“Oh, man. Not this stuff again.”
This has likely been the thought of many Cheeseheads as the Green Bay Packers continue to work their way through training camp and the preseason. One season removed from being decimated by injuries on their way to the Super Bowl XLV title, the Packers once again are looking at infirmary that may have more players in it than are on the practice field.
If there is one team in the league that can get by being devastated by injuries, it is the Packers. GM Ted Thompson has built one of the deepest rosters in the NFL and the vast majority of the players went through something similar two years ago.
Still, the current rash of injuries has to be more worrisome to Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy for one simple reason: it’s still training camp. The players aren’t even taking hits at full game speed and yet here the Packers are again in the position of having almost a roster on the injury report.
So far, Desmond Bishop has been the only real catastrophic injury. His season is in jeopardy with his torn hamstring needing surgery. Though the rest of the injuries aren’t “season threatening,” they’ve been numerous enough to make McCarthy alter his practice schedule and even cut some practices short. Worse yet, McCarthy hasn’t really had a chance to see his full number one offense and defense face off against each other.
To quote Lombardi, “What the hell is going on out there?” For the second time in three years, the Packers are fighting off an injury epidemic albeit in training camp (as of right now at least) and not during the regular season, but there is still a cause for concern.
What is the deal with all the injuries? Let’s look at a few theories in no particular order.
Poor conditioning workouts from the coaches.
The idea has been tossed around by a few that the Packers need to fire their strength and conditioning coaches since the team once again has seen an alarming amount of injuries crop up. Mark Lovat was promoted to strength and conditioning coordinator in February of 2010 before the start of the Super Bowl season that saw the Packers place 15 players on injured reserve during the season.
With the lockout eliminating the entire offseason program in 2011, players were left to train on their own. The Packers, despite the loss of the offseason workouts, made it through relatively healthy on their way to a 15-1 record.
Training camp this season barely got underway and players were dropping like flies. While again, the injuries have not been catastrophic (except for Bishop); they’ve hindered McCarthy’s ability to run decent practices. He’s admitted that the team isn’t where it needs to be because of the injury situation and this could lead to a rough start to the regular season for the Packers.
When things go wrong over multiple seasons in sports, you start by looking for the common denominator. This isn’t to say Lovat and his staff are to blame here, but it’s the common denominator here and it may be time for the conditioning staff to feel their seats heat up a little bit.
The players aren’t taking care of themselves
It might sound crazy given how healthy the Packers were coming out of training camp following the lockout last season, but if you at the NFL on the whole throughout the 2011 regular season injuries were plentiful.
Injuries were so widespread that the league shelved (for the time being) the idea of expanding the regular season to 18 games. Many blamed the loss of offseason conditioning and minicamps, but in the Packers’ case (in hindsight) there was no need for them. Remember Aaron Rodgers’ running gag “If only we had those offseason workouts…” as the team was putting up a record amount of points week in and week out?
With that success perhaps came some complacency. McCarthy has always trusted his players to take care of themselves in the offseason but perhaps the success of the team last season despite no offseason workouts allowed some players to slack off a bit?
Highly doubtful, but you can’t discount the idea. These are professional players who do this for a living. Still, you can’t help but wonder a little bit….
It’s just a football thing
When you play a game as violent as football, injuries happen. That’s common sense a kindergarten student would know.
Could the Packers just be experiencing some bad luck? It’s the most plausible explanation. The Packers have been smart with their practice scheduling ever since McCarthy took over in 2006. While it does seem suspicious the Packers have another injury problem for the second time in three years, they could have just drawn the short straw again. Is it unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No.
The Packers aren’t going to make excuses for the injuries. That’s not McCarthy’s style. Instead they will likely re-adopt the “next man up” mantra that helped propel them to the Super Bowl title two years ago. If it worked then, why shouldn’t it work now?
Regardless, this season that started with so much excitement and optimism has no given way to concern.
Can the Packers weather the injury storm again and return to the Promised Land?
Stay tuned. The answer is yet to come!——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke