The Green Bay Packers are thin at linebacker.
Potentially really thin due to injuries and inexperience.
The Packers will be taking seven linebackers into Sunday’s game at Baltimore. Two of them never have played a snap of defense in a regular-season game, and a third will be making his first NFL start.
For the second consecutive day, the Packers had just six linebackers available at practice on Friday. While rookie outside linebacker Andy Mulumba returned after missing the last two days with an injured ankle, rookie inside linebacker Sam Barrington was out due to a sore hip.
On the injury report, inside linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring) and outside linebacker Clay Matthews (thumb) are out and Mulumba and Barrington are probable.
The Packers will line up with A.J. Hawk and third-teamer Jamari Lattimore as the inside linebackers, with Barrington providing the depth. The seventh-round pick has played in three games but only on special teams.
“Yes, I do (feel comfortable with the depth). We’re ready to go,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “A.J. and Jamari, I thought have had a good week. Sam Barrington needed the day off just based on the last two days of practice but I feel good that he’ll be ready for Sunday.”
At outside linebacker, Nick Perry and Mike Neal will start. The undrafted Mulumba, who has played in all four games and lined up for 31 snaps on defense, might be the No. 1 backup, with the other option being sixth-round pick Nate Palmer, who’s been inactive for three of the first four games and played only on special teams.
“We’re going to have to work some different combinations because now that Nick Perry and Mike are out there starting in our Okie,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “Andy Mulumba, I think he had 17 snaps last week, and Nate Palmer will become more of a factor outside. Obviously, inside, Jamari steps up with Sam Barrington backing him up. We’ll have some new combinations. Those guys understand it’s their job to step up and do their job, and we believe they will.”
Without Matthews, Perry and Neal will be put to the test. They did next to nothing when Matthews missed the second half at Cincinnati. Last week against Detroit, however, Perry had two sacks and Neal had one sack and several pressures.
“That was my best game I played so far,” Perry said. “There’s a lot more to come. We have a tough opponent this week and I think we prepared good. I’m looking forward to playing this game.”
Packers injury report
Out: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), LB Brad Jones (hamstring), LB Clay Matthews (thumb), RB James Starks (knee), G/C Greg Van Roten (foot). Questionable: CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring). Probable: LB Andy Mulumba (ankle), DT Ryan Pickett (hand).
Bush and Mulumba practiced after being out on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Hayward, who practiced the past two days, McCarthy said: “Stating the obvious, Casey’s further ahead this week than he was last week but he’s not ready to go. We’ll do the testing process Monday or Tuesday, like we normally do, and we’ll see where he is as we prepare for Wednesday’s practice.”
Ravens injury report
To be announced.
-- McCarthy told SiriusXM Radio’s Rich Gannon that he thought Matthews would be out for three or four weeks. “That’s what they’re telling me but it’s an injury in an area where you have to be smart because you don’t want a reoccurrence,” McCarthy said at his press conference.
-- McCarthy said his team’s preparation was “in tune” with facing the defending champions. “We know this is a very good football team,” he said. “I thought our crowd noise preparation has been good this week. We’re going into a very loud stadium. Those are the types of things we focus on for the game management (and) the potential for how our 46-man roster is going to look (with the injuries and) young players playing for the first time. … I think it’s going to be a heck of a football game.”
-- Receiver James Jones is kicking himself for missing out on a second touchdown last week after a replay review: “Every pass I caught in practice this week, A-Rod was like, ‘Get your feet down. Get your feet down.’ I took a little grief,” Jones said. “(Receivers coach Edgar Bennett) showed it in the big room and got me for a negative play. I thought if the ball crosses the plane, it’s a touchdown. Whether it’s one foot down, two feet down, I thought it was a touchdown. Like EB said, ‘Don’t leave no gray area. Get both feet down and it would have been a touchdown.’”
-- The forecast for Sunday is cloudy with a high of 67, with a 20 percent chance of rain. The storm formerly known as Tropical Storm Andrea should be through the area by Saturday.
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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.