Notebook: Onslaught of injuries has players baffled

Nov. 10, 2013
Green Bay Packers' Evan Dietrich-Smith leaves the field injured during Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media
Green Bay Packers' Evan Dietrich-Smith leaves the field injured during Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field. Dan Powers/Gannett Wisconsin Media

Datone Jones doesn’t know any other way to explain it.

Week after week, regardless of what they do, injuries seem to claim another victim on the Green Bay Packers’ roster.

Last week, it was MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. On Sunday, five more players — quarterback Seneca Wallace (groin), center Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee), right tackle Don Barclay (knee), cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (foot) — all left with injuries and did not return in a 27-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

“It’s kind of a plague right now,” said Jones, the Packers’ rookie defensive lineman. “We just have to get on our hands and knees at night and pray, and get in that training room in the morning as much as we can, so we can get healthy. That’s all we can do right now. I don’t know where to start with this.”

This comes after the Packers placed two more players — tight end Jermichael Finley (neck) and linebacker Sam Barrington (hamstring) — on injured reserve last week, a list that now consists of nine players.

Like Rodgers last Monday night, the 33-year-old Wallace lasted only one full series before being replaced by third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien, who was promoted from the practice squad Tuesday.

Dietrich-Smith’s knee flared up midway through the second quarter. He tried to play through it before finally going to the locker room and being replaced by right guard T.J. Lang. Barclay moved to Lang’s vacated post before dropping out with his own knee injury.

More troubling were the injuries to Hayward and Perry, who appeared to aggravate recurring injuries. Hayward missed the first two months with hamstring issues before returning Oct. 27 against Minnesota.

“It’s a tricky situation, those hamstrings,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “The guy has been battling it all season long and been out for a while. He came back and felt he had turned that corner and something else like this happens, it’s tough. ... I have a lot of respect for Casey. How he gets well soon.”

The Packers pulled out all the tricks during the offseason to help cure the injury bug that’s hampered them in recent years, but it again has sunk its teeth into the heart of the roster.

This time, it has the Packers fighting to keep their season alive and has some players starting to wonder what more they can do.

“When you’ve had as many injuries as we have, you’re like, good God, what the hell is going on? What’s in the water?” right guard Josh Sitton said. “You can’t not think about it, it’s human nature. But we don’t make excuses for it, you just roll. You go to the next play and go to the next guy and just keep going.”

Running nowhere

A lot of things played into the Packers’ issues running the ball, but the loss of Dietrich-Smith didn’t help matters.

Eddie Lacy rushed for 14 carries for 52 yards behind the line when Dietrich-Smith was involved, but finished with only 21 yards on 10 second-half carries for a 3.0-yard average for the game. As a team, the Packers rushed 30 times for 99 yards, including a Scott Tolzien 19-yard scramble in the third quarter.

Lang placed some of the blame on himself. Although his shotgun and under-center snaps to Tolzien were fine, he felt he left a few plays on the field, particuarly in the run game.

“Hopefully, Evan is going to be fine, but if I have to play there moving forward, it’s something I need to do a better job of,” said Lang of his performance in the run game. “The biggest thing was up front today, I don’t think our run-blocking was very good. I know, me personally, there were a few plays I wish I could have back. It’s something we’ve been doing well all season and kind of took a step back today.”

Lang said he knew he was the backup at center since Greg Van Roten was placed on injured reserve last month. He estimated he takes about 5 or 10 minutes each day snapping with quarterbacks, but it was his first time playing the position at any level.

Matthews' club

Clay Matthews made his return after a one-month absence from a broken thumb, but was noticeably limited by the giant club he was required to wear on his surgically repaired right thumb.

He was limited to primarily bull-rushing blockers, many of whom he struggled to disengage from. Matthews finished with only two tackles and zero quarterback hits but hopes for better next week.

“You try to get more comfortable with throwing it in there. Eventually, it becomes second nature,” said Matthews, who hopes the club will be smaller next week. “Right now, obviously with having the pins pulled out on Monday, there’s still a little bit of grimness to it. But overall I think that will dissipate and I’ll be able to throw it in there a little bit more to the point where it will get smaller and smaller and you deal with it, and play a little more effectively.”

Extra points

■ The Packers were in position to put early points on the board with Wallace and Tolzien under center, but kicker Mason Crosby failed to convert a 53-yard field goal in the first quarter, and then missed from 42 in the second.

It was the first time Crosby missed two kicks in a game since last December’s 21-13 win over Chicago when he went 0-for-2.

“I’ve been hitting the ball extremely well,” said Crosby, who later made kicks from 26 and 35. “Not that I didn’t hit the ball OK today, but I just had a couple that I didn’t play right. I’m frustrated with it, but it’s something I’ll look at film, evaluate and move on from.”

■ A week after notching his first NFL sack, Datone Jones added two against the Eagles, with both coming on third-down plays.

After developing an ankle injury in camp, Jones had one tackle through his first seven regular-season games, but has five tackles and three sacks over the past two weeks.

“It was definitely a huge setback on my behalf,” Jones said. “I’m still not even peaking yet. I still have to get better as a player and still develop my technique and help myself become a better leader.”

■ Brandon Bostick and Tolzien shared their first NFL touchdowns when the third-string quarterback hit the first-year tight end with a 22-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

“It’s a dream come true and blessing to score a touchdown at Lambeau,” said Bostick, who finished with three catches for 42 yards. “It was just a simple route that we drew up at practice and I scored a touchdown. I’m not too happy about it since we lost the game.”

■ Packers coach Mike McCarthy declined to elaborate, but said after the loss that he has at least one area in mind in which the Packers need significant work.

“I’m disappointed as the head coach of this team because we have a recurring issue that I have to get fixed, and we’ll get on that (Monday), and I’m not going to get into that right now,” McCarthy said.

■ Marshall Newhouse allowed another sack in relief duty at right tackle when Vinny Curry beat him around the edge in the fourth quarter. and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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