The guys give their predictions for Sunday's showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Green Bay Packers. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY – It appears the Green Bay Packers will be without a number of key starters and contributors for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, despite the optimism of coach Mike McCarthy.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring), safety Kentrell Brice (groin), wide receiver Randall Cobb (chest), defensive end Mike Daniels (hip), cornerback Davon House (quadricep), outside linebacker Nick Perry (hand) and inside linebacker Jake Ryan (hamstring/concussion) are all listed as doubtful after being unable to practice Wednesday and Thursday.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) and wide receiver Jordy Nelson (quadricep) were listed as questionable after practicing in a limited capacity during the week.
“I think that that group of guys that haven’t practiced yet, we’re going to give them the week to go through,” McCarthy said during his Friday news conference. “Today’s a day (that) will obviously help all the players, let alone the injured players, because it’s meetings and walk-throughs and then you have the STAA (soft-tissue activation and application) program at 1:15.
“Hopefully, we’re improving and really, the practice lineup tomorrow will tell the story.”
The STAA program is part of the rest-and-recovery day that is built into the Packers’ workweek. It requires the players to take part in some form of rehab, such as massage, and always takes place on Friday afternoons when games are Sunday. It has been in existence since McCarthy switched to the Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday practice format.
The players listed as doubtful will have a final opportunity Saturday to convince the coaches and medical staff they are capable of playing against the Bengals.
“I was like it’s Week 2 and we have that many injuries?” defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said this week. “When I got back in practice I seen (Justin) McCray at right tackle and I’m like I’ve never seen this many injuries this early into the season. I’m used to — not saying you want to get anybody hurt — but I’m used to seeing that down like Week 15, Week 16, 17 because dudes fatigue and somebody might be nicked up and all. But to see it this early? It’s just next man up. We can’t complain. Next man up. I understand you might not be in a position that you’re comfortable with, but you’ve gotta learn it for this team. You’ve got to win it.”
Jean Francois was re-signed earlier this week in response to Daniels’ hip injury, which was originally suffered during practice prior to the Atlanta game. Daniels compounded the problem against the Falcons when his hamstring on the same leg flared up.
Though he did not practice all week, Daniels spoke to the media for the first time Friday. He remains “optimistic” about his chances of playing this weekend, but all signs are pointing toward the Packers playing without him.
“It’s getting better,” Daniels said. “Taking it day by day and just really working to rehab it so I can get back out there. … It’s definitely tough to not be out there and to know I’ll potentially not be out there (Sunday). It’s a hard thing to do if you ask anybody in this locker room that’s been in this position. Fortunately, I haven’t had to be in this position in six years now, and it’s just kind of jumped out of nowhere. It’s just a matter of getting healthy and doing everything I need to do to get back out there.”
The Bengals, meanwhile, will be without several key players as well. Tight end Tyler Eifert (back), right guard Trey Hopkins (knee) and wide receiver John Ross (knee), a first-round pick this year, were ruled out after failing to practice all week.
Defensive end Michael Johnson (concussion/stinger), cornerback KeiVarae Russell (hamstring) and safety Derron Smith (ankle) were listed as questionable.
On the first drive of the second half in Atlanta last week, quarterback Aaron Rodgers lined up in an empty formation. He fielded the snap, looked left and then — by the time he swiveled back to the right — defensive end Vic Beasley was in his face.
Rodgers absorbed a huge hit as he flung the ball toward the sideline in an attempt to save yardage. But the ball flew laterally across the field, and the ruling was a backward pass. Cornerback Desmond Trufant scooped up the loose ball and raced in for a touchdown that gave the Falcons a 31-7 lead.
Could Rodgers have done anything differently?
“You know, not getting into details, but we’ve got a certain protection on there that we’d probably be better off to change,” quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said Thursday. “And I’ll just leave it at that. That could have helped him there. But that’s just a tough deal. We’re trying to help the line out by changing up a couple things, the interior, and it just so happened they gamed and they had some free hats that surprised him.”
Beasley was not fined for his hit on Rodgers.
» The Packers’ cornerbacks caught a break when John Ross, the speedy first-round pick for the Bengals, was ruled out with a knee injury.
Ross, the ninth overall pick this spring, set the NFL scouting combine’s 40-yard dash record at 4.22 seconds in February. Rookie cornerback Kevin King, Ross’ college teammate at Washington, said the Packers' scouting report has him listed at a blazing 4.15 seconds.
“That might be something you can’t get used to,” King said. “Like, anybody in this league, if you make a small mistake, then they can capitalize on that. The margin for error is extremely smaller with him. You’ve just got to trust your technique. You don’t have to try to go out there and do anything extra. That’s when people get out of themselves, when they go and try to do too much or something that they haven’t been doing before.
“I’ve seen hammies pop trying to run with him. Real deal. I’ve seen linebackers trying to cover him on the wheel route, hammies pop.”
Perhaps it’s a good thing Ross was ruled out. The Packers can’t afford any more injuries.
Ryan Wood of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin contributed