GREEN BAY – The news apparently could have been worse on Clay Matthews’ hamstring, might turn out to be pretty bad on Bryan Bulaga’s hip and is relatively good – all things considered – on Jordy Nelson’s ankle.
That was the long and short of the Green Bay Packers’ injury report Monday, as Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Matthews may miss “a couple weeks,” that doctors were “still gathering information” on Bulaga’s unusual hip injury and that Nelson simply sprained his ankle and is “going to be OK.”
McCarthy’s team has the week off for its bye week, and while the players are off until they return to practice next Monday, the coaches will work on self-scouting and preparations for the team’s next game, Nov. 18 at Detroit, before getting a few days off themselves.
The game against the Lions at Ford Field is one of five NFC North Division games that the Packers will play in the final seven weeks of the regular season, and they’ll do so without a number of key players, some of whom were sidelined even before Sunday’s 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals claimed Nelson, Bulaga and Matthews.
“Hopefully, we can get healthy in the next two weeks,” said McCarthy, whose team is playing without safety Charles Woodson (collarbone), wide receiver Greg Jennings (groin/abdominal surgery), running back Cedric Benson (Lisfranc foot sprain), outside linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and cornerback Sam Shields (ankle), among others.
“We won’t be totally healthy. That’s the reality of it, but we have to get ready for these division games. To me, this is a whole different season. Division games are different. We were fortunate to sweep the division last year.”
Matthews appeared to initially injure his hamstring during a Mike Daniels sack with 37 seconds left in the first half. He came back to start the second half but departed for good with 10 minutes left in the third quarter when Cardinals quarterback John Skelton eluded him on what appeared to be a sure sack. He did jog to the locker room after the injury, but McCarthy said Matthews’ meeting with the doctors was a mixed bag: Not as bad as previous left hamstring injuries he suffered in 2009 and 2010 but still enough to lead them to believe he’ll be out for a bit.
“The early diagnosis, it may be a couple weeks, but we won’t know until we get further into this,” McCarthy said. “I know Clay doesn’t feel as bad as it was in the past. Obviously, we’ll know more when I’m standing here next week.”
Asked about Matthews and what he means to his defense, defensive coordinator Dom Capers replied, “Let’s just hope that he heals real quick. Obviously, you’d like to have Clay out there whenever you can have him out there.”
The Packers offensive line functioned just fine without Bulaga, as sixth man Evan Dietrich-Smith stepped in at left guard as T.J. Lang shifted to right tackle. The question now, though, is if Bulaga is out for an extended period of time, how confident are the Packers in their next two backups – undrafted rookie free agents Don Barclay and Greg Van Roten?
“Yeah, well, they’re here for a reason. They’re here because they showed they have the ability, and we have confidence in them,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements replied. “Maybe they’ll get in there sooner than anticipated, but if they get in there, we’re going to rely on them to do the job and work as hard as they can to get it done.”
When told that his comment about needing more information about Bulaga’s injury sounded ominous, McCarthy didn’t dismiss the notion that it could be a major injury. Bulaga went down with 12:09 left in the first half when he awkwardly twisted and caught himself as he was falling. McCarthy went so far as to say that Bulaga might’ve been better off simply going to the ground instead of catching himself.
“It’s a hip injury. You saw the play. That’s not a normal,” McCarthy said. “His body was not in a normal position. I think we all recognize that and we want to make sure we get everybody’s opinion on it.”
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