The Packers got back into the thick of things on Wednesday, their first practice after the bye. While typically an extra week of rest and recuperation usually makes a team healthier, the Packers are hexed when it comes to injuries This week saw the surprising release of Derek Sherrod for almost certainly injury reason, are the Packers desperate for healthy bodies or did they just give up on Sherrod’s recovery?
Josh Sitton: Leave it to the Packers to actually add a player to the injury report during the bye week. Josh Sitton sat out Wednesday’s practice with a foot injury that he sustained during the Saints game. Sitton did finish the game (and there has been no news of his injury until his lack of participation during practice). Chances are good the Packers are just playing it safe with a veteran player who always plays at a high level. With the presumably more serious injury occurring to fellow guard TJ Lang, Sitton may have to play against the Bears where the Packers would have chosen to be more conservative. Either way, expect Sitton to play against the Bears even if he doesn’t practice much this week, his backup are G/C Garth Gerhart and guard Lane Taylor, who might not be available either considering he might be starting in place of TJ Lang.
TJ Lang: Lang suffered an ankle injury during the first series of the 1st quarter against the Saints and was deemed questionable to return, but ultimately did not play with backup interior linemen Lane Taylor replacing him. Lang did not participate in practice on Wednesday, which would indicate the the injury is more serious than not considering the Packers have an extra week to heal. Lang’s status for week 10 against the Bears is completely up in the air but probably pointed downward; should he not be able to play, Lane Taylor will likely start at right guard with the small possibility that JC Tretter, who is coming off IR/designated to return, getting a shot as well. It’s almost certain that TJ Lang’s injury resulted in the release of backup tackle Derek Sherrod; with both he and Josh Sitton questionable, the Packers decided it was better to have more interior linemen, as they now have Tretter, Taylor and Garth Gerhart. However with the release of Sherrod, the question of who the backup tackle is becomes more of an issue; Tretter seems the most likely candidate for a switch as he played left tackle in college but the Packers could also move Lang to tackle (presuming he is healthy), where he played early in his career with the Packers, and having Taylor play at guard.
Aaron Rodgers: Rodgers strained his hamstring during the 3rd quarter but finished the game, although his quarterback rating plummeted after the injury, notably with two uncharacteristic interceptions (which may or may not have been his fault as both interceptions came off his wide receivers tipping the ball). Rodgers apparently wasn’t too concerned about his injury, stating that he would have finished the game at the Saints if the score differential hadn’t been so big and would have played in week 9 had the Packers played a game. Furthermore, Rodgers was allowed to take time away from Green Bay during the bye, including a trip to the beach and to New York to meet his girlfriend Olivia Munn, again not the actions of someone who is concerned about his injury. Rodgers also practiced in full on Wednesday, which is more good new pointing to a full recovery. Rodgers is locked in as a healthy starter going into week 10 against the Bears and should not see a drop in production due to this injury.
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 and New Orleans. Fast forward to past the bye and Burnett was finally able to practice on Wednesday; at this point Burnett has a good chance to play against the Bears but will likely be on a snap count similar to what Jamari Lattimore and Sam Barrington have been doing. As with Lattimore and Barrington, it will be interesting to see how many snaps Burnett actually gets; Micah Hyde and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix have both had their ups and downs as first year safeties but both are promising players as opposed to Burnett, who likely has plateaued at this point.
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 things 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). After nearly a month on the inactive list, Shields finally participated in practice. After such a long injury, it’s quite possible that Shields sits one more game in order to fully heal and get back into the thick of things.
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 Panthers and then again against the Saints. Jones has declared himself healthy and ready to play against the Bears. Again, with such a long injury the Packers might deactivate him for one more game depending on his recovery or place him on a snap count. What’s interesting is that the biggest issue with the Packers defensive line is their inability to stop the run and Jones will not be much help in that regard, as he is one of the players with the worst run defense grades according to ProFootballFocus; where Jones will be a great asset is with the pass rush, where before his injury he ranked 2nd in getting to the passer behind Mike Daniels.
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.