Packers looking at ways to adjust after losing ILB Jake Ryan to torn ACL
GREEN BAY - Green Bay Packers linebacker Jake Ryan tore the ACL in his right knee and will miss the rest of the season, according to a source familiar with the results of an MRI he underwent Tuesday.
Ryan was injured in practice Monday and carted off the field after suffering what appeared at the time to be a serious injury. Surgery will be scheduled soon for the fourth-year linebacker and he will face a 9-to-12 month recovery. Ryan also tore his right ACL in college at Michigan.
Ryan is in the final year of his contract and will be a free agent in March, which means he would be close to being cleared for practice but teams will want to see where he's at before signing him.. He will earn his $1.907 million in base salary this season.
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Ryan went down in an 11-on-11 drill in which he was pursuing rookie wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown after a short catch in the flat. After Ryan grabbed at his knee in obvious pain, some teammates bowed their heads and took a knee as the trainers attended to him.
“He was just devastated,” said inside linebacker Blake Martinez, who spoke with Ryan after he was carted to the locker room. “Obviously, he was super-excited about the season. He’s been putting a tremendous amount of work in.
“He’s been awesome throughout OTAs and these past four practices. It’s been good for him. It’s just really tough.”
Of all the Packers' inside linebackers, Ryan most fit the mold of the old 3-4 defenses, a run-stopper able to battle offensive linemen and shoot gaps.
Ryan was starting in the base defense, but defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has used numerous combinations with Martinez, replacing Ryan with cornerback Quentin Rollins, safeties Josh Jones and Jermaine Whitehead, and rookie linebacker Oren Burks in the dime package.
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Burks was drafted in the third round because the Packers thought his size (6-3, 233), wingspan (79 ½ inches) and speed (4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash) made him a perfect fit for the hybrid safety/linebacker position that has evolved in response to the many athletic tight ends that have entered the league.
General manager Brian Gutekunst said Tuesday that he had no plans to replace Ryan with a veteran. He said he wanted to see how Burks and young players such as Greer Martini, Ahmad Thomas and Naashon Hughes do in camp.
Asked Wednesday how Ryan might be replaced, Pettine told reporters, "Well, certainly we have experience in a guy that was very productive last year in Blake. We have the rookie, O.B. (Burks), who has flashed some things. Still, the transition from the college game to the NFL, it takes some time. He's very intelligent, he processes very quickly, but there's still just that learning curve. It's tough for those guys to come in, and it overwhelms them a little bit at first. And especially now, we're working off the entire inventory. I mean, we'll have all the defenses in by either Friday or maybe one or two for Saturday. That's overwhelming. And once we get to game-plan situations, we really cut it down. That's going to help a lot of our guys that have a lot stuff running through their head. But he's no stranger to that at this point.
"Ahmad Thomas has flashed, certainly, some coverage ability in the days so far. And then we have some other, younger guys. We'll see how it plays out. It's a big loss with Jake, and I know we're going to get together as a staff later this week when we talk about the roster and kind of where we are moving forward and what our needs are. I know there's certainly open lines of communication with the personnel department."