Injuries, injuries and more injuries.
The Green Bay Packers, even with defensive backs Sam Shields and Charles Woodson returning to practice, are a beat-up bunch heading into Sunday night’s game against rival Detroit.
Guard T.J. Lang (ankle), linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), defensive end Mike Neal (shoulder), receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring), running back James Starks (knee) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (knee) were held out of Wednesday’s practice.
“I think we’ve scaled back about as far as we can go,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We were very light today. We only had two team periods. That’s unusually light for us, but we’re just being smart with our guys. We’re pushing the envelope on having 46 healthy, so you have to lower the risk in practice because we do practice with a lot of tempo and things like that, too, so we’re just being smart about it.”
Starks was injured on a helmet-to-knee tackle during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against Minnesota. The blow took Starks out of the lineup for the remainder of the 11-minute drive, though he returned later to carry the ball on three consecutive plays.
McCarthy said Starks would be out for “multiple” weeks but the team elected to keep him on the active roster, for now, even though the training staff didn’t like the results of testing conducted on Monday. As an answer, the team re-signed veteran Ryan Grant.
“It’s a tough league,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Injuries are a part of our league and you have to get a little luck involved and take care of your body. I know James takes really good care of his body and, unfortunately, he took a shot that set him back a little bit. It’s a next-man-up mentality for us. We have to have the next guy step up. There’s been a lot of that this year with the amount of injuries we’ve had, especially on offense, with the offensive line, with Cedric (Benson), with the receivers, so we expect the next guy to step in. I don’t know if that means DuJuan (Harris) is going to get some carries this week, or Ryan stepping in, but one of those guys are going to have to fill that void.”
Here are a bunch more injury updates from McCarthy:
— Nelson and Matthews: “Getting better. I’m timelined out. They’re getting better. I don’t know if they’ll be ready this week.”
— Lang: “It’s not progressing the way he’d like.”
— Neal: “The circumstances around his injury, we probably won’t be able to get the information we need until tomorrow. I don’t feel really good about the medical staff told me today about Mike, but we’ll be able to get more information tomorrow.”
— Woodson: “It was great to have Charles out there. He’s getting close. He was able to do the competitive drill and worked throughout the team. It’s a good start. We’ll obviously evaluate him as we go through the week.”
— Driver said he has a broken thumb. “One thing about it is it’s not the worst that I’ve had. I can fight through anything and I’ll continue to fight through this one,” he said.
Packers injury report
Did not participate: G/T T.J. Lang (ankle); LB Clay Matthews (hamstring); DE Mike Neal (shoulder); WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring); RB James Starks (knee); DE C.J. Wilson (knee). Limited: WR Donald Driver (thumb); LB Terrell Manning (shoulder); C Jeff Saturday (foot); CB Sam Shields (ankle); DB Charles Woodson (collarbone).
McCarthy said Saturday is battling some late-season soreness but will be fine for Sunday.
Lions injury report
Did not participate: T Gosder Cherilus (knees); S Louis Delmas (knee); CB Chris Houston (ankle); DE Lawrence Jackson (concussion); CB Jacob Lacey (foot/Achilles); DT Corey Williams (knee). Limited: T Jeff Backus (hamstring); DT Nick Fairley (quad). Full: WR Kassim Osgood (finger); LB Ashlee Palmer (thumb).
— The Packers have a 20-game, regular-season home-winning streak against Detroit. “I guess we just have their number,” Driver said. “I think it’s always been a fight. Even when you think about the year when they were 0-16, we played them the last game of the season and they fought us all the way down to the wire. I think it’s going to continue to be a fight. We can’t let up. We have to continue playing the way we’ve been playing all season long.”
— With so many players on injured reserve, the Packers are running out of locker stalls in the main locker room. Grant didn’t have a stall; he temporarily was located in the auxiliary locker room that’s home to practice-squad players now and roster long shots in training camp. “I like it like that. I can kind of just go wherever I want and sit in other people's locker.”
— Bryan Bulaga said his injury was a “small fracture” of the hip socket, and not a dislocation. He said he met with a specialist on Tuesday and is on track for a “full recovery,” though he wouldn’t say if there’s a timeline on whether he might be back for the offseason practices in the spring.
— The Lions are 4-8 after going 10-6 last season. Seven of the losses have come by one score, including two in overtime and another by two points: “You know, we were winning some of those close games,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said in a conference call. “The ball was bouncing our way a little bit in some of those games. That's what it takes some time.”
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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.