It was great that the Packers managed to win a decisive victory against the Carolina Panthers, but perhaps even better was that the Packers ended the game with no serious injuries. While the Packers win streak is impressive, it’s the health streak that is even more impressive when you consider how banged up the Packers are usually by this point. While the Packers did manage to win a Super Bowl with many players on IR; you only have to look back to 2011 to see what a really healthy Green Bay Packers squad can do when the are healthy.
James Starks: Starks injured his ankle midway through the 3rd quarter but was able to limp off the field on his own power; initially the injury didn’t appear that serious since Starks remained on the sideline with his helmet, which almost indicated that he could have played if the score hadn’t been so lop-sided already. Fast forward to Wednesday, Starks did not participate in practice and was characterized by head coach Mike McCarthy as minor. With such a minor injury, it’s likely that all the treatment that Starks is receiving is ice, elevation and perhaps compression. Overall, since Starks is a veteran there still is a very good chance that he could play against New Orleans even if he doesn’t practice tomorrow; in the event that Starks cannot play, Dujuan Harris will rotate in with Eddie Lacy. Interestingly Harris has only had 6 rushing attempts this season after being the “starter” for some of the 2012 season while he from outside appearance would be a better compliment to the physical north and south running style of Lacy.
Morgan Burnett: The loss of Burnett sometime during the Panthers game likely will come as a shock to some Packers fans; there was no noticeable play where Burnett came up gimp nor did it seem like the Packers changed what they did defensively in any way. Perhaps this is more due to the emergence of rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who has been steadily growing as the season has gone on to the point that he started and played ever snap on defense against Carolina last week. Either way, Burnett was the surprise missing participant in practice on Wednesday but was also characterized as minor by head coach Mike McCarthy. There’s no real way to know the full extent of Burnett’s injury but based on McCarthy’s comments and the fact that Burnett walked out of Lambeau Field under his own power, there is a good chance that Burnett could practice as early as today and might have a chance to suit up against the Saints. If Burnett indeed cannot play, the Packers are pretty set at safety; instead of Burnett as the starter and Hyde and Clinton-Dix rotating with each other, both will likely start while Sean Richardson becomes the primary backup (speaking of Richardson, he might have earned some more playing time in his own right).
Sam Shields: Sam Shields suffered an apparent freak injury to his left knee during the time in between plays during the 3rd quarter of the Dolphins game; even more odd is that Shields initially tried to limp off the field but finally gave up and called for the training staff. Perhaps most unsettling is that there was no apparent cause of the injury; while there isn’t really any film of players in between plays (the live broadcast was showing other thing and NFL rewind/All-22 omit these sections), it appears as if Shields was playing fine up until that point. With unusual injuries like theses, it’s very hard to pin-point the exact injury outside of Shields’ comments that he felt a pinching sensation and that the trainers didn’t believe it to be a tear (other possibilities include some sort of patellar tendon injury). During McCarthy’s presser, Datone Jones, James Starks and Morgan Burnett all got positive responses while Shield’s was a lot more vague: “Sam is going through medical situation and if he’s ready to play, he’ll play” From McCarthy’s sentiments, it would appear that at the very least, Shields’ injury was not minor and it’s highly likely that Shields will not play against the Saints after sitting out the Panthers game as well. The Packers will likely stick with Casey Hayward and Davon House, who filled in for Shields last week with positive results.
Datone Jones: Jones injured his ankle against the Vikings in the 2nd quarter after someone rolled over his leg (even Jones isn’t entirely sure what happened); while he was able to get off the field under his own power, he was then carted to the training room and did not return for the rest of the game. Jones did not practice the week afterwards and was ruled inactive against the Dolphins and then again against the Panthers. This isn’t Jones’ first time with ankle issues as his rookie season was partially derailed during the preseason when fellow first round pick Jonathan Cooper landed on his leg on his first snap as a NFL player. After that Jones’ was in and out of the lineup all season and didn’t appear all that explosive when he was. Interestingly, Jones was a limited participant in practice last week leading up to the Panthers game, did not play, and then did not practice this Wednesday either, indicating a setback of some sorts. However Mike McCarthy also gave Jones a positive outlook this week so it sounds like Jones is close to getting back on the field but it really just depends on how he feels on Saturday. If Jones is inactive again against the Saints, expect to see Josh Boyd play more snaps as well as more NASCAR looks that require less down defensive linemen.
Jarrett Boykin: Boykin appears to have injured his groin sometime during the Lions game in week 3 or practice leading up to the Bears game in week 4. Boykin has been held out of practice since then and was inactive against the Bears, Vikings and Dolphins before finally getting the go ahead to play against the Panthers. Boykin however did not play many snaps, 13 (compared to 9 by Kevin Dorsey) but interestingly was a part of the kickoff and punt units, indicated he’s health enough to play the most dangerous aspect of football, but it’s likely that Davante Adams has passed him up on the depth chart. I would still expect Boykin to be in and out of the lineup for the forseeable future; GregJennings had a similar injury in 2012 and was also in and out of the lineup and practices for weeks before finally admitting defeat and electing to have surgery. Again unfortunately, since this is a core injury, recovery is very slow since there is no way to really not use your groin/abdomen in daily life. Kevin Dorsey and Jeff Janis were both active against the Dolphins and both could very well see more action with Boykin still out. At the moment, its possible that Boykin feels recovered enough to try and play and he might even have some positive results like Jennings had, however it’s likely Boykin will have to have surgery at some point, it’s only a question of when.
Jamari Lattimore: Lattimore suffered a neck injury during the 2nd quarter of the Dolphins game and did not return, however he was able to leave the field under his own power. Luckily Lattimore was active against the Panthers but apparently was being held on a pitch count with Sam Barrington subbing in for him. It’s interesting that Barrington got the first crack to replace Lattimore and not Brad Jones who seems to have finally and unequivocally lost the starting inside linebacker spot and now may actually be a 3rd stringer. With Lattimore practicing in full, expect to see him play the majority of snaps again with Barrington as the first man up.
Tramon Williams: Two plays after losing Sam Shields, the Packers were dealt another blow by losing their other starting cornerback to an ankle injury. Apparently, Williams had his leg rolled up on by linebacker Brad Jones, who was an injury replacement for Jamari Lattimore himself (while Jones has played poorly this season by all accounts, blaming him for injuring Williams is pure lunacy). Williams was able to start against the Packers and almost deflected a pass to Clay Matthews who then strolled in for a defensive touchdown (which was called back due to a pass interference penalty on Williams). With Williams practicing in full this week and the injury likely behind him, Williams will likely start against the Saints with Davon House and Casey Hayward subbing in for snaps.
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.