Packers Breathe Sigh of Relief With Jennings

WR Greg Jennings (Nick Laham/Getty)

The Packers dodged a major bullet after Greg Jennings sustained a knee sprain during Sunday's game "We feel fortunate that it is only a couple weeks," coach Mike McCarthy said.

After fielding a question about Greg Jennings on Monday, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy chided reporters about all the typing going on in the Lambeau Field media auditorium.

"Are you guys Tweeting?" McCarthy asked. "Is that how you guys do it? I've never noticed that."

Kiddingly asked whether he knew what Twitter was, McCarthy joked: "Yeah, my daughter, told me about it. Of course I know what it is, my god."

McCarthy's good humor told the story more than anything: The Packers dodged a major bullet with Jennings.

The Pro Bowl receiver will be on the sideline as the Packers make their push for a perfect regular season. Come playoff time, the Packers expect to have him back.

"We have three games left," McCarthy said. "Yes, I would think it'd be safe to say he'll be back for the playoffs."

Jennings hurt his left knee when he landed awkwardly in the third quarter of Sunday's victory over Oakland. Jennings had to be helped from the sideline to a cart and was taken to the locker room.

At 13-0, the Packers can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory at Kansas City on Sunday. But losing Jennings will be a significant -- if only temporary -- blow to a team best known for its dominant passing game.

"We feel fortunate that it is only a couple weeks," McCarthy said.

The Packers are monitoring several other injuries this week.

Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and backup running back Brandon Saine both left Sunday's game with concussions. McCarthy is optimistic both players will be available this week, but first will have to clear post-concussion testing protocols.

The Packers also are missing veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, guard Josh Sitton, running back James Starks and inside linebacker Desmond Bishop.

McCarthy said Sitton is "making progress" on his right knee injury and may practice this week. Bishop is "close" to returning from a calf injury. And McCarthy said he was hopeful Starks (right knee/ankle) could practice Wednesday.

And McCarthy hasn't given up on getting back Clifton, who has been out since injuring his hamstring in the Packers' Oct. 9 victory at Atlanta, then hurting his back during the rehabilitation process. McCarthy said Clifton may be able to return to practice next week.

"I wouldn't say it was too late for Chad Clifton," McCarthy said. "Actually, Chad was in the training room when I was in there. He looks good, had a hard workout today."

But the biggest concern was Jennings, and the Packers appear to have dodged the worst-case scenario.

After making his first Pro Bowl in 2010, Jennings has 67 catches for 949 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He's just as valuable when he isn't catching the ball, occupying defenders and creating opportunities for the Packers' other receivers.

"We feel that we have enough to move forward," McCarthy said. "Greg will be missed, but with that, it's more opportunity for the other perimeter players."

Now the rest of the Packers' deep and talented group of receivers will have to take up the slack.

"Greg's a playmaker, and it's hard to fill in (for) a guy like that," tight end Jermichael Finley said Sunday night. "But we've got playmakers all through our offense. Young guys are going to have to step up, or the guys that already in will have to step up. Next man up."

The Packers still are loaded with pass-catching talent, as Finley, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver and rookie Randall Cobb all can provide big-play threats. On the surface, the offense shouldn't look much different than it has all season. Whether it can continue to produce at such a high level, however, remains to be seen.

"We've been going at this since July 29," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "We've had 13 regular-season games, so we've got 800 plays on film roughly. I don't know that we're going to change a whole lot of any of it. I know one thing: We're not smart enough to figure out a whole new offense in the course of a couple days before these guys get back here Wednesday to play Kansas City. We have to function within the offense that we have. Whether we emphasize one phase over the other, I think that's more dependent on what we see on tape and what we think of the matchups and how we can move the ball best against these guys.

While Jennings leads the team in receptions, it's Nelson who leads the way in yards and with his career-high 10 touchdowns. Nelson figures to assume the mantle of being the No. 1 receiver, and it will be interesting to see how defenses adjust their coverage.

"I think he's having a real fine year," Philbin said. "It's a little too early to predict what teams will do to him. We still have some other pretty good players. Randall Cobb stepped up, James Jones broke a real nice tackle. I think some of that stuff is overrated, I really do. We'll have to maybe adjust throughout the course of the ball game to see if they give us some unique coverages or double coverages. We'll just see how it all unfolds."


Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport. Follow Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter at twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins.

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