Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers calls Sam Barrington the “quarterback” of his unit. Before the snaps, he’s responsible for communication on the field.
So when Barrington exited in the second quarter of Sunday’s opener against the Chicago Bears with an ankle injury, and relatively new inside linebacker Nate Palmer was given those responsibilities, it was a significant obstacle to overcome.
“It’s one of those things,” Capers said. “You’re on the road, it’s the opening game. The guy who has been kind of the quarterback of your defense, you lose him early. Nate went in and did a commendable job.”
Palmer knew there was a possibility Barrington would not make it through the entire game. Barrington was listed as “questionable” on the team’s injury report Friday.
In the locker room Monday, Barrington was in a walking boot with crutches. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Barrington will be “hard pressed” to practice Wednesday. His availability Sunday for the Packers’ game against the Seattle Seahawks may be unlikely.
Once again, Palmer said, he will be ready to play as much as needed.
“They have trust in me,” Palmer said. “I have trust in them. With the scheme and personnel-wise, they’re going to put the best person on the field to get the job done. If I’m that person, yes. I think I’ll be OK.
“It’s just going to make more film study, more reps and things of that nature. If the opportunity presents itself, I think I’ll be OK.”
Palmer, a sixth-round pick in 2013, played sparingly in his first two seasons. He started two games as a rookie, appearing in eight total. The Packers moved him to inside linebacker at the end of the 2013 preseason, but his entire 2014 season was lost when the team placed him on injured reserve after Palmer tore his MCL in the preseason finale.
Now, he’s getting an opportunity. Even if Barrington is able to play Sunday, Palmer provides depth at an inside linebacker position severely lacking it. He tied cornerback Sam Shields and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with a team-high seven tackles against the Bears, which doubled as Palmer’s career high.
“I think Nate did some really good things,” McCarthy said. “I think he made some mistakes, but still had productivity. That’s something that he can definitely build off of.”
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