Packers counting on reserves
Gerrard Diaz, email@example.com
The phrase next man up is back in Green Bay.
The Green Bay Packers are once again dealing with epidemic-level injuries. In response, the draft-and-develop team is relying on young players to get the team through the rough patch, just as it has in past seasons.
“At the end of the day, we always talk about next man up, and that’s what we have going on here,” tight end Jermichael Finley said.
The injuries are forcing second- and third-stringers into starting roles, putting extra pressure on the starters who remain and limiting what the Packers can do.
“It’s a lot of adjustment, a lot of planning for different scenarios and things like that,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Obviously personnel groups on both sides are stressed. We feel like we have a good plan and we’re ready to go.”
The Packers will rely heavily on veteran receivers Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley with Randall Cobb, who broke his leg and was put on the injured reserve-designated to return list, out and the availability of James Jones (knee) in question.
Receiver Jarrett Boykin, a second-year player who was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars his rookie season, will also get significant playing time.
The Packers also elevated practice squad players tight end Jake Stoneburner and wide receiver Myles White to the active roster.
“You pull for those guys because you know how much they want it and how hard it is to practice all week and not have an impact on the game,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I’m excited to see those guys get their chance and expect them to play well.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers may have to start rookie sixth-round draft pick Nate Palmer, rookie undrafted free agent Andy Mulumba and third-year player Jamari Lattimore to deal with injuries to Clay Matthews (thumb), Brad Jones (hamstring), Nick Perry (foot) and Mike Neal (shoulder).
“I’m ready for whatever they call,” Palmer said. “They call me to be just the third outside linebacker, I’ll be ready. If they call me to be the fifth outside linebacker, I’ll be ready for that, too.”
Mulumba, who helped in the Packers’ goal-line stand against the Baltimore Ravens last week, says it is just another week, despite the injuries piling up.
“We always approach it the same way,” Mulumba said. “And that’s the way we’re going to approach it this week, too.”
A.J. Hawk, who had three of the Packers’ five sacks last week, says the expectations don’t change for players coming off the bench.
“We can’t wait to get the guys back who are hurt. In the meantime, though, the guys that are coming in are being counted on to step up and play,” Hawk said.
McCarthy says this is how the Packers are designed to work.
“These guys have been here, they’ve gone through camp, they know the system,” he said. “This is how we operate, this is another example of that. It’s important for them to get ready to play, compete and have a winning performance on Sunday.”
There is one benefit to this system, once the Packers turn the tide on the injury front. By the time the Packers start getting injured players back, the guys who stepped up for them won’t be so young and inexperienced anymore.