The Green Bay Packers have one of the best and deepest wide receiver corps in the NFL.
That group, however, has been like the Beatles, with John Lennon, Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr taking turns skipping concerts.
Whether it was Greg Jennings’ abdominal injury, Jordy Nelson’s hamstring and ankle injuries or Randall Cobb’s ankle and knee, the Packers’ Fab Four of Jennings, Nelson, Cobb and James Jones have played about two-and-a-half games together.
Jennings missed seven consecutive games before returning on Dec. 2 against Minnesota. Nelson played 11 snaps in that game before injuring his hamstring and missing the next three games. Jennings and Nelson were on the field on Sunday at Minnesota, but Cobb was out with injuries sustained the week before against Tennessee.
On Wednesday, all three were at practice and appear on course to play in Saturday night’s playoff game against the Vikings.
“I’ve never been part of a game or football team where you don’t want as many good football players as you possibly can,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday. “It says a lot about the individuals, and particularly this time of year, it’s about winning. Opportunities are earned. It’s our responsibility as coaches to create those opportunities in those situations. It’s the responsibility of the players to maximize those opportunities when they’re given that chance. That’s really our approach. Health is a part of the game, and hopefully we’ll be extremely healthy when we kick it off Saturday.”
Nelson missed a big chunk of the second half of Sunday’s game against Minnesota with a knee injury he called an “accumulation of things.” He returned in the fourth quarter and scored the tying touchdown.
“I was out there a little bit today, running routes, felt good, so we’ll continue to rehab and treat it and just continue to see how it feels,” Nelson said. “They always say they need to see how it reacts the next day. I think it’ll be fine. We’ll continue to work. Saturday, there’s a lot of time between now and then, and luckily it’s a night game so I get a few more hours.”
Outside of that short stint against Minnesota on Dec. 2, Jennings, Nelson, Cobb and Jones haven’t been on the field together since the first half of the New Orleans game on Sept. 30.
“It’ll be great to have everyone back,” Nelson said. “That’s what we’ve looked forward to since the first game of the year. Unfortunately, it’s taken this long to get here, but we’re all on board to make this run. So, whatever it is, if it’s putting us all out there, putting two of us out there, whatever it is, we have to make sure we get the right matchups and go make plays. And nothing changes in our room. The expectations are high, you get the opportunity to make the play and help this team win.”
Packers injury report
Out: DE Jerel Worthy (knee). Did not participate: WR Jarrett Boykin (ankle). Limited: WR Randall Cobb (ankle); TE Jermichael Finley (quad); CB Davon House (hip); WR Jordy Nelson (knee); RB James Starks (knee). Full: RB Alex Green (knee); DB Charles Woodson (collarbone).
The Packers will put Worthy on injured reserve. McCarthy wouldn’t elaborate on whether it was a torn ACL or something less severe. A roster addition is not forthcoming, McCarthy said.
Boykin’s injury was not as significant as feared but McCarthy “couldn’t tell you” if he’d be out a week or several weeks.
Vikings injury report
Did not participate: LB Tyrone McKenzie (shoulder); RB Adrian Peterson (abdomen); CB Antoine Winfield (hand). Limited: QB Christian Ponder (right elbow); DE Brian Robison (shoulder); S Harrison Smith (knee). Full: DE Jared Allen (shoulder); CB A.J. Jefferson (ankle); DE George Johnson (quad); P Chris Kluwe (left knee); T Phil Loadholt (knee).
Winfield tried to play through a broken hand but departed about halfway through Sunday’s game. Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams, speaking to reporters in Eden Prairie, said “I don’t have any doubt” that Winfield will give it a go on Saturday.
— Even with Cobb on course to play, McCarthy said Jeremy Ross is “definitely an option” to return kicks.
— As was discussed on Tuesday, playing team defense and staying within the scheme will be vital in getting a more consistent performance against Adrian Peterson. “I'm first going to talk about effort and intensity, and I thought it definitely was there,” Clay Matthews said. “I thought we played hard, played up to the way in which they were playing — obviously, that being a playoff-like atmosphere and game for them. Moreso than that, need to play a little smarter in regards to scheme. Not as far as what plays are called but as far as where we fit, especially with such a dynamic runner like Adrian. He took advantage of that so we'll be more aware of that this week and, hopefully, third time is the charm.”
— Not everyone is excited about a cold-weather playoff game at Lambeau Field. Jennings prefers the great indoors. “Absolutely. I mean absolutely, I would be on turf quick. Dome, are you kidding me? Would you rather play outside?” Pointed out that he was given a politically correct answer, Jennings said: “No, no that’s a politically correct answer. I’m done with politically correct right now. I’m realistic. Do you guys want to go report out there in the cold?”
— Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis announced his retirement. “I’ve only had a chance to go against him probably two times, but I know in my time I don’t know if there’s a player who’s made as much of an impact, not only on the field but for his football team,” McCarthy said. “I mean, what an incredible example of a leader. You talk about someone who opens up his chest and gives his heart to the football team. I think his career is exemplary and obviously I don’t have that vote, but I would think he’d be a clear-cut first-ballot Hall of Famer. He’s a special player.”
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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.