The Green Bay Packers will be missing six preferred starters for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, including Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews.
Injuries have become so commonplace the Packers almost expect someone to go down every week.
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” said Packers General Manager Ted Thompson. “You can bang your head. You can scream to heaven and all of that, but there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just kind of the way it goes.”
Thompson has to make sure there are enough able bodies on the roster when players start dropping like flies.
“I think we’ve experienced enough of the NFL to understand that those things happen and our job is to make sure we get the next group ready to go,” said Thompson.
Many injuries are unavoidable and can be chalked up to bad luck. But Thompson said the Packers have gone to great lengths to analyze trends when it comes to players getting hurt.
“We do fairly in-depth studies, that’s most of the time done in the offseason about the rate of injuries, specific kind of injuries, whether there’s a pattern, that sort of thing,” said Thompson.
The Packers leave no stone unturned, from assessing strength and conditioning methods, diet, and practice schedules.
“We’re constantly going through the stresses we’re putting on our players,” said Thompson.
It has led to alterations in the Packers’ methods, all in the hope of keeping players healthy.
“We made tons of changes, specifically in our training camp practices and stuff, and we think that’s been very beneficial,” said Thompson.
And yet, it has not stemmed the tide of injuries during the season.
“The regular season stuff is kind of getting us now,” Thompson said.
“It’s a pretty physical game. There’s a lot of stresses, not only on the soft tissue, (but) the skeleton. There’s a lot of things at risk.”
The Packers will limp along in the coming weeks and hope they can get by until some of their walking wounded return.
Adding Matthews, Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings and Cedric Benson to the lineup will provide a surge of talent that would serve the Packers well heading into the playoffs, assuming they qualify.
“I’m not thinking that way,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “Seven games left. When the injured players are healthy, they’ll be back. This week is a challenge, that’s all we ever focus on because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The Packers (6-3) are in prime postseason position. They trail NFC North leader Chicago by one game and have the inside track to a wild-card berth. But they will be forced to make do without Matthews for at least Sunday’s game and maybe more.
McCarthy has never been one to wait around for players to get healthy.
“I don’t ever try to forecast injuries as far as when players are going to be back,” McCarthy said. “It’s a week-to-week deal, but I do know they’re all trying to get back as fast as they can.”
In the meantime, substitutes continue to step forward. Two weeks ago the Packers lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga for the season in the first half against Arizona, but left guard T.J. Lang seamlessly switched positions and Evan Dietrich-Smith came off the bench.
“We did not even blink when the injury happened (against) Arizona and that’s definitely the case going into this game,” said McCarthy.
Things are not as bad as 2010, when the injured reserve list bulged to 15 players and Thompson was forced to pluck linebacker Erik Walden and defensive lineman Howard Green off the street in mid-season. At least this year the Packers found capable replacements in-house.
“Sometimes you’re going to get dings and bings and bangs and you have to go with somebody else,” said Thompson. “I think it’s a credit to the coaching staff keeping these guys ready to go.”
Ding, bing, bang. And so it goes for the Packers.
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