Packers notes: Offensive line still in state of flux
GREEN BAY - Once again, the Green Bay Packers are in position to have both starting tackles for Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, a huge boost as quarterback Brett Hundley will make the first start of his career.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (concussion) were dropped from the injury report Friday and will be on the field this weekend, barring an unexpected setback before kickoff. Bulaga cleared the concussion protocol Friday morning, according to coach Mike McCarthy.
But based on the first half of the season, it wouldn’t be right for the Packers to enter a game free from adversity along the offensive line. Left guard Lane Taylor (ankle) is doubtful to play after Hundley inadvertently rolled onto the back of his leg during the loss Sunday to the Minnesota Vikings. Taylor did not practice all week.
The interior of the line could be a significant issue after center Corey Linsley was added to the injury report Friday with a back problem. With Don Barclay on injured reserve, the Packers do not have a true backup center on their 53-man roster. If Linsley cannot play, the Packers likely would turn to Justin McCray, who is not a natural center but has taken reps at the position since training camp.
If neither Linsley nor Taylor is able to play, the starting offensive line would look something like this: LT Bakhtiari, LG Lucas Patrick, C McCray, RG Jahri Evans, RT Bulaga.
“It takes the full week,” McCarthy said when asked if the Packers knew which linemen would be available to play. “That’s always our focus, particularly (with) guys coming back from injury.”
The secondary may be shorthanded as well. Safety Morgan Burnett did not practice again this week due to a hamstring injury suffered against the Dallas Cowboys. He was ruled out and will miss his second consecutive game.
In addition to Burnett, the Packers may be without cornerbacks Davon House (quadriceps) and Damarious Randall (hamstring), who were limited participants in practice all week. House and Randall are questionable to play.
“I’m hoping tomorrow brings good news,” McCarthy said. “I know all those guys saw Dr. (Pat) McKenzie this morning in the training room. Today we don’t practice, but tomorrow’s practice will be the true test for the guys that are on the bubble.”
Either way, the secondary did receive a significant boost with the return of rookie cornerback Kevin King, who cleared concussion protocol and practiced in full during the week. The return of King gives the Packers their best and most athletic cornerback to contend with wide receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. of the Saints.
Cornerback Lenzy Pipkins also cleared the concussion protocol and is available to play.
OLB Ahmad Brooks (back) and ILB Joe Thomas (ankle) also were ruled out for Sunday’s game.
Next man up: With cornerback Quinten Rollins being placed on IR after tearing his Achilles tendon, plus nagging injuries to House and Randall, the Packers are in a serious pickle at a valuable position.
If they need another body, the next man up is likely Donatello Brown off the practice squad. Brown signed with the Packers as an undrafted rookie from Valdosta State and played well in training camp, pushing Pipkins for a spot on the 53-man roster
Players on the practice squad are off limits to reporters, but cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. believes Brown is progressing well.
“He’s coming along, he’s coming along,” Whitt said. “He’s working hard, still has a little ways to go, but he does have a future.”
Cash-flow problem: If fans needed any evidence of the physical nature of division games, the list of fines from Sunday’s tilt between the Packers and Vikings should offer more than enough proof.
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was fined $9,115 for his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty along the sideline, triggered by a headbutt of Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.
“That was just being stupid,” Barr said. “That’s not me being dirty, that’s just me being stupid. It cost my team 15 yards in a crucial situation. Getting a turnover, I was just way too excited. I need to celebrate with my teammates instead of talking to the opponent and I will learn from that mistake.”
However, Barr was not fined for the hit on Rodgers that resulted in a broken right collarbone.
Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell was fined $24,309 for his illegal blindside block on Pipkins. Treadwell ran back toward the line of scrimmage to level Pipkins on a play that ignited some scuffling between the two teams.
For the Packers, inside linebacker Jake Ryan was fined $18,231 for his horse-collar tackle on running back Jerick McKinnon.