Packers running out of tackles after putting Kyle Murphy on IR
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers are down to two offensive tackles with experience in their offense and both of them are hurt.
On Tuesday, the Packers placed Kyle Murphy, a starter at right tackle in the season opener against Seattle and a starter at left tackle against Atlanta and Cincinnati, on injured reserve because of a left foot injury.
Murphy was in the locker room wearing a medical boot and using a knee scooter. The Packers do not allow players on injured reserve to speak with the media, so Murphy was not available to discuss the injury or his future.
Murphy is the third player capable of playing tackle that the Packers have placed on injured reserve, joining Don Barclay (ankle) and Jason Spriggs (hamstring). Barclay will be available for return after Week 8, Spriggs after Week 10 and Murphy after Week 11.
The Packers can bring back only two players from injured reserve, according to NFL rules.
The more immediate problem is how McCarthy gets through the game against the Chicago Bears on Thursday night.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury and Bryan Bulaga dropped out in the fourth quarter of the Bengals game Sunday after missing the first two games with an ankle injury.
Even if both are able to play against the Bears, how long will they be able to last?
Bakhtiari and Bulaga took part in the abbreviated practice Tuesday, but until they get through a full workout Wednesday, the Packers won’t know for sure whether they'll play.
“If an individual doesn’t get into the limited practice category today, I think he’d be hard-pressed to play in the game Thursday,” McCarthy said. “That’s about as good as I can give you based on the information that I have.”
Both Bakhtiari and Bulaga were limited participants in practice, although Bulaga did not take part in the periods the media were allowed to watch. The two have not played together this season after starting all 19 games together last year.
It's unclear who would take over at left tackle if Bakhtiari couldn't play or dropped out of the game. It's possible guard/center Justin McCray, who has filled in at right tackle when Bulaga hasn't been available, could move to that side. If Bulaga also weren't available, it's likely undrafted rookie Adam Pankey would start for him.
The Packers announced the signing of tackle Ulrick John from the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad. The 6-5, 307-pound John, who has played in five games in three-plus seasons with Indianapolis, Miami and Arizona, at best would be an emergency fill-in Thursday night because he has not played a down in the McCarthy offense and would be very limited in what he could play.
Ulrick practiced with the team and was in the midst of a crash course to learn the offense.
In the meantime, the two starting tackles have time working against them given the short week, although Bakhtiari hasn't played in 2½ weeks. Bulaga, however, has to recover from more damage to his ankle suffered Sunday and not only has to be stable but has to have enough strength to play an entire game.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the practice week might not reflect Bakhtiari's and Bulaga's status Thursday night because both could play without much practice.
"Short week," Rodgers said. "I think if you’re ready to go Thursday you should be ready to play. These haven’t been the hardest practices. It’s not like we’ve been out there hitting each other. It’s just been helmets today; tomorrow will be much of the same.
"I don’t know, if I wasn’t out there and I was ready to go Thursday, I would play."
Bakhtiari said he has been following a course the medical staff set for him after he injured his hamstring against Seattle in the season opener. He worked out both before the Atlanta game and before the Cincinnati game to see if he was ready but wasn't given the green light.
He said he has not suffered a setback and was improving.
"I’m getting better," Bakhtiari said. "I’ve been progressing every day since the injury. That’s important. We’re taking the right steps and that’s the most important thing."
Murphy played all the snaps against the Bengals, which means he played through a significant injury for an undetermined amount of time. He had a rough game, allowing two sacks, a quarterback hit and a pressure.
The Packers did find out a lot about Murphy. He played better than Spriggs during training camp and handled the start at right tackle against Seattle pretty well. He had a much harder time at left tackle, but the Packers felt his best positions were right tackle and right guard.
At some point, the Packers will have to decide which of the linemen to return to the 53-man roster. It's not clear if Murphy's injury is season-ending, but Barclay's and Spriggs' are not.