Pete Dougherty and Aaron Nagler break down the Packers win in overtime against the Cleveland Browns and look forward to the possible return of Aaron Rodgers. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers escaped Cleveland despite being without two of their top three cornerbacks after Davon House left the game with a back injury, and it's uncertain whether House will be available Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
House suffered a transverse process fracture in his back, a source confirmed, but does not need surgery and could return as early as this weekend.
“I don’t know exactly what his status is,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. “But I mean it was a significant injury, so he will be challenged to be ready this week.”
A transverse process is “a bony protrusion from the back of a vertebrae bone in the spine,” according to the Virtual Sports Injury Clinic. There are two transverse processes attached to each vertebra, with one on either side.
Recovery time for this injury has decreased drastically in recent years. Players are often able to return within a week or two of the fracture. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo missed only one game in 2014 when he had a pair of fractures. Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr missed one game for the same injury earlier this year.
If House is unable to play in Carolina, the Packers would have only three cornerbacks on the roster with legitimate playing time under their belts. Damarious Randall, who is playing the best football of his career, would be the team’s No. 1 corner with Josh Hawkins as the No. 2 in the base defense. Safeties Morgan Burnett and Jermaine Whitehead would be used as slot corners in the nickel and dime subpackages.
“Every week is a little bit different lineup,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “I’ll say this: We matched Damarious up on (Josh) Gordon, and I thought Damarious did a nice job on Gordon. … We took Davon out and worked him out prior to the game because we didn’t know whether we were going to have him or not, and he worked out well. I appreciated him going out (and trying). And he played well until he got hurt.
“Josh Hawkins is going to have to step up. Obviously Morgan has been playing at the star position. Jermaine Whitehead has been coming in on the third-down situations. We’ll have to get that group ready.”
The only other player with significant playing time would be Demetri Goodson, who was activated off the PUP list last week but did not play in Cleveland because of a hamstring injury. Goodson has not appeared in a game since his gruesome knee injury against Washington in November 2016. Capers said the Packers would monitor Goodson’s progress in practice this week.
Undrafted rookies Lenzy Pipkins and Donatello Brown also have been available the last two weeks but did not see any action on defense. Capers has preferred to use extra safeties instead.
“You take a guy like Jermaine, he’s a safety and he’s playing at the star position,” Capers said. “Morgan has been a safety and he’s playing at the star position. I give those guys a lot of credit because they jump in there, they’re both instinctive, which you have to have to play inside there.”