it does, because it depends on the type of rain,” he said. “I’ve played in storms where just the exchange was an issue. I don’t see that type of forecast. You really adjust on the move with that. You always have a bad-weather plan within your plan. I don’t turn a page on my call sheet and go in that direction. I’ve seen it done that way, but it’s really the plan within the plan, your bad-weather plan. That’s a weekly conversation anytime you play outside.”
— Barnett, on the NFL’s helmet-to-helmet emphasis: “I think the worst thing they should work on is cut blocks. How many people have lost their knees, ankles, thousands of things like that. I think the offense gains an advantage from the head contact (emphasis). I think they are headed in the right way of protecting players, but at the same time, where's the protection for the defensive players? We have to protect ourselves. When running backs come through the hole, they're not running with their head up. Their head is straight down, they're trying to truck you. Are we going to address that? How are we supposed to hit them when they've got their head down? It's hard. I know it's a hard job for them to figure out for them to put safety out there, but at the same time, it's hard for us to play it when they've got so many rules on it.”
— In the latest NFL odds by Bodog.com, the Packers remain the favorite to win the NFC North (11-10; ahead of Minnesota’s 7-4) and are tied for second in the NFC with Atlanta at 11-2 (New Orleans is 4-1). Rodgers is in a large group of players ranked fourth in the NFL MVP race at 10-1, behind Peyton Manning (4-1) and Drew Brees and Chris Johnson (both 7-1). As for Sunday’s game, Brett Favre gets the nod over Rodgers for most touchdown passes and most interceptions.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and 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 twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.