Packers must carry on without injured Kenny Clark; Aaron Jones keeps focus on field
GREEN BAY - Kenny Clark was ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions after the Green Bay Packers defensive lineman missed his third consecutive practice with a groin injury Friday.
Clark told radio station WDUZ on Wednesday that he strained his groin muscle in the Packers’ Week 1 game against the Minnesota Vikings when his foot slid on the turf. The defensive lineman hasn’t missed a game since he injured his elbow against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 9, 2018, which sidelined him from the final two weeks of the season.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur anticipates that replacing Clark will take a collective effort from all members of the defensive line room.
“Particularly at the D-line position, I don’t think we played last week right there and I know these guys are hungry and I know they’re ready to get back out on the field and prove that that wasn’t their best performance,” LaFleur said.
Packers tight end Josiah Deguara and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, who are dealing with shin/ankle and knee injuries, respectively, also missed Friday’s practice. Deguara is listed as questionable and St. Brown has been ruled out for Sunday’s game. Both were limited participants in practice Wednesday and were downgraded to non-participants Thursday.
Deguara’s shin injury was included on the injury report Wednesday, but his ankle was added Thursday. LaFleur said Deguara banged his ankle up in the game, attempted to work through it in practice Wednesday and “might have tweaked it a little bit.”
St. Brown was inactive against the Vikings. The 2018 sixth-round pick spent all of last season on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain.
After losing guard Lane Taylor to a season-ending knee injury, the Packers may see the return of another offensive lineman this week. Right tackle Billy Turner (knee) was a limited participant in Friday’s practice after practicing in full capacity Thursday. He is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Lions. Turner missed the season opener in Minnesota due to the knee injury.
Guard Lucas Patrick (shoulder) and guard Elgton Jenkins (ankle) were full participants in Friday’s practice for the second consecutive day. Patrick is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.
Safety Raven Greene, who was inactive against the Vikings, is questionable with a quadriceps injury heading into the Lions game. He was a limited participant in practice all week. Greene missed all but seven practices during training camp. He missed 14 games in 2019 with an ankle injury.
Defensive lineman Montravius Adams (toe) remained a limited participant in Friday’s practice after participating in the same capacity Wednesday and Thursday. Adams is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Lions and was inactive against the Vikings.
The Lions will be down several starters, including wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring), cornerback Desmond Trufant (hamstring) and left guard Joe Dahl (groin). Starting right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (foot), backup cornerback Darryl Roberts (calf), defensive lineman Nick Williams (shoulder) and core special teams player C.J. Moore (hamstring) are questionable to play.
Slot cornerback Justin Coleman (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Although the Lions’ cornerbacks are banged up, rookie cornerback Jeff Okudah will make his NFL debut against the Packers after missing Week 1 against the Chicago Bears with a hamstring injury.
Jones staying focused on field
In the hours before playing Week 1 in Minnesota, Aaron Jones saw the news that two of his 2017 draft classmates, Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara, inked $63 million and $75 million contract extensions, respectively.
“Just congratulations to those guys,” Jones said Friday. “They’re just helping out all the running backs on the market. So big kudos and congrats to those guys. It’s very well deserved to them.”
Before that, two other 2017 draft picks, Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon ($48 million) and Cleveland’s Kareem Hunt ($13.25), were also extended.
“It doesn’t really seep into my mind,” Jones said. “I guess you could say when you see other people getting paid, it does a little bit then. But other than that, not really. I know if I handle business this year on the field and things like that, it’ll come and I will be able to provide for my family and things like that. So just going out and controlling the controllables and what I can control.”
Jones, entering his fourth and final season on his rookie deal, did not come to terms on an extension before the season opener and then went out and touched the ball 20 times for 76 yards and a score in the Packers’ 43-34 victory.
That same day, fellow 2017 draft classmate Marlon Mack suffered a season-ending torn Achilles injury while playing for Indianapolis. Like Jones, he was coming off a 1,000-yard rushing season but also did not receive an offseason extension.
Mack’s situation only amplified the risk Jones takes each time he steps on the field without a deal, but he insists he’s not worried about his contractual future. He also added that he will not set a deadline for a potential new deal.
“But that’s not my main focus,” he reiterated. “Just going to continue to focus on football and helping this team bring in the wins, as many as possible.”
Muted and masked at Lambeau Field
The Packers practiced inside Lambeau Field on Friday largely so the sound engineers could find the proper decibel level for game day and the team to get used to it. During training camp, the piped-in crowd noise and music was so loud that at in one practice LaFleur had asked them to turn it down. Then in Minnesota, the artificial noise seemed almost irrelevant.
“I thought it was a much similar sound to what we played in last week,” LaFleur said after practice. “It didn’t sound quite as loud as maybe our practices in Lambeau.”
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The head coach also said he has gotten used to calling plays while wearing a mask and just has to be mindful to reposition it after he hydrates. Earlier in the week the National Football League sent out a reminder email to clubs that coaches and staff must wear face coverings and fines would be imposed if not.
“You’re so focused on the game that I really don’t think it’s that big of an issue,” LaFleur said. “I know that when I’m calling plays or (defensive coordinator Mike Pettine) Pet’s calling plays or a lot of these guys around the league are calling plays, you don’t really need to cover your mouth when you have your mask on but we’re all creatures of habit and the call sheet tend to go up right in front of your face. My point is, I don’t think you realize it’s there half the time.”
LaFleur clarifies Barry’s role
On March 12, LaFleur made an addition to his staff when he hired Butch Barry as a senior analyst. At the time, there was no definition for what that role included, but Barry had spent the bulk of his career coaching the offensive line in college and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
LaFleur had some familiarity with Barry as he played at Central Michigan under LaFleur’s father, Denny, but the two had never worked together. And, at his hiring, it seemed like the offensive line room was set with coach Adam Stenavich and assistant Luke Butkus.
This week, LaFleur detailed that Barry is using his offensive line expertise to help the Packers’ defensive line.
“It’s a pretty cool dynamic in terms of Butch’s background is with the offensive line,” LaFleur said. “He gives such a great perspective on what offenses are trying to do, why they’re trying to do it, how they’re going to block certain things. He looks at everything from, you know, just what we’re doing with our pre-snap mannerisms to what the offense is doing. So, he’s got a pretty big role and I think he’s done an outstanding job and has been a huge asset for our defensive staff.”