How beat up are the Green Bay Packers?
During a full-pads, full-go run-game drill on Thursday, they used practice-squad tight end Jake Stoneburner at linebacker.
Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett left that drill clutching his left hand and was taken inside the Don Hutson Center to be examined. Fortunately for the Packers, it was just a bruise and Pickett returned later.
“It’s not hard at all,” coach Mike McCarthy said when asked if it’s hard to balance keeping his team sharp and keeping them healthy. “You have a plan. It’s important to practice in pads, I think that’s why everybody does it. The game’s played in pads. You risk assess in everything you do. The game of football, obviously, injuries (are) a part of it. But I thought today’s practice, we’re getting better, I think we’re getting better completing the practice week. I didn’t really like it the first couple weeks but I thought today we took a step in that direction.”
Of the eight players on the injury report, three of them are linebackers – hence Stoneburner being pressed into duty when a group of backup defenders squared off against the starting offensive line. Starting linebackers Clay Matthews (thumb) and Brad Jones (hamstring) have been ruled out, and outside linebacker Andy Mulumba (ankle) did not participate for a second consecutive day. That left only Mike Neal, Nick Perry and rookie Nate Palmer at outside linebacker and A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore and rookie Sam Barrington at inside linebacker.
Making the situation more precarious, neither Palmer nor Barrington have played a snap on defense during the first four games. The inside linebackers typically can play a full game. Because of the demands of outside linebacker, it’s not feasible for Perry and Neal to play every snap. So, it would be a plus if Mulumba can be ready.
“It will be very important for him to get out there tomorrow,” McCarthy said. “I think tomorrow will answer my concern level.”
At cornerback, Casey Hayward returned to practice. Hayward, who missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury and then has missed the first four games after aggravating that injury during his lone preseason game, practiced once last week but did not participate on Wednesday.
“I have no idea,” McCarthy said of his availability. “I think he’s getting close. He looked good. His exam tomorrow will be important, I know last week he was very sore and said he wasn’t ready. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Packers injury report
Out: LB Brad Jones (hamstring), LB Clay Matthews (thumb), RB James Starks (knee), G/C Greg Van Roten (foot). Did not participate: CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring), LB Andy Mulumba (ankle). Limited: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), DT Ryan Pickett (hand).
Pickett said it felt like he hit a “brick wall.” He said with some ice that he’ll be fine for Sunday.
Ravens injury report
Did not participate: DT Terrence Cody (knee), LB Albert McClellan (shoulder), DT Haloti Ngata. Limited: WR Marlon Brown (thigh), C Ryan Jensen (foot), WR Jacoby Jones (knee), G Kelechi Osemele (back), RB Bernard Pierce (thigh), DT Marcus Spears (knee), WR Brandon Stokley (thigh).
Running back Shaun Draughn, who was listed on Wednesday’s report, was released. They filled the spot by re-signing tight end Billy Bajema. He was released last week when they acquired offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, re-signed on Saturday, then released against on Tuesday.
-- Through five weeks, there have been 3,566 points scored across the league. That’s tied with 2011 for the most in NFL history. That 46.31 points per game, if sustained, would rank as the second highest-scoring season ever behind the 46.48 scored in 1948. Interestingly, for all the fireworks of the last decade, the highest-scoring seasons ever were 1948, 1950 (45.88), 2012 (45.51), 1960 (45.29) and 1962 (45.21).
-- The team practiced in full pads. Under the CBA agreed to 2011, there can be just 14 padded practices during the season, of which 11 must be used in the first 11 weeks. This is Week 6 and this was the sixth padded practice.
-- So much for Reggie Dunn being the solution to the Packers’ kick-return problems. Dunn, who returned five of his 10 kickoff returns for touchdowns as a senior at Utah, was released from the practice squad. In his place, the Packers brought back guard/center Garth Garhart, who spent training camp with the team after being signed to the practice squad late in 2012.
-- There was a dead bird in the media auditorium. No, it was not a raven.
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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.