Category Archives: 1 – Injuries

16

April

Matthews Still Recovering From Injury

Clay Matthews

Matthews says he will be ready for training camp. The Packers hope he’s right.

A recent conversation between Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews and USA Today’s Tom Pelissero revealed that Matthews is still not 100% healed from a repeat thumb injury suffered late in the 2013 season.  ESPN’s Rob Demovsky featured the conversation in a recent article at ESPN.com.

Matthews explained, in more detail, what happened with each injury and how doctors chose to address the second break in December.  Here is an excerpt:

“And unfortunately, on a sack of Roethlisberger, the tip of my thumb [hit] my teammate’s helmet. All that pressure went down the cast, broke it again. So then, to make it tighter, we took part of the tendon, turned it around, drilled some holes and they almost tied a knot through. It’s stronger than [the left one]. Now it’s super tight.”

The Packers defense is just not the same without Matthews on the field.  Since appearing in at least 15 games in his first three seasons, Matthews has missed 11 games over the past two years, including last season’s wild card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.  Had the Packers advanced and made a serious push for a Super Bowl appearance, Matthews may have returned and played.

It still bears mentioning that a player who plays with the type of intensity as Matthews does is likely to be more vulnerable to injury.  Although Matthews says he will be ready by training camp, everyone heals differently.  The thumb can be a tricky injury with all of the bones and tendons connected to both the hand, wrist and arm.

Matthews should be able to make a return but even if he does and based on averages, he will likely miss some time this upcoming season for whatever reason.  The Packers need to prepare accordingly at the outside linebacker position.  With a healthy Matthews and Nick Perry, the possibilities are many and scary for opposing offenses.  But the “healthy” part has not come easy in the two seasons that tandem has existed.  They have appeared together in just 14 games over those two years.

2

April

What Do Packers Injuries and Winning Have In Common? Packing the Stats…

Packing the StatsA lot has been made about the Packers misfortune when it comes to injuries; injuries was the major hurdle that the Packers overcame to get to the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl in 2010 and injuries again were the major obstacle in 2013 with Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews and Bryan Bulaga all missing significant time due to their respective injuries.

I have always argued that the nature of injuries is in large part random; football is a vicious sport and there are so many different ways to get injured that are largely out of the control of the player, the coaching staff or the front office.  Not many would argue that the tackle that Nick Collins ended his career was unusual nor was the hit that Jermichael Finley took against Cleveland anything out of the norm.  Rodgers breaking his clavicle and Matthews breaking his thumb all occurred on mundane plays that both players have been involved in countless times before in their careers.

In 2013 alone, I would argue that the only two injuries likely could have been avoided were Brandon Merriweather spearing Eddie Lacy and maybe Randall Cobb breaking his leg against Baltimore (but in the defense of Matt Elam, going low is now encouraged to defenders with so many fines being levied to helmet to helmet contact).

Data 1

However, it’s pretty undeniable that the Packers as a franchise have either had consistent terrible luck or something else is at play.  The Packers have had one of the worst strings of injuries over the last 4 years and it’s 99.9% significant compared to the rest of the league.  Fingers have been pointed at pretty much every remote possibility; plenty have blamed Ted Thompson and the front office for drafting players who are injury prone (i.e. Justin Harrell), some have blamed the coaching staff for not teaching proper form while others have blamed the strength and conditioning coaches (there was some ridiculous rumor that floated around that the 49ers had a secret stretching routine that made them impervious to injuries; keep in mind free agency does happen and more importantly players stretch out on the field for everyone to see).

11

March

Packers Free Agent Receives Medical Clearance

Packers DL Johnny Jolly

Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly takes the first step to a return to football following neck surgery

Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly sent out a tweet early Tuesday that indicated that he has been medically cleared to start working out following neck fusion surgery in early January.

Jolly needed the procedure to repair a bulging disc in his neck between the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae.  Currently, he is a free agent and as of 4pm EST today, is free to sign with any team.  No reports about any interest from the Packers, or any team, for that matter, have surfaced so far.

It is not yet known when Jolly would potentially receive clearance to return to football activity.  Whenever that is will likely be when we start to hear about teams’ interest in Jolly.

Here we are again, talking about a neck fusion procedure on a one-time Packers player who could potentially return, if he is cleared.  Besides Jolly, Jermichael Finley and Sean Richardson have both undergone neck fusion surgeries of their own in the past few years.

