Kenny Clark once again dominating in December; Raven Greene return from IR remains an option

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GREEN BAY - Sitting in his locker inside Lambeau Field, Kenny Clark smiled and shrugged. It’s December and for the third straight year, the Green Bay Packers’ defensive tackle is taking the final month of the regular season by storm — only he has no idea why.

It's something Clark said he would have been unaware of had it not been pointed out to him by the media.

Clark has 15.5 career sacks, and eight (51.6%) have come in his four December months. Eight of his 22 career tackles for loss (36%) have come in the calendar’s 12th month. Eleven of his 25 quarterback hits (44%), too.

“It’s just a … I don’t know…yeah,” he laughed, looking for the right way to describe it. “It’s just a weird thing, really.”

Since the calendar turned this year, Clark has recorded 3.5 of his six sacks, five of his seven tackles for loss and three of his six hits on the quarterback.

Green Bay Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark (97) celebrates his first quarter sack with Blake Martinez (50) against the Washington Redskins during their football game Sunday, December 8, 2019, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay,, Wis. 
Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Packers defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery tried to explain it.

“I know this: He’s a pro, he goes about his business the right way,” he said. “He takes care of his body. The guys in the weight room do a phenomenal job. He’s maintained his strength if not gained strength as the season goes on. But he’s a guy that prepares. People say, well, he’s having a great year right now but early on, there was a (Next) Gen stat that said he was the most doubled guy in the run game behind (Rams defensive tackle) Aaron Donald. People were blocking him differently. From a pressure standpoint, he’s one of the top pressure guys in the league. But what’s that mean? He’s getting to the quarterback but the ball’s getting out. Now he’s getting them.”

All Clark has been able to point to, really, is that he sets out each season to get better as the year goes on. Within that, he said he takes the bye-week self-scout to heart and applies any corrections he can.

“But as far as the December thing, I really don’t know,” he said with a smile. “I guess that’s when they start falling.”

At the very least, Clark says his goal of playing his best in December is paying off.

“It’s always that,” he said. “You want to be playing your best football toward the end of the season. That’s when you should be. You should expect to be playing meaningful games.

“As far as December or whatever, there ain’t really like no switch in my head like ‘oh, yeah, let’s turn it on.’ I mean I’m happy when the sacks and all that is coming. Early in the year it was frustrating as everybody knows, but I think I handled it well. ... I’m happy they’re coming now for sure.”

Greene not ruled out

Safety Raven Greene continues to rehab from a right ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve after the second week of the season, but he took a step forward in that process Wednesday when he rejoined the team in the Don Hutson Center.

Like with Roberts, the Packers are in no hurry to make a decision on whether they will use their second designation to return from IR (Jace Sternberger was the first) on Greene.

“Right now there is not (a decision) in terms of whether or not he’s coming back,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “He’s still going through rehab.

“It’s certainly an option and I know he’s working hard every day. I think he’s moving around pretty well.”

Choice words watching laterals

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was asked about his thoughts while watching the wild finish to last Sunday's 21-13 win over Chicago in which a series of laterals on the final play nearly resulted in a Bears touchdown.

“There were some thoughts in my head while it was occurring live,” he said. “I don’t think I can necessarily share them.”

Pettine said his biggest disappointment was that some of the rules of how to defend the play weren’t carried out, but he also said it’s a difficult play to practice at full speed and coming at the end of a long game can cause players to make mental errors.

He was not as forgiving when it came to the series of laterals his own guys did after Jaire Alexander’s interception on the final play of the half.

“The same words were going through my head,” he said. “And, of course, the head coach was right next to me, vocalizing the same words. Of course, we want our guys to make a play, but once you realize that it’s not there and you have to start to go back the other way, that’s when it’s time to shut it down.

“Hopefully, they learned from it. We have aggressive guys who are good with the ball in their hands, but we just have to be smart about it.”

Roberts suits up

Packers linebacker Greg Roberts practiced for the first time Wednesday as he began the process of returning to action from a severe abdominal injury in the offseason, and Thursday marked the first time he put pads on since he finished his college career at Baylor in 2018.

“Just getting back in the swing of things, just trying to calm down and remember why I’m here and just keep working,” said Roberts, who remains on the physically unable to perform list. The 6-5, 258-pound undrafted rookie can practice for three weeks before the team must decide on his roster status.

“I think the ability to just sit back and watch the NFL ... I got to watch," Roberts said of his long layoff. "I wasn’t thrown into it. It gives you kind of a different perspective so now that I’m on the field I can kind of use those little nicks and things to get it done.”

Roberts said he has placed no expectation on himself for the next month, and the coaching staff similarly is looking forward to getting to see what the rookie can do.

“It’s our really, our first exposure to him,” LaFleur said. “So just kind of get him back in the fold and watch how he moves around and see where it goes. But we’re not in a rush to make any decisions.”

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