You can’t tell the players without a scoreboard, the saying goes.
So, it might be wise to keep a roster handy for the Green Bay Packers’ game against Cleveland on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Not only are starting linebackers Clay Matthews (thumb), Nick Perry (foot) and Brad Jones (hamstring) out, but linebacker Mike Neal (shoulder), receiver James Jones (knee) and defensive back Jarrett Bush (hamstring) are questionable. Neal and James Jones didn’t practice all week.
“If we were to play today, I don’t think any of the three would be available,” coach Mike McCarthy said after Friday’s practice. “But we’ve got 50-plus hours before the game, so that’s where we are.”
At wide receiver, the injuries to Jones and Randall Cobb (short-term injured reserve with broken fibula) potentially leave only Jordy Nelson with a legit NFL resume. The others on the roster are Jarrett Boykin (six career catches) and rookie Myles White (NFL debut).
At outside linebacker, the injuries to Matthews, Perry and Neal potentially leave just rookies Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba to play a challenging position. It’s an unthinkable situation given the demands of the position. For perspective on just how difficult that position is to play snap after snap, Matthews has played 100 percent of the snaps in 34 of 70 career games (playoffs included).
“That’s where we are,” McCarthy said. “We’ve been planning all week. When you get into these type of situations, you plan for every scenario. We’ll be ready to go Sunday, I can promise you that.”
Neal said it’s the same shoulder as the torn labrum that ended his rookie season of 2010. However, he said he has full range of motion and strength, and considers himself a game-time decision.
“I mean, it is what it is on their part, it is what it is on my part,” Neal said. “I’ve been through this injury thing too many times to even want to discuss it. If I play Sunday, I play; if I don’t, I have faith in these two young’uns that they’re going to play well. They’re smart kids and they’ll be able to hold down the fort.”
Of the Packers’ projected 23 starters entering Week 1 (11 on offense and 12 on defense to add a nickel corner), they’ll certainly be without Cobb, Matthews, Perry and Brad Jones and potentially without James Jones and Casey Hayward (hamstring).
When Sunday’s game kicks off, the Packers will have lost at least one full game from seven starters this season – Cobb, Matthews, Perry, Brad Jones and Hayward, plus Eddie Lacy (concussion) and Morgan Burnett (hamstring). James Jones would bring that total to eight if he can’t play. And that doesn’t include Jermichael Finley, who barely played against Cincinnati due to a concussion. Nor does it include Bryan Bulaga, who would have been the starting left tackle if not for a torn ACL sustained on Family Night. So, if James Jones misses Sunday’s game, the Packers essentially will have missed a game from 10 of their 23 offensive/defensive starters.
Packers injury report
Out: ILB Brad Jones (hamstring), OLB Clay Matthews (thumb), OLB Nick Perry (foot), RB James Starks (knee), TE Ryan Taylor (knee). Questionable: CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), WR James Jones (knee), DE/LB Mike Neal (shoulder).
Browns injury report
Out: DL Billy Winn (quad). Questionable: LB Brandon Magee (oblique). Probable: RB Willis McGahee (knee), DB Chris Owens (finger), LB Jabaal Sheard (knee).
McGahee, the starting running back, was held out of Thursday’s practice for rest but was full participation on Sunday.
-- With potentially five linebackers (A.J. Hawk, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington, Mulumba and Palmer), defensive coordinator Dom Capers might have to get creative to run his 3-4 scheme. “When I was down in Jacksonville. We were a 4-3 team and did all of our 3-4 stuff out of a 4-3. Hey, that’s the nature of our business. You just have to pick up and make sure you have enough there to carry on. I certainly like the way the guys responded last week and I feel they’ll go out and respond the same way this week.”
-- Jermichael Finley was fined $15,750 for his punishing block of Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs, while the Ravens’ Matt Elam was not fined for his hit on Randall Cobb. The NFL said Finley was fined for a crackback block, though a penalty was not called. Finley said he plans to appeal.
-- Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said Hayward, who hasn’t played a snap all season due to hamstring issues dating to before training camp, “moved good” and “got his hands on a number of balls” at practice this week.
-- Lacy won the FedEx Ground Player of the Week. He beat out New England’s Stevan Ridley and Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy in a fan vote.
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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.