Aaron Rodgers’ numbers screamed Pro Bowl.
Clay Matthews’ and B.J. Raji’s statistics did not. Scott Wells finally has been recognized as one of the best centers in the game.
Those four, along with fullback John Kuhn, receiver Greg Jennings and cornerback Charles Woodson, were the seven members of the Green Bay Packers who were selected to the NFC Pro Bowl team on Tuesday.
“I’m happy for the guys that got nominated,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “(Matthews’) numbers might not be DeMarcus Ware or Jason Babin numbers, but what he does in our defense and how much attention he garners from the opposing teams offense, I thought he was definitely a good selection.
“B.J. Raji’s performance, he’s not going to be a huge sack number or tackle number guy, but for what he does in our defense, I think he’s definitely Pro Bowl-worthy. Real happy for John and Scott. Those guys have been the underappreciated guys in our offense for a while. Scotty has played as consistent as we could ask for the last three years. John, this just adds to his cult following and his legend in Green Bay.”
It’s hard to believe that coming out of camp in 2009 that Wells was beaten out by Jason Spitz. Injuries got Wells back in the lineup a couple games into that season, and he’s emerged as the ringleader and rock of the Packers’ line.
“Like I’ve stated before, I think it was the best thing that ever happened to Scott Wells,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think he went to a different level as far as his ability to lead, led the offensive line in the classroom, on the field. No one has ever had an issue with the way he plays the game. I think he’s even playing at a higher level. Very proud of what Scott’s accomplished.”
Rodgers expressed disappointment that Jordy Nelson didn’t make the squad, and while it’s hard to quibble with the NFC’s four-man receiving corps of Jennings, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Carolina’s Steve Smith), Nelson’s numbers are tremendous. He’s third in the NFL with 12 touchdown catches (behind New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Johnson). Among receivers with at least 40 catches, he leads the NFL with an 18.7-yard average, and his 1,101 receiving yards is 11th.
“I’ve always heard you go a year after you’re supposed to and you go a year too long,” Nelson said. “That’s what I’ve always heard. You kind of have to get your name out there a little bit, which I think is good. You have to really earn the opportunity. It’s tough to get in. there’s only four spots, there’s a lot of great receivers, a lot of people had great years. We’ll keep grinding and hopefully get in there.”
Big day for Clifton
Left tackle Chad Clifton, who has not played since Oct. 9 at Atlanta, took reps during Wednesday’s 11-on-11 session and played on the scout team, as well. He’ll participate in Thursday’s full-pads session, with his performance at practice and his ability to bounce back and practice Friday going a long way toward determining if he plays and how much he plays against the Lions.
“My understanding just talking to the strength and conditioning staff, even his position coach, that his conditioning is probably the best part of where he is right now,” McCarthy said. “He’s done a very good job in that area. It’s just that he needs to do the football conditioning, the padded work, torquing and getting his hands inside and things like that, but we feel good about his overall conditioning. It’s just he can do the in-line is really the last thing we need to get answered.”
Jennings ruled out
McCarthy wasted no time on ruling Jennings out for Sunday’s game. Jennings, who sustained a knee sprain during the third quarter of the Dec. 11 game against Oakland, will wind up missing the final three games of the season.
“Greg’s not ready to play this week,” McCarthy said. “I had an opportunity to watch him go through his rehab workout, so he’s getting close, but he won’t be ready to go.”
Packers injury report
Out: WR Greg Jennings (knee). Did not participate: RT Bryan Bulaga (knee); WR Randall Cobb (groin); TE Jermichael Finley (knee); RB James Starks (knee/ankle). Limited: LT Chad Clifton (hamstring/back); LB Clay Matthews (ankle); DE Ryan Pickett (concussion); CB Charles Woodson (knee).
“Cobb, he’s sore, he won’t practice tomorrow again,” McCarthy said. “He’ll see the doctor Friday morning, so he may potentially go Friday. Jermichael, I really don’t have a whole lot of information on Jermichael. It was last minute, I didn’t find out about it until right before practice, so I have no feeling for Jermichael Finley right now.”
Finley said his left knee was sore when he woke up. It also was sore after the Kansas City game on Dec. 18, but he didn’t tell anyone. He said intends to play on Sunday.
Unlike Jennings, Bulaga has not been ruled out. He could practice Friday if he gains clearance that morning.
Lions injury report
Did not participate: S Louis Delmas (knee); CB Chris Houston (hand/knee); WR Calvin Johnson (Achilles); DT Corey Williams (hip); DE Willie Young (ankle). Limited: DE Cliff Avril (back); CB Aaron Berry (shoulder); DT Nick Fairley (foot). Full: RB Kevin Smith (ankle); S Amari Spievey (knee).
— If McCarthy has a plan on who’s starting and who’s not playing, he hasn’t told anyone. “You have to prepare your football team to get ready to play,” he said. “Hopefully, nothing happens during the course of the week, but things do happen Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in practice. So, it’s important to have everybody ready to go. We’ve had guys get sick Saturday night, we’ve had every scenario, we’ve had guys show up at the stadium breaking out in hives. You have to get ready to play the game, that will be our approach, and that won’t change this week.”
— If the starters sit out Sunday’s game, they’d essentially have two bye weeks leading to the playoffs. Could that stunt the team’s momentum? “We’re the No. 1 seed. That’s enough momentum,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to host a home playoff game. It’s tough to play in Lambeau with the crowd going and the elements. I don’t think many people are too worried about potential momentum going in, knowing that we do have a bye week the first week of the playoffs.”
— Rodgers was voted to the Pro Bowl after being left out last season. “It wasn’t a motivator,” he said. “It was one of those things where my fellow players and coaches didn’t feel like I was worthy of getting in. That’s their decision, and I was happy that we got the Super Bowl victory last year.”
— Frank Zombo was a healthy inactive last week, though with Erik Walden having a couple of unproductive games, Zombo knows there’s an opportunity to earn a significant role in the playoffs. “There’s a lot of things to play for (this week)” he said. “Obviously, I always want to be a starter; that’s one of my goals. So, obviously I want that. Playing against my hometown team Detroit, I have a lot of family and friends watching.”
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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.