Packers notes: Shaky outlook for offensive line after another round of injuries

Tom Silverstein, Jim Owczarski and Ryan Wood
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks downfield as offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (69) blocks against Washington Sunday, September 23, 2018 at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. Jim Matthews/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

LANDOVER, Md. - The Green Bay Packers made it through two games with their offensive line intact.

But that streak might very well come to an end next week because right tackle Bryan Bulaga injured his back and right guard Justin McCray reinjured a shoulder that has been bothering him since training camp.

Just like that, the Packers are banged up again on the offensive line.

“It’s tough,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “But we just stayed pretty much status quo.”

By that, Bakhtiari means the Packers didn’t change a lot offensively, not that status quo is that multiple guys on the line are injured. But the latter certainly would have been appropriate given the injuries they had there last year.

Bulaga left the game late in the first half. It’s unclear how serious the injury is, but Bulaga is coming back from ACL injury and there’s no telling if the back is related to that or something separate.

His replacement was Jason Spriggs, who has been working since the start of training camp to be a swing tackle. He’s in his third year and might have been the starter had Bulaga not had such a smooth recovery from his knee injury.

But he looked like the Spriggs of old, giving up a pressure on one of his first plays and committing a pair of penalties. The Packers will hope he just needs some re-acclimation to full-speed football, but his job is to fill in without incident.

McCray was hopeful his injury wasn’t that bad, but it has been getting worse since he injured it in camp, he said, and will have to be watched. He said it just gradually got worse Sunday until he had to come out of the game.

Lucas Patrick replaced McCray, but after committing a holding penalty was yanked from the game and replaced by veteran Byron Bell. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in his postgame news conference that Bell had gotten banged up, but he was not specific.

“We’ve got a number of guys hurt today, so we’re going to have to get back home and see how they are and regroup there,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

Strong debut

In his first action off a two-week suspension, second-year running back Aaron Jones was the third running back to get touches for the Packers, but he made them count. He ripped off a 10-yard run on his first carry of 2018 and finished with a team-high 42 yards on the ground on six carries (7.0 yards per attempt). He also caught one ball for five yards.

“I did show that I wasn’t rusty at all,” Jones said. “That just attests to my teammates getting me ready in practice.”

McCarthy said in the run-up to the game that Jones would be behind Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery in the rotation, and he stuck to that through the game.

“He did a really nice job with his opportunities,” McCarthy said. “His running style is definitely different than Ty’s and Jamaal’s. I think those three guys give us excellent balance and versatility.”

The second most productive player on offense behind wide receiver Geronimo Allison (76 receiving yards) was Montgomery, who rushed four times for 16 yards and caught six passes for 48 yards.

His 64 yards were more than Davante Adams’ 52, Jones’ 47 and Jimmy Graham’s 45.

No excuses

The Packers weren’t interested in making excuses for their poor performance in a loss, but the Minnesota Vikings appeared to provide one.

After their 70-minute overtime one week prior, the Packers were not the only team sluggish Sunday. The Vikings fell behind 27-0 at home to the Buffalo Bills before losing 27-6.

Similarly, the Packers were listless in Sunday’s first half, falling behind 28-10.

“We’re not going to use that as an excuse,” outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. “Of course you could say five quarters of play, the heat, playing a division rival. You could use any of those excuses, but we’ve got to play better. So we’ll get back to the basics, fundamentals. We’ll come out next week and get ready to go back to Lambeau.”

The Packers better be sharper next week. They’ll host the Bills on Sunday at Lambeau Field, an opponent that might be hitting their stride at the right time.

“We’ve got to clean our own house,” McCarthy said. “It’s sloppy right now. We’ll just stay after the fundamentals.”

No worse for wear

During the game, Rodgers appeared to grab at one of his hamstrings, but afterward he said he did not hurt himself.

“Nope,” he said. “I don’t know. I don’t remember. Hamstrings are fine.”

As for his knee, Rodgers admitted he didn’t feel any better after this game than he did after the Minnesota game.

Asked if he was hopeful he would feel better at some point, Rodgers said he would see.

“I hope so, I really do,” he said. “It can be painful sometimes, moving around, especially lateral movement. But I’m going to go out there if I’m up for it. Trying to get this thing back in the right direction for next week.”

Chilled to the bone

In the fourth quarter, Packers players could be seen jumping around during timeouts, similar to what they do during cold-weather games to stay warm.

“It got pretty cold at the end,” Jones said.

A number of the players were shivering even after coming out of the shower.

“It kind of poured for a little bit, then stopped, then poured again,” tight end Lance Kendricks said. “It definitely played a factor.”


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