As of Thursday of this week, there were 13 players listed on the Green Bay Packers injury report. Of those, only two participated in full. Now that the 2013 season is in it’s 12th week, it is probably safe to say that injuries are going to continue to be the story of this year’s Packers team.
This is not a news flash to anyone familiar with the Packers or, really, anyone who follows NFL football. For the past four seasons, the Packers have become notorious for being among the league leaders in lost time due to player injuries. We know that the Green Bay medical staff operates on the conservative side and I’m being liberal in using that term. Yes, that was corny, but it’s hard to argue its truth.
Often when there is a question about a player’s readiness to return to the field or be activated, the team will hold the player back to allow more time to heal. In theory, this seems wise, but the Packers don’t appear to be reaping the rewards of being so cautious.
Each week it seems that more and more new bodies are added to the injury report. Still, the Packers have to continue playing their games. Having depth is one thing and we all know how previous Packers teams have overcome injuries to do great things, but if there is a “one too many” point, it is now.
That may actually be the good news. The team knows they are, for all intents and purposes, more short handed than they can afford to be at this point in the season. But at least they are aware of it. The bad news is that it will probably continue and could get worse. Call it the law of averages, a negative outlook or a mere prediction on my part.
With a divisional matchup against the Minnesota Vikings coming up this weekend and sitting at 5-5, the Packers are in desperate need of a win. A loss would not necessarily end Green Bay’s season, as many have proclaimed (many of whom declared this as soon as Aaron Rodgers’ shoulder hit the Lambeau Field turf), but it would likely take help from other teams to salvage it.
Heading into this season, the Packers were without starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga, safety Morgan Burnett, and slot cornerback Casey Hayward. Outside of that, the rest of the team’s starters were healthy and ready to go. Week by week, bodies began to fall. Many other regular contributors missed at least some time and left many to wonder how the Packers would fare without them. Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Nick Perry, Clay Matthews, Jermichael Finley, Rodgers, Seneca Wallace, Don Barclay and Sam Shields, to name a few.
It’s easy to point to the injury to Rodgers as the “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. Any team losing its starting quarterback is going to see drop-off between them and the backup. In Green Bay, that drop off looks like Mt. Kilimanjaro. Originally the backup was Seneca Wallace. That experiment lasted most of one game and a series of another. Wallace then joined the ranks of the injured and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
In stepped Scott Tolzien at quarterback. For the first time in a very long time, Packers fans had no idea what to expect at the quarterback position heading into a game. As we know, Green Bay has lost the two games that Tolzien has played the majority of. While wins and losses are what truly matter, the silver lining is Tolzien’s improvement and the Packers’ seeming discovery of their backup quarterback of the future.
Tolzien’s improved play each week has been no accident. With his studious approach to the game and stories of his falling asleep while studying his playbook, Tolzien has given Packers head coach Mike McCarthy the confidence to continue opening up the playbook. Proof of this was in the play action calls that were made against the New York Giants this past week. Tolzien hit on most of his throws of 15 yards and longer.
This improvement should be an example to the rest of the Packers depth that they can improve in as little as a week, even if only slightly. A slight improvement can be the difference between a win and a loss. Winning tends to fix many things within a football team and organization. If the Packers can take down the Vikings, they can carry that confidence just four short days ahead into Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.
I’m not implying that confidence is enough to beat the division-leading Lions at home. But we have been harping on the depth, and lack thereof, since Rodgers went down. Many have blamed general manager Ted Thompson for his lack of attention to the backup quarterback and safety positions. Others have blamed the play calling and some claim the Packers simply lack heart and desire.
I’m not siding with any of the above, but what I do know is that the 53 men who are on this roster will be called on to win the games on the schedule. Like I said earlier, the games will carry on and so the Packers need to as well. There is no promise nor guarantee that Cobb or Rodgers will be back this season. The prospects look good, but injuries can take many turns and some not for the better. These players simply need to decide that they can win. Winning is an attitude and it is contagious.
It starts with Sunday’s game and whether it’s Clay Matthews or Nate Palmer, Morgan Burnett or Jerron McMillian, Aaron Rodgers or Scott Tolzien, the Packers need every guy’s best effort to showcase that they can win a game. From there, make it two and hopefully by then, Rodgers can return and everything will be right in the world! That is, until they still have to play the games and nothing is a given in this NFL.——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: