26

December

McCarthy: Packers “Playing to Win Game” on Sunday; Chad Clifton Expected to Play

Mike McCarthy wants LT Chad Clifton to play Sunday against the Detroit Lions.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy made no mistake about his team’s desire to be 15-1, and he might get to try out a few players in the process, including left tackle Chad Clifton, against the Detroit Lions in Week 17.

McCarthy said Monday that the Packers are preparing to “win the game” and that sweeping the NFC North is an important goal to accomplish.

“We have every intention of being 15-1 come Sunday afternoon,” McCarthy said.

No mention was made about how long his starters will play, but McCarthy did say that he wants Clifton, who’s been out since injuring his hamstring in Week 5, to practice this week and play in Sunday’s game. McCarthy acknowledged the importance of Clifton seeing live action before the playoffs begin, and this week represents the last of those opportunities.

The Packers will also look to get more playing time for both Vic So’oto and Jamari Lattimore at outside linebacker, a position that opposite of Clay Matthews has been nothing short of a disaster this season. McCarthy said that So’oto earned his opportunity to play on Sunday, and Frank Zombo’s healthy scratch was partly due to special teams.

McCarthy gave more encouraging news on the injury front, as Ryan Pickett (concussion) and Bryan Bulaga (knee cap sprain) both appear to be getting close to returning. The duo could play this week against the Lions. The return of Bulaga and Clifton would give the Packers the opportunity to play the opening night starters on the offensive line (Clifton, T.J, Lang, Scott Wells, Josh Sitton, Bulaga, left to right) for the first time since Week 3.

Pickett’s return would be just as significant, as McCarthy said that Sunday’s performance in run defense graded out as the “worst in my time here.” The Packers have been gashed since losing Pickett, who McCarthy called their “best run defender,” to his second concussion of the season against the Oakland Raiders. The Bears ran for 199 yards on Sunday night, including 121 from third-string back Kahlil Bell.

Finally, McCarthy said that running back James Starks bruised his ankle in the third quarter on Sunday night’s game. Both of his ankles have been injured this season, and he’ll be challenged to practice on Wednesday.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s press conference: