After sustaining a calf injury, Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop (55) stands on the sideline during the second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette
DETROIT — The Green Bay Packers played the entire second half of Thursday's game against the Detroit Lions without their starting inside linebackers, whose status is in doubt for next week’s game at the New York Giants and perhaps longer.
Desmond Bishop’s calf injury appears to be the worse of the two. He left the game late in the first quarter, was on crutches for the second half and in the locker room after the game. He is scheduled for an MRI examination today.
A.J. Hawk sustained his calf injury later in the first half. He finished the first half on the field but then was on the sideline with ice on his injury for the entire second half.
“I looked behind me, and I was hoping I got kicked,” Hawk said. “It was really weird because it’s never happened to me.”
When asked whether his injury is as serious as Bishop’s, Hawk said: “I hope not, I don’t know. We’ll both get MRIs Monday. I have no idea. Obviously, I didn’t want to sit out the second half. I tried to run out there, but I couldn’t run like I wanted to.”
Rookie D.J. Smith, a sixth-round draft pick, replaced Bishop, and second-year pro Robert Francois replaced Hawk. Hawk and Bishop are the Packers’ signal callers in the huddle and the two defensive players designated to wear helmet speakers for receiving the play call from the sideline, so the Packers’ coaches had to signal their defensive calls by hand for the entire second half.
“I give a lot of credit to our young linebackers that stepped up today,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We had no defensive communication from the time A.J. Hawk went out. A.J. and Desmond are the communicators for our defense. Just the boundary discipline, the communication, the signaling, two young guys in there running the defense, that’s big-time stuff. That’s real football. That’s adversity.”
Francois made a big play, a third-quarter interception of a seam pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Stafford underthrew the ball slightly, and Francois made the leaping catch after taking a deep drop.
“I think he didn’t expect me to jump or see it,” Francois said.
Smith made a tackle on his first snap from scrimmage, when he dropped halfback Kevin Smith for no gain on a first down. Smith finished with five tackles.
Sitton, Starks injured, too
Right guard Josh Sitton left the game after three series because of a sprained knee — he’s had a sore knee for most of the season. Evan Dietrich-Smith replaced him.
Running back James Starks sustained an ankle injury in the second half and didn’t play the game’s final 20 minutes but said he could have gone back in.
Psst! Lee was ejected
Apparently everyone at Ford Field — except the Packers — knew cornerback Pat Lee had been ejected for throwing a punch.
Lee lined up on the kickoff return team to start the second half but quickly was told by an official he had to leave the field.
Referee Terry McAulay made the announcement about the ejection after Lee was called for a personal foul while covering a punt late in the second quarter.
“That was just a breakdown in communication,” McCarthy said. “I did talk to Terry after the play, and I know I guess it was said over the loudspeaker, but it was clearly a breakdown in communication.”
Lee said he heard Lions coach Jim Schwartz tell one of the officials he shouldn’t have been on the field to start the second half.
On the play in which he was ejected, Lee, who is a gunner on the punt team, was double-teamed by Lions cornerback Aaron Berry and receiver Rashied Davis. They battled all the way down the field and continued to after the whistle blew, but it didn’t appear Lee did anything different than what the Lions’ players did to him.
“They were mugging me, but you know, the refs called it,” Lee said. “I don’t think it was a fair call. I was just getting the guys off of me, and the whistle was blowing, and they were still mugging me, so I was trying to get them off. This is football, and the thing I was trying to do was get off and go down the field, and I couldn’t even do that.”
Lee said he did not throw a punch.
“I was just pushing the guys off of me, that was it,” Lee said. “I was getting punched and everything.”
Lee said he watched the rest of the game from the locker room.
Big offensive weapon
Defensive lineman B.J. Raji was back on offense.
For the second straight game, McCarthy used Raji on offense at the goal line. Last Sunday against Tampa Bay, Raji scored a 1-yard touchdown. On Thursday against the Lions, he played two snaps as a blocker.
On first-and-goal from the 1, the Packers lined up with three tight ends, plus Raji and fullback John Kuhn in the backfield. Aaron Rodgers threw to tight end Andrew Quarless, who dropped the ball in the end zone. On the second play, Raji blocked for Kuhn, who scored.
“Any time I go on offense in the goal line, it’s going to be fun,” Raji said. “Last week, I got the ball. This week, I was blocking. John blocked for me last week, so I had to return the favor.”
Out of the club
For the first time since he broke his right hand in practice on Oct. 13, safety Morgan Burnett played without a club cast covering his hand.
Instead, Burnett wore only a split under the glove he typically wore before the injury.
Burnett finished third on the team with five tackles.
“With only the splint, it gives me the ability to grab better,” Burnett said. “I had a couple of fingers free, and my hand felt real good.”