The Green Bay Packers might not have had the best outside linebacker duo in the league.
But they might have had the toughest.
Emphasis on the “had.”
Coach Mike McCarthy announced on Monday that Zombo played Saturday’s preseason game against Arizona with a broken scapula and that the second-year player would miss a “significant” amount of time. The injury to his shoulder blade happened during a pregame collision with John Kuhn. Nonetheless, Zombo played most of the first half, and McCarthy said he and the training staff were surprised at the results of X-rays conducted during the coach’s postgame news conference.
Zombo’s toughness impressed fellow outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who played much of the second of last season with a stress fracture of his shin.
“I couldn’t really raise my arm up all that well, but honestly, I just thought it was a bruise,” Zombo said. “It hurt, but I really didn’t think anything was broken. I thought it was just a serious bruise and I’d just get treated afterwards and the swelling would go down and I’d be all right.”
McCarthy said season-ending injured reserve is not a consideration and that he thought Zombo would be back “sooner than later.”
“They haven’t said anything about (injured reserve),” Zombo said. “I certainly hope not. I don’t think it’s that serious of an injury that it’d be the whole season. I definitely hope not. But I was playing great up until then. I graded out at 100 percent, I played 30 plays with one arm, so it really did hurt because I played really well with one arm. It hurt, just because I played well and I was playing well in camp. It’s a tough deal.”
Zombo, an undrafted rookie last year, started eight games and had four sacks, plus had the Packers’ only sack in the Super Bowl. He finished with an assisted tackle and a quarterback hit against the Cardinals.
“Broken leg, that’s a broken shoulder blade,” Matthews said. “That’s pretty tough. Especially the game in which he had out there, playing with a broken shoulder blade, just shows the toughness he has.”
Added starting left guard T.J. Lang, who is close friends with Zombo and worked out with Zombo and Nick McDonald in suburban Detroit during the lockout: "I didn’t know anything was wrong with him. I talked to him after the game and he said he thought he played pretty well and didn’t even mention the shoulder. To play through a whole game with a broken shoulder, that shows a lot of toughness from that kid. I definitely feel for him. Working out with him the whole offseason, I know how much work he’s put in. He’s going to miss a little bit of time now, but knowing Frank, he’ll probably be on the field quicker than expected. I think he’ll do a fine job of getting back and getting back to old Frank and be an impact player."
With Zombo out for an extended period and Brad Jones missing time with a knee sprain, Erik Walden almost certainly will start Friday’s game at Indianapolis and is the clear favorite to be the starter opposite Matthews against New Orleans on Sept. 8.
The injury also will impact the final roster. On Monday, undrafted rookie outside linebacker Jamari Lattimore worked with the No. 1 punt and kickoff teams.
Neal targets Saints game
Defensive end Mike Neal, who missed most of last season after sustaining a shoulder injury that required surgery, remains out of action with a knee sprain.
“I can’t even answer that question, that’s how (upset) I am,” Neal said when asked how “frustrated” he is to be out again. “That’s pretty much how I feel about that.”
While McCarthy wouldn’t rule out Neal From playing against the Colts, Neal is targeting the season-opener against the Saints and said the two-plus weeks to heal is the only silver lining.
“Honestly, at the end of the day, all you can do is sit back and laugh,” said Neal, whose locker stall is next to Zombo’s. “Injuries are a part of the game and you understand that. One thing that I hate is the injury problem. You can’t help injuries. I would give anybody my contract to see them line up and do what we do and say that they can’t get hurt. He’ll be fine. He’ll be back soon and I’ll be back soon.”
Old injuries: WR Shaky Smithson (shoulder), WR Randall Cobb (bruised knees), WR Davon House (hamstring), S Anthony Levine (concussion), TE Spencer Havner (hamstring), LB Frank Zombo (scapula), LB Brad Jones (knee sprain), G Adrian Battles (Achilles), T Chris Campbell (knee), T Derek Sherrod (knee sprain), DE Lawrence Guy (concussion), DE Mike Neal (knee), DE C.J. Wilson (concussion).
Sherrod, who lost out to T.J. Lang to be the starting left guard, might return to practice on Tuesday.
Returned to practice: WR Brett Swain (hamstring), S Brandon Underwood (knee), RB James Starks (ankle), OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring), DE Chris Donaldson (shoulder).
— Mason Crosby split the uprights on all six field-goal attempts, ranging from 28 to 50 yards. Speaking of special teams, undrafted receiver Tori Gurley blocked a punt against the No. 2 unit.
— Former Packers GM Ron Wolf was in attendance and spent some time chatting it up with his son, Eliot Wolf, the team’s assistant director of player personnel.
— With starter Chad Clifton held out of team periods and the second- and third-team left tackles unavailable — with Lang focusing at guard and Sherrod out — Marshall Newhouse was the starter and center Evan Dietrich-Smith was the No. 2.
— Matthews said he’d “love” to play in the final two preseason games after missing Saturday’s game with tight hamstrings. “We’re being smart right now. Obviously, I don’t have the best track history when it comes to preseason and making it all the way through, so we’re just being smart. There was a little bit of tightness and I think we did the right thing. I came out here feeling fresh, feeling good (for practice). The key is to get to Sept. 8 feeling 100 percent. That’s what we’re shooting for right now.”
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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.