Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has just about had it with people scrutinizing the way his team shares the ball among its talented group of receivers.
Asked Wednesday about the relatively limited number of snaps veteran Donald Driver has been getting in recent games, McCarthy called the line of questioning ''a bunch of garbage.''
The issue of getting everybody involved in the Packers' passing game has come up a handful of times this season, and McCarthy said sternly that he won't apologize for having ''too many guys'' to throw the ball to.
''Donald's very proud,'' McCarthy said. ''He's been a great player, (he'll) continue to be a great player here. But we have a lot of people and we're using them all. That's the reality of it. Every week it's somebody else that we're going to pick at because he didn't have the numbers he had the week before. Frankly, I think it's a bunch of garbage.''
Maybe the questions about James Jones getting just one catch in Week 1 or Jermichael Finley getting three catches against Denver in Week 4 were “garbage,” but the case with Driver is a little different. Driver, the team’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yardage, is one of the faces of the franchise and one of its most popular players. At 36, his career is winding down, and it was noteworthy to see Randall Cobb taking critical snaps in place of Driver recent games.
For the season, Driver has played in 47.4 percent of the offensive snaps compared to 66.2 percent last season, according to play counts kept by ProFootballFocus.com. He’s seen that number dwindle every week, from 68.7 percent in Week 1 to 35.3 percent in Week 5. At the same time, rookie Randall Cobb’s playing time has increased every week, from 10.4 percent in Week 1 to 26.5 percent in Week 5.
''It's what it is,'' McCarthy said, raising his voice slightly. ''Now, do they want the ball? Yeah. Yeah, they want the ball. They all want the ball. And if they don't want the ball then I have a real issue with them. That's part of playing in this league. But every week to come in here and a guy scores three touchdowns one week and he doesn't have any the next week, and that's an issue? I mean, what are we doing here? Those are good, positive things about your team. And I'm not going to continue to sit here and answer this thing every week.''
Driver said he isn't concerned. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a player who has stepped aside with grace as Greg Jennings emerged as the team’s top receiver.
''I'm fine with it,'' Driver said. ''I think you have to get to a point where you can't worry about how many balls you get. Because you start worrying about how many balls you get, that's when you start losing games. Then you put pressure on Aaron to try to make sure everyone stays happy.''
Clay Matthews didn’t practice at all last week but potentially could on Friday, McCarthy said.
“Clay Matthews is feeling better than he did this time last week,” McCarthy said. “So, he will not practice today, will not practice tomorrow. We’ll see what happens on the Friday exam whether he’ll go on Friday. I would say he’s further ahead this Wednesday than he was last Wednesday.”
Matthews, who remains stuck on one sack, was credited with two quarterback hits and played a good all-around game against the Falcons. That doesn’t mean McCarthy is inclined to rest Matthews during the week, though.
“They’re two totally different factors,” the coach said. “I don’t look at the way someone practices and what their medical condition is. Players not on the practice field, it’s clearly a medical decision.”
Packers injury report
Out — LT Chad Clifton (knee/hamstring); DE Mike Neal (knee). Did not participate — CB Pat Lee (back); LB Clay Matthews (quad); CB Charles Woodson (foot/knee). Limited — RT Bryan Bulaga (knee); TE Andrew Quarless (knee); G Josh Sitton (ankle). Full — OLB Frank Zombo (shoulder).
Rams injury report
Did not participate — G Jacob Bell (hamstring); CB Josh Gordy (not injury related); LS Jake McQuaide (illness). Limited — TE Michael Hoomanawanui (head). Full — DE James Hall (back); DT Darell Scott (thumb).
— While the NFL has approved a stock sale, there is no timetable to roll out the details. Before the shareholders meeting, team President Mark Murphy said the team would like to start selling stock before Christmas so shares could be purchased as gifts.
— The Packers are wearing their 1929-style throwback uniforms on Sunday and practiced in their faux-leather brown helmets. “Love them. Love them. Love them,” Rodgers said. “I'll be honest, I looked at the picture last year, and I was a little bit weary of, 'What's that going to look like?' But I'll tell you what, and you'll probably hear it from some other guys, the pants that we have are the most comfortable pants. I've been looking forward to this game all year because of those pants. I don't know what the problem is, why we can't get the same material during every other game. But I'm telling you, these brown pants, whatever, tan, are so comfortable.”
— Al Harris and Brady Poppinga are the obvious connections, but running back Quinn Porter, who impressed as an undrafted rookie from Stillman in 2010, has found a niche on special teams. He’s returned five kickoffs for 20.6 yards. Said Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo in a conference call: “He’s been our kick returner, he’s played gunner, and he’s been on our kickoff team, and really he has kind of surfaced as a gunner and a kickoff coverage guy and we need that in our roster right now.”
— The Packers signed Ray Dominguez from the practice squad and Mason Crosby was named special teams player of the week. (Click here for our midday Wednesday story.) ”I think he’s kicked as well as he ever has in his time here,” McCarthy said about Crosby.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.