Perry out with hand injury; Lang nears return
GREEN BAY — If his first four seasons with the Green Bay Packers offered any indication, the sad truth is that it was only a matter of time before outside linebacker Nick Perry got hurt.
A former first-round pick out of Southern California, Perry has played just 46 of the team’s 64 regular-season games since he entered the league in 2012. The wrist and knee injuries that cost him 10 games as a rookie developed into a frustrating and growth-stunting trend.
He played 11 games in 2013 (foot/ankle); 15 games in 2014 (shoulder) and 14 games in 2015 (shoulder/hand) before signing a new one-year deal with the Packers after the organization declined to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.
For a moment the 2016 season appeared to be Perry’s breakthrough, the first time in his career the injury bug might fail to bite. But then his arm got trapped while making a tackle against the Houston Texans and Perry suffered what coach Mike McCarthy described as a “significant hand injury.”
Though he will not play this week when the Packers host the Seattle Seahawks, Perry is expected to return this season and play with a cast, according to a source. A report by ESPN.com said Perry already had surgery to repair the injury.
“I feel terrible for Nick,” McCarthy said at his Wednesday news conference. “He was having a great season, clearly, his best season. He’s had a setback. How we plan moving forward, frankly it’s the same thing we do each and every week. It’s based on the health of your team. Our job is to put players in position to be successful. We feel good about our plan and (we) plan on being successful Sunday.
“I don’t know the specifics of how long they think it’s going to be, but I know talking with Nick, he wants to go. So that’s why we’re going to look at it Monday, and see where he is.”
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A starter at outside linebacker, Perry injured his hand on the eighth play from scrimmage Sunday afternoon. He was taken to the locker room for X-rays and did not return until the start of the third quarter, when he reappeared wearing a massive club. He took the field for five additional snaps before finally bowing out for the duration of the game.
As McCarthy noted, Perry was enjoying his most productive season prior to the injury. Through 12 games he leads the Packers in sacks with eight, which is a career-high total, ranks fourth on the team in total tackles and is by far the stoutest run stopper on the roster.
“Nick is a key player on our defense,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “We’re definitely going to miss him this week. But we have the young guys that are ready to step up and play.”
Replacing Perry would be a difficult task with a healthy linebacker corps, but with injuries to Clay Matthews (shoulder), Blake Martinez (knee), Jake Ryan (ankle) and Kyler Fackrell (hamstring), the situation is murky at best and calamitous at worst.
Matthews, who injured his shoulder against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 28, played with something less than two arms in Sunday's win over the Texans. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers shifted Matthews to inside linebacker at times for the second game in as many weeks, and his 29 total snaps were split as follows: twenty-one at outside linebacker, eight at inside linebacker.
But the injury to his AC joint left Matthews with a gory bruise the size of a paperback novel across his shoulder and armpit. His range of motion and strength were severely compromised and his reps were limited almost exclusively to third downs. Matthews will not practice between now and Saturday.
"He was extremely limited in the game," McCarthy said. "Each week it’s going to get better. That’s the hope."
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The good news for the Packers centered on right guard T.J. Lang, who has missed the last three games with what he confirmed is a broken foot. Lang had not practiced since dropping out of the game against Tennessee but returned to the field Wednesday in a very limited role.
“I think we’re still kind of in the process of feeling things out, testing it,” Lang said after Wednesday’s practice. “Did some running last week, did a little bit more Monday, was able to get on the practice field today and run a little bit, although it was in a limited fashion. Everything I’m doing right now is just kind of feeling my way through and just kind of testing the water a little bit to see where the progress is."
Despite his desire to play, Lang was realistic about his slim chances of taking the field against Seattle. That, he said, would require a perfect practice session Thursday and a bit of smooth talking with the medical staff.
“I probably don’t see that happening,” Lang said. “Just have to take it day by day.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury, practiced in a limited fashion Wednesday. His availability against Seattle is not in question.
“It’s a progression,” Rodgers said, “and I’ll be as healthy as I possibly can by Sunday.”
Ryan Wood of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin contributed to this report.