GREEN BAY - If the primary reason for signing outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks was to bolster the depth behind starting edge rushers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, what happened Thursday was surely a secondary motivation for Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson.
Perry, who signed a five-year, $60 million contract during the offseason, will undergo surgery on his injured hand, according to coach Mike McCarthy, and the length of his absence won’t be known until the procedure is completed.
An early report from NFL Network said the surgery involves one of Perry’s fingers and that his recovery should be brief.
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“I don't know the details on Nick Perry's hand,” McCarthy said. “He’s actually scheduled for surgery, so that’s something we’ll continue to work through. There will be more information for you down the road.”
It’s the second time in as many years that the 27-year-old Perry will have surgery on an injured hand. Perry broke his left hand against the Houston Texans last December and underwent a procedure to insert multiple screws into the metacarpal below his middle finger.
Perry missed two weeks after surgery and returned to the field with a club, which he wore during the playoff push and incorporated into his sack celebrations. He had four sacks in five games while wearing the club and finished with a team-high 11 sacks for the season.
McCarthy did not say whether this year’s injury involved the same hand.
“He's a violent football player,” McCarthy said. “He's physical, he plays the game the right way. If you look at his play style, I mean that's really part of his game, the violence that he plays with (using) his hands.”
The violent hands have led to a number of injuries throughout his career. Of his 62 total games with the Packers, 20 have been played wearing a club or a cast. And if Perry doesn’t play Sunday, it will mark the sixth time in as many seasons that he failed to play all 16 regular-season games.
“I mean, it sucks, for lack of a better term,” fellow outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. “We always try to keep it in perspective, it’s a tough position to play. I think last year, Julius (Peppers) was the only guy to not miss a game at that outside linebacker position.”
Given Perry’s injury, the return of Brooks could not come at a better time for the Packers, who are already thin at the outside linebacker position relative to 2016.
Brooks, 33, suffered a concussion in the regular-season opener and missed the loss to the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. But he returned to practice Wednesday and has been a full participant all week, including Thursday’s padded session.
“Great to have him back,” McCarthy said. “I think he's a great fit for what we're doing. I really like the way I got to see him in practice going into the opener in Seattle. So his role will definitely be bigger this week. … You're talking about an excellent player in this league for a long time. But as far as playing outside linebacker, playing the elephant, he has the ability to play both.”
With Perry unlikely to play this weekend, the Packers will rely on a trio of outside linebackers against the Cincinnati Bengals, led by Matthews and Brooks.
Though he began his career rushing almost exclusively on the right, Matthews had started the 2017 season on the left against the Seahawks and Falcons. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers likely will deploy Matthews all over the field against the Bengals, but there’s a good chance he takes an increased number of snaps from his traditional position since Brooks was accustomed to playing on the left with the San Francisco 49ers.
Behind them, second-year man Kyler Fackrell will be the main rotation player and should see a significant number of snaps. If necessary, the Packers also could utilize former waiver claim Chris Odom, who was active during the loss to the Falcons but did not play a single snap on defense or special teams.
“For Nick to this early in the season mess up his hand like that,” Matthews said, “we’re just hoping that he can get back out here and play as well as he did with that cast (last year), but it’s tough. This position is all about playing with your hands, being explosive, get off, so on and so forth. Hopefully, he gets the time he needs to rest up, get healthy and come on back.
“But in the meantime, we’ll expect big things from the guys that will be filling in like Ahmad and Kyler. So we’ll weather this storm.”
Nick Perry's injuries
2012, six games played — Wore cast on left wrist in Week 2; injured left knee in sixth game; missed remainder of the season with wrist injury.
2013, 11 games played — Broke right foot in fifth game and missed next three; re-injured foot during first game back and missed two more games.
2014, 15 games played — Hurt right shoulder in 10th game and missed one week.
2015, 14 games played — Injured left shoulder/right hand in fifth game and missed subsequent week; returned with cast on right hand; missed one additional game with shoulder issue.
2016, 14 games played — Broke left hand in 12th game and missed two weeks; wore club for the remainder of the season.