The Green Bay Packers suffered a potentially devastating loss when receiver Greg Jennings injured his left knee on the first series of the third quarter of Sunday’s victory.
With Green Bay ahead 31-0, Rodgers fired to Jennings, who split defensive backs Tyvon Branch and Stanford Routt while diving forward for an 8-yard gain. Jennings limped to the sideline and was examined on the bench. He later got up and appeared to try walking on his own but wound up needing the help of fellow receivers Donald Driver and Randall Cobb. Jennings eventually was helped by Driver and Cobb to a cart and was driven inside for further testing.
Afterward, coach Mike McCarthy said only that Jennings “suffered a knee sprain” and that “further testing” would be done. Driver said Jennings will “be fine.” Rodgers, however, sounded a more ominous tone.
“It didn’t look very good, so we’ll see what the MRI says tomorrow,” Rodgers said. “Hopefully, we got a bye wrapped up, so he really has close to five weeks before our playoff game. So, hopefully we can get him ready for that.”
Jennings, who is coming off three consecutive seasons of at least 1,100 yards, has 67 catches for 949 yards and nine touchdowns. Without Jennings, Jordy Nelson (51 catches, 957 yards, 10 touchdowns) would assume the mantle of being the No. 1 receiver, and venerable Donald Driver (31 catches, 357 yards, four touchdowns), James Jones (26 catches, 479 yards, five touchdowns) and rookie Randall Cobb (19 catches, 300 yards, one touchdown) would assume bigger roles.
Tight end Jermichael Finley (42 catches, 600 yards, six touchdowns but held without a catch by Oakland) has been the focal point of opposing defenses all season and probably would wear a bigger bull’s-eye on his jersey.
Running back Brandon Saine and defensive end Ryan Pickett sustained concussions in the second and third quarter, respectively.
That’s on top of injuries that caused McCarthy to deactivate running back James Starks (ankle), guard Josh Sitton (knee), left tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring/back) and inside linebacker Desmond Bishop (calf). Fellow inside linebacker A.J. Hawk was on the active roster but didn’t play. McCarthy said the plan was to have Hawk play in the second half, but the lopsided score changed the thinking.
“He was disappointed he didn't get to play. Understandably so,” McCarthy said. “A.J.'s a fierce competitor. But I just felt with the score being 31-0 that it was smart to give A.J. a chance to rest so he'll be ready to go Wednesday.”
The injuries were a worst-case scenario for McCarthy, who said he “hoped to get the heck out of there” with a clean bill of health with the Packers in command. But, with his typically aggressive approach, McCarthy kept on the attack during that first drive of the third quarter. Whether the injuries will impact his thinking with the Packers chasing a perfect season remains to be seen. For now, it’s full speed ahead, with the Packers needing a win next week at Kansas City to lock up homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
“Like any decision that you make, you don’t fly by the seat of your pants,” McCarthy said. “You look at all the information involved, all the variables involved and you look at the options and that’s what we do every week. This week it’s about beating the Chiefs and winning home-field advantage all the way through. That will be the mind-set of our football team.”
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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.