With Casey Hayward ruled out of Sunday’s season-opening showdown at San Francisco, the Green Bay Packers figure to go with rookie Micah Hyde as their nickel corner.
“First professional game, extremely excited,” Hyde said after Wednesday’s practice.
Hayward missed most of training camp with an injured hamstring, returning for one week and playing in the third preseason game against Seattle before aggravating the injury. He did some light duty on Monday but was a spectator on Wednesday.
“I don't really have a timeline for Casey,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I hope his status is different next week. When you talk to Casey, he says he's great and making progress, but he will not be available this week.”
Thrust into a large role in Hayward’s absence, Hyde had a strong preseason with team-leading figures of 17 tackles, two sacks and three passes defensed. The Packers’ defensive preference under coordinator Dom Capers is playing nickel – about two-thirds of the time last season and in past seasons – though they might go a different route given San Francisco’s physical style.
Either way, Hyde – a fifth-round pick out of Iowa – will play a key role in a key game.
“Micah Hyde is really probably one of the top producers as far as production throughout training camp and this will be a great opportunity for him,” McCarthy said. “Our secondary is a group that we feel like we've made a lot of progress with. So Micah will do whatever is asked and I have a lot of confidence in him.”
Packers: Out – CB Casey Hayward (hamstring). Limited -- CB Jarrett Bush (ankle).
Noticeably absent were inside linebacker Brad Jones and safety Morgan Burnett, who missed the preseason finale due to hamstring injuries sustained against Seattle.
"I just really trusted the medical,” McCarthy said. “I think any time and injury happens there's always the unknown, particularly with hamstrings. There's really not a true gauge on judging those things. But they were full participation today. They practiced well. They look good."
49ers: Did not participate: RB LaMichael James (knee). Limited: CB Nnamdi Asomugha (collarbone).
-- McCarthy, on making sure this game doesn’t become more important than it is: "It's very important to realize this is the start of the season. The things that happen, the tendencies of how things can go in the first game, that's where we really spend our time educating our team alongside with our rookies. So, this is a very important game because it's the next game. It's a new season. Everything that's gone on in the past has been answered. It's been discussed. But everything we're doing is getting ready to win this game."
-- For almost a month, there were close to 90 players on the practice field. Now, there are 61. Rather than fans filling the seats, there’s a tarp enclosing the practice field. “It’s a whole different environment that you work in when the first week comes around, “McCarthy said. “The first practice is always kind of odd. You walk out there the first day and you think, ‘Where the heck did everybody go?’ It’s different each and every year, but the quality of practice definitely goes up. It’s a natural urgency. Everybody understands what’s at stake. We’re guaranteed 16 opportunities. How you start the season, history will tell you is important.”
-- Aaron Rodgers, on the lessons from the 45-31 playoff loss to San Francisco. “We had 24 points on offense. That’s not bad against that defense but we need to score enough points to win and we didn’t do that. A couple drives there in the third quarter that really were frustrating, didn’t get enough points there. Had some opportunities. Playing a great team like this that you know can put up points, you have to maximize opportunities, especially when you’re in the red zone and get seven points.”
-- 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had little to say during his conference call with Packers beat reporters. Asked if he was standing by his comments to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that the Packers’ defense was bickering en route to being gashed for 579 yards, he simply said, “Yes.” And the recipe for success that night? ““We had a good game. We had players making plays.”
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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.