Entering training camp, teams around the league feared the number and severity of injuries stemming from the lockout and lack of offseason workouts.
The Green Bay Packers had emerged relatively unscathed among their core players, but that changed a bit on Thursday night.
On the second-to-last play of practice, third cornerback Sam Shields made a brilliant interception, ripping the ball out of the hands of rookie Tori Gurley, but went down grasping his back. Coach Mike McCarthy called the injury a bruised hip pointer, and his availability for Saturday night’s preseason opener at Cleveland is in jeopardy.
With starters Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams performing only on the scout team, it appeared McCarthy had no intentions of playing them on Saturday. Plus, fourth-round pick Davon House and undrafted rookie Brandian Ross are injured.
Thus, it’s possible the Packers would go into the game with just three corners: veterans Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush and first-year player Josh Gordy.
“Any time you have injuries to your team, you have to make adjustments,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had injuries the last couple days to the cornerback position. It was a concern today when we went through the initial playtime (decisions). We’ll meet on it again (Friday) and probably take until Saturday’s meeting to see how a couple of these guys come out injury-wise. We’re definitely a little thin at corner.”
New injuries: NT B.J. Raji (ankle sprain) and RB Alex Green (quad strain). Raji, who went down on a running play, did not return but seemed in good spirits on the sideline.
Old injuries: WR Brett Swain (hamstring), S Brandon Underwood (knee), CB Davon House (hamstring), CB Brandian Ross (hamstring), ILB LB Cardia Jackson (unknown), OLB Diyral Briggs (hamstring), DE Chris Donaldson (shoulder), OL Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (knee), TE Jermichael Finley (glute contusion).
McCarthy said he’d like to see Finley get in the game but it’s a “medical decision.”
Returned to action: K Mason Crosby (ankle), WR Chastin West. Crosby made both field goals (36 and 42 yards), did some kicking off and hit one beauty of an onside kick.
It’s a snap
McCarthy said the snaps will be divvied up in a similar fashion to past years but said he’d mix and match starters with backups to give some of his younger players a fair shake at making a solid impression.
“We’re going to attempt to move certain positions throughout the game,” McCarthy said. “It’s not exactly who they’re playing with and when they’re playing. It’s more about trying to spread some of their reps out. We’re trying to be smart from a physical standpoint because we’ve had less time together. We don’t think it’s smart just to jump into the preseason exactly how we have in the past, where sometimes your reps are lopsided at certain positions and younger players play a whole lot one game and veterans don’t and then you flip it the next game. We’re going to try to balance it out the best we can.”
Along with Williams and Woodson, Nick Collins, A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Donald Driver and Chad Clifton played only on the scout teams during the 11-on-11 periods, which would seem to signal those veterans will be given the night off. McCarthy, however, said Hawk and Bishop would play.
— McCarthy changed the practice schedule for the rest of camp, switching next week’s night practices to 11:15 a.m. “Going through the planning this offseason, we had a Plan 1 and 1-A. We’re going to 1-A. I think it’s important to get the whole football operation to an in-season type schedule. I want to get their body clocks going a week earlier than normal because we’re starting our season a half a week earlier than normal.”
— The Packers leave at 8:15 a.m. for their trip to Washington to visit the White House and President Obama. The trip should serve as a motivator, McCarthy said. “I’ve never been inside the White House, so just on a personal note, I’m looking forward to that experience. Just to meet the president, it’s a great opportunity for our organization. It gives our younger players something to look toward, too. I think it’s going to be a wonderful experience. I would think they’d definitely be motivated once they walk out of there.”
— Green is the No. 1 kickoff returner, but because of his injury, Randall Cobb moved atop the depth chart, with Shaky Smithson and Diondre Borel getting some action, as well.
— One of the Lombardi legends, kicker Don Chandler, died at the age of 76. The Packers would not have had their unprecedented three-peat if not for his controversial field goal that forced overtime against Baltimore in the Western Conference championship game. The Colts claimed the kick went wide right; the official stationed under the upright said it was good. The next year, the height of the uprights was extended.
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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.