Packers plan game-time decisions on injuries; Matt LaFleur vigilant regarding COVID-19
GREEN BAY - For the second straight week, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (hamstring) will be a game-time decision.
Adams is questionable to play in Monday night’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. Head coach Matt LaFleur said he and the medical staff will be taking all “53 hours before kickoff” before making a ruling on Adams, just like they did last week in New Orleans when Adams ultimately did not play.
The Packers’ 2019 leading receiver suffered the injury Sept. 20 against the Detroit Lions. He returned to practice for the first time Wednesday and participated in a limited capacity all week.
Although Adams said he is feeling “a lot better” this week than he did last week, he said he won’t take the playing field until his hamstring is back to 100 percent.
LaFleur is taking a similar approach with defensive lineman Kenny Clark, who sustained a groin injury Sept. 13 in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. Clark is listed as questionable to play against the Falcons and has been practicing in a limited capacity since Sept. 24.
Clark shared that the groin injury was not as high up as it could’ve been, which meant that he didn’t expect to be sidelined long-term. While Clark wasn’t cleared to play against the Saints, he said that his availability against the Falcons is “more realistic.”
“These last two weeks, I had the mindset that I was going to play,” Clark said. “I’ve been preparing the whole time like I was going to play. I’m doing the same thing this week and I’m going to see what happens.”
Meanwhile, the Packers placed linebacker Christian Kirksey (pectoral) and receiver Allen Lazard (core muscle) on injured reserve, meaning they must miss at least three games.
Saturday’s practice saw a spike in players who did not participate. Cornerback Jaire Alexander, who practiced in a full capacity Thursday and Friday but was listed with a hand injury, did not work in at practice. He’s designated as questionable to play in Monday night’s game, now with both a hand and a knee injury.
Center Corey Linsley (groin) did not participate in Saturday’s practice. He has practiced in a full capacity all week and is listed as questionable against the Falcons.
Outside linebacker Rashan Gary (ankle), who has been a limited participant in practice all week, did not participate Saturday and is listed as questionable for Monday.
Punter JK Scott (illness) did not participate in Saturday’s practice and is questionable to play.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee) did not participate in practice all week and is doubtful to play against the Falcons.
Nine Packers are questionable for Monday’s game, including outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith (ankle), running back Tyler Ervin (wrist) and tight end Josiah Deguara (ankle). Smith and Deguara practiced in a limited capacity Saturday and Ervin was a full participant. Deguara has not played since Week 1 against the Vikings.
The Falcons have ruled out safety Ricardo Allen (elbow), kicker Younghoe Koo (right groin), starting defensive end Takk McKinley (groin) and starting safety Keanu Neal (hamstring). The Falcons signed kicker Elliott Fry to their practice squad and he is expected to be called up to the active roster with Koo out.
Starting wide receivers Julio Jones (hamstring) and Calvin Ridley (ankle) are questionable to play.
Packers keeping eye on COVID-19 developments
The Packers and other NFL teams were put on notice again Saturday when the New England Patriots placed starting quarterback Cam Newton on the reserve/COVID-19 list and the Kansas City Chiefs had a practice squad player test positive as well. The NFL moved quickly to shift the Patriots’ game against Kansas City off its Sunday afternoon time slot (possibly to Tuesday night). The league also needed to reschedule Pittsburgh's game at Tennessee after an outbreak with the Titans.
LaFleur said all options for protecting his team are on the table, including revisiting the idea of isolating a quarterback.
“I think you have to be open to all ideas and just how you can do things to the best of your ability and try to keep your players safe and certainly that’s something that we’ll entertain,” LaFleur said Saturday. “There’s no such thing as a bad idea when it comes to attacking, you know, just the conditions that we’re in. And so, yeah, that’s something that we’ll definitely look at.”
The Packers are also in a heightened state of awareness because Green Bay and Brown County have become one of the hottest spots in the country for new COVID-19 cases. The Packers have remained clear of the virus since the start of training camp.
On Friday, quarterback Jordan Love missed practice with an illness but was back on the practice field Saturday.
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“We're going to err on the side of caution,” LaFleur said. “Any time somebody has a symptom, we're going to give him an immediate test, send him out of the building for the day, and let him join us by Zoom meetings. That is one luxury that I think we're much more prepared for, is if a guy has something to come up, they don't miss anything at least from a meeting standpoint. And at the same time, it also makes sure that they're not passing on their illness to somebody else. So there is some benefits to that, where in the past most of the guys would probably gut through the day and potentially get other people sick. But I think our guys have done an outstanding job – (head athletic trainer Bryan Engel) ‘Flea’ and our medical staff of setting up those protocols and making sure we're doing it the right way so we don't bring COVID or anything else into the building.
“But what our guys do have to realize, it's starting to become the flu season, it's getting colder around here, there's going to be illnesses coming up that with nutrition and doing everything we can to keep our bodies at peak performance at the highest levels, it's going to be so imperative that guys take on that ownership and are doing the right things.”
Inside looking out
Unable to earn any playing time at inside linebacker – even with injuries to both starters – Oren Burks is training to become an outside linebacker.
Burks, whose only contribution since being drafted in the third round in 2018 has been on special teams, has proved to be a bust as an inside linebacker. He played a hybrid safety/linebacker position at Vanderbilt, where he sometimes was used as a pass rusher, so the coaches decided to see if he could help them on the outside.
Burks played three snaps outside against New Orleans after Gary injured his ankle. This week in practice, he was seeing most of his time at outside linebacker.
“He's played on the edge before in college, so it's a little bit still natural to him,” outside linebackers coach Mike Smith said. “Obviously, he knows the system. It's clearly different when you're on the edge than inside, but it's been surprisingly good.
“He's picked things up quick and obviously just the technique stuff of rushing and setting the edge and stuff, we need to continue to clean up and continue to work on, but I've been impressed this last week.”
It won’t be any easier for Burks to get on the field at outside linebacker even if Gary is limited or can’t play against the Falcons. Outside linebacker Randy Ramsey is healthy after missing the first three games with a groin injury and Smith will probably want to get him on the field soon.
Burks has two tackles on defense and two on special teams, including a forced fumble on a kickoff return against the Saints.