As if the injury situation at outside linebacker couldn’t get any worse, the Green Bay Packers were without Mike Neal at Wednesday’s practice.
Neal is nursing a sore shoulder and his outlook for Sunday’s game is iffy. Coach Mike McCarthy said he was hopeful that Neal can practice on Friday.
Neal missed one game last season and the second half of his rookie season with shoulder problems, though it’s not known if this is a related issue – or even whether it’s the same shoulder -- that has caused him trouble in the past.
Without Neal, Clay Matthews (broken thumb) and Nick Perry (reportedly a broken foot), the Packers were down to two rookies for practice: undrafted Andy Mulumba and sixth-rounder Nate Palmer.
“It was not a lot of fun (to have two outside linebackers at practice), so something we had to adjust,” McCarthy said.
The Packers are thin at receiver, too. James Jones didn’t practice due to a knee injury sustained at Baltimore and Randall Cobb was put on the short-term injured-reserve list on Tuesday. That left just Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and Myles White. White was promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday.
“It's been a busy 48 hours,” McCarthy said. “Clearly, I know in my time in the league, just as far as the number of people, as far as the roster moves that we've had to go through the last two days, it's a lot of adjustment, a lot of planning for different scenarios and things like that. Obviously, personnel groups on both sides of the ball are stressed, and we feel like we have a good plan and we'll be ready to go.”
Starting inside linebacker Brad Jones (hamstring) didn’t practice, either, after missing the Baltimore game. Running back James Starks (knee) will miss a third consecutive game.
Meanwhile, cornerback Casey Hayward continues to make progress. He hasn’t played a snap all season due to ongoing hamstring issues but participated in his first Wednesday practice of the year. McCarthy “wouldn’t say Hayward’s ready to go,” and Hayward stuck mostly to saying he’s “taking it one day at a time.” Hayward missed the first few weeks of training camp but came to play in the third preseason game, only to aggravate the injury.
“It is a gray area,” Hayward said of knowing when he’s ready, considering he thought he was ready back in August. “You really don’t know. Hopefully you have the feeling of how your leg’s feeling practice-wise (but) you really don’t know. Hopefully we judge it this time and be correct this time.”
There was one more bit of good news, at least: Derek Sherrod practiced. Sherrod broke his leg at Kansas City late during his rookie season of 2011. He missed all of 2012 and opened this season on the physically unable to perform list.
“It was definitely surreal just to be out there with my teammates, having fun out there at practice,” Sherrod said. “Going through everything with them was a pretty good experience.”
The other members of the Packers’ PUP list – defensive lineman Jerel Worthy (knee), offensive lineman J.C. Tretter (ankle) and safety Sean Richardson (neck) -- did not practice.
Packers injury report
Out: LB Clay Matthews (thumb), LB Nick Perry (foot), RB James Starks (knee), TE Ryan Taylor (knee). Did not participate: LB Brad Jones (hamstring), WR James Jones (knee), DE/LB Mike Neal (shoulder). Limited: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring). Full: CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring).
McCarthy is hopeful that James Jones can play: “Hopefully, Friday will the day that we'll find out about James. He's very positive about where he is, how he feels, but I think he's gearing up for a possible test in his rehab schedule.”
McCarthy also said Perry is going to miss only “a couple of weeks” with what reportedly is a broken foot.
Taylor had knee surgery, which should keep him out for a couple of weeks. That injury no doubt is why the Packers promoted rookie tight end Jake Stoneburner from the practice squad on Tuesday.
Browns injury report
Did not participate: DL Billy Winn (quad). Limited: LB Brandon Magee (oblique). Full: DB Chris Owens (finger), LB Jabaal Sheard (knee).
-- The Packers filled out their practice squad by bringing back Tyrone Walker. Walker, an undrafted rookie from Illinois State, had a strong training camp but didn’t make the roster and wasn’t retained for the practice squad. He spent one week with Seattle’s practice squad.
-- Because of the injuries, McCarthy cut back on the amount of team (11-on-11 snaps) reps and concentrated more on installing the game plan at “teaching speed.”
-- Worthy said he’s ready to practice but the delay might be linked to injuries elsewhere on the roster. Once he starts to practice, the Packers have three weeks to activate him or put him on injured reserve. “One thing that’s great is our D-line is intact. Those guys have been playing lights-out up front. (GM Ted Thompson) wants to make sure that we continue to prepare as if I am going to play, so I’m going about it every day as if it’s another work day for me. When my number’s called, I’ll be ready to go. Until then, I’ve just got to bide my time and be patient.”
-- Aaron Rodgers, on whether he breathed a sigh of relief that Cobb’s season isn’t over: “I don’t know about sigh of relief. It’s frustrating we’re not going to have him for awhile. Difficult injury considering the circumstances but excited at some point he will be back, but we’re going to miss him for eight weeks.”
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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.