Finley has not yet been cleared to return to football activity but is expected to meet with interested teams soon.  Richardson returned late last season.  Former Packers safety Nick Collins had neck surgery in 2011 and is still trying to return to the game he loves.

By now, the Packers should be experts in the timeline and recovery of football players from such a procedure.  Still, every player is unique in how they heal.  Finley’s injury was to the same area of the neck as Collins.  The Packers felt it was too risky to bring Collins back and he was released shortly thereafter.  Jolly’s surgery was lower on his neck, which would seemingly increase his chances of being cleared and reduce his risk of re-injury.  This was the case with Richardson as well.

Jolly’s return to the NFL and the Packers last season was one of the bigger “feel good” stories of the 2013 season.  After missing three full seasons due to a suspension for drug use, Jolly cracked the Packers roster and provided valuable depth on the defensive line.

With the Packers potentially parting ways with some of their other defensive linemen, Jolly could become a viable option to bring back if he does, in fact, gain clearance to play again.  B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson are all currently unrestricted free agents and their return to the Packers is not certain.

6

February

Former and Current Free Agent Packers Want To Return

Jermichael Finley

Finley seems determined to return to football and prove that he is back to full strength

The NFL season has been over for a measly three days now but the Green Bay Packers season has been over for nearly a month.  Things obviously slow down when teams aren’t preparing for games each week and the constant news hits dwindle.

Still, this has been a busy week for some Packers chatter and I thought I’d offer a break in between our player evaluation and reports cards here at allgbp.com and highlight a few of the stories that have been most widely discussed.

“Discussed” and “news” are two different things, but if nothing else, there are at least a few debate topics here.

The first was a story by NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling about tight end Jermichael Finley.  Finley is currently a free agent after having spent the first six years of his NFL career with the Packers.  Finley’s agent has gone on record as saying that J-Mike, as he is frequently called, would love nothing more than to finish his career in Green Bay.  Whether that will happen is another thing.

Finley was seriously injured early in the 2013 season on a play in which he took a shot to his neck by Cleveland Browns safety Tashaun Gipson.  Finley was placed on season-ending injured reserve and needed surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebrae in his neck.  Many question swirled about whether Finley would play football again, let alone return to the Packers.

Finley stated earlier this week that he expects his doctors to clear him to resume football activity, most notably contact, within the next month or so.  Gaining medical clearance from a doctor is one thing.  Gaining that clearance from a NFL team doctor is another.

While Finley and his agent have expressed a preference to remain in Green Bay and get a new contract worked out, Finley has also stated that he does not plan to discount his services.  With 19 total players set to hit free agency next month, the Packers are going to have some decisions to make as far as who to keep and at what price.

Finley certainly represents a risk, even if cleared to return to football.  There can be no guarantee that he won’t re-injure his neck and such an occurrence would have major implications not only for Finley the football player, but also Finley the man, husband and father.  It’s hard to say which direction Finley’s return and potential negotiations with interested teams will go.

31

January

Finley Expects Medical Update Soon

Packers TE Jermichael Finley

Finley, an unrestricted free agent, expects to return to the NFL in 2014

A short story surfaced on the NFL’s website today stating that Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley could be medically cleared to return to full contact football activities as soon as three to four weeks from now.

The original source of the story was ProFootballTalk.com and Finley told them that his doctors are “99.9% confident” that he will be cleared to resume his football career.

Keep in mind that these are Finley’s doctors that would be giving this clearance, not a NFL team doctor.

We have often heard players say they are fine when they are really injured and that they expect to be back by a certain time, only to wind up on injured reserve.  In Finley’s case, I have no doubt that he will get another shot to play in the NFL again.  I’m just not sure that will be with the Packers.

Finley will become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins in March.  He has said that he does not intend to offer teams any discounts on his services.  Besides the New Orleans Saints’ Jimmy Graham, a truly healthy Finley is the next biggest name on the free agent market at tight end.  I would be surprised if Finley’s agent doesn’t get at least one call from an interested team.

In the Packers’ case, they have many pending free agents of their own to look at and evaluate.  They obviously won’t bring them all back and they will likely have to part with a few they would like to return.  The defensive side of the ball continues to be a need area and that would likely be a deterrent to paying a healthy Finley what he is looking for.  But we’re talking about a risky Finley.

When it comes to risks, the Packers don’t mess around.  They chose not to return safety Nick Collins when the star safety suffered a similar injury in 2011.  Collins was eventually released and has not played in the NFL since.  Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said that if Collins were his son, he wouldn’t let him return to football.  Still, Collins played safety and was a hard-hitting one at that.  Perhaps the Packers or another team might feel that the risk is much lessened for the tight end.

14

January

The Packers are still among the NFL’s Elite (if they can stop being so fragile)

It’s tough to be an elite team when the franchise quarterback breaks his collar bone.

I’ve heard all about how the Packers aren’t on the same level as the Seahawks or 49ers.

I’ve read the pleas for Ted Thompson to start signing veteran free agents to plug roster holes.

I’ve seen the calls for Dom Capers to be fired.

I’ve noted the cries for more playmakers on both sides of the ball.

I’ve gotten frustrated at the Packers poor special teams play.

I’ve been exasperated by the play of Morgan Burnett and Brad Jones after they signed contract extensions.

I’ve been just as frustrated (warning: NSFW. And it’s not me in the video. I swear.) as all of you have been after another early playoff exit.

I agree that the Packers haven’t been as good as San Francisco or Seattle over the last two seasons.

I agree that Ted Thompson should not completely ignore veteran free agency when building his roster.

I wouldn’t mind seeing Capers gone.

I’d like more playmakers on the field, just like every other team’s fanbase would.

I hate getting irrationally angry after the Packers allow a long kickoff return.

I wish Burnett and Jones (and Raji, as long as we’re at it) would quit stealing money from the Packers.

These are legit problems that the Packers faced this season and should address in the future. But isn’t the Packers main problem injuries?

If the Packers don’t play significant parts of the season without Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Casey Hayward, Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley and Bryan Bulaga, wouldn’t a lot of these other issues be covered up?

If Eddie Lacy, Sam Shields, James Jones, Nick Perry, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Robert Francois don’t miss all or parts of multiple games, would the Packers be on the same level as San Francisco and Seattle?

I think they would be. And that’s not making excuses or being blind to the fact that a few things around 1265 Lombardi Ave. could be done differently. It’s hard to be elite when you play without your best offensive player, best defensive player, your starting left tackle, your top tight end, one of your best wide receivers and a really good special teams player for most of the season.

13

January

McCarthy Shouldn’t Ignore Stats

Mike McCarthy

McCarthy says some head-scratching things at times, like last week when he said “stats are for losers”.

This past week, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gave his season-ending press conference.  I detailed some of his responses here.  One comment that he made still resonates with me.  When asked if he was going to look at the team’s injury situation and look into why so many Packers players were lost due to injury, part of McCarthy’s answer was that ”stats are for losers.”  Now, in fairness, that wasn’t the entire response.

McCarthy went on to add that when one looks too far into stats, it can build false confidences and negatives.  He said they need to look beyond just the numbers to really determine what is going on.

That’s great and all and I know he doesn’t particularly enjoy talking to the media and especially when answering questions about some of the negative things that are going on.  I get the whole “Pittsburgh macho” thing that he’s going for the “we have it under control and you don’t know what’s really going on here” mantra.  But perhaps McCarthy forgets that we all own televisions or are sitting in the stands?  The fact of the matter is that the numbers DO matter.

If you ask any good CEO to evaluate a company’s health and describe what is going on, they’ll likely use stats.  Numbers are important.  They don’t tell the entire story but they are one of the primary illustrators of what is happening.  Many times I’ll ask someone what happened in a game and they’ll say “the box score doesn’t tell the whole story”.  Sure, it doesn’t measure things like energy level, enthusiasm or my personal favorite: toughness.  But more often than not, something can be drawn from the numerical recap.

I’m talking about more than just the Packers injury situation, although that is certainly something that the Packers need to look into.  15 players ended up on season-ending injured reserve this season and they did use the IR-Designated for return option on receiver Randall Cobb.  I get that football is a physical sport and that not all injuries are preventable.  Still and far too often, the Packers are seeing their players drop in bunches.  Is it amplified by the lack of depth behind the key players getting hurt or are there simply too many of them?  As I have said before, I am not sure but if you ask any consultant for their opinion on the matter, the first thing they’re going to look is. . the stats.