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:

16

December

McCarthy: Bishop and Pickett Out; Starks, Sitton and Saine Questionable for Sunday vs. Chiefs

During his Friday press conference, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy ruled out both Desmond Bishop and Ryan Pickett for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs but said that James Starks, Brandon Saine and Josh Sitton all have a chance to play.

Bishop and Pickett have both been held out of practice this week. Bishop will miss his third straight game after injuring his calf against the Lions in Week 13. Pickett suffered his second concussion of the season against the Raiders last Sunday and won’t make the trip to Kansas City.

Rookie D.J. Smith will make his third straight start for Bishop, and C.J. Wilson is listed behind Pickett on the Packers depth chart. Jarius Wynn and Mike Neal should also see more snaps in Pickett’s absence.

Both Starks (injury) and Saine (concussion) have missed this week’s practices, but McCarthy said they’ll be game-time decisions. If they checkout on the field in Kansas City before kickoff, each will have a chance to play. The Packers are hopeful that one of the two will be able to play, as Ryan Grant and John Kuhn are the only other healthy ball carriers on the roster. No roster move was made to fortify the position this week.

Sitton, who went out in Detroit with a knee sprain, has done light work at practice this week and has a chance to play. The coaching and medial staff will weigh how Sitton feels about giving it a go with a brace on his knee. If he can’t play, Evan Dietrich-Smith will make another start at right guard. One could only assume the Packers would play it safe with Sitton even if he thinks he can play on Sunday.

A.J. Hawk (calf) and Vic So’oto (back) were full participants this week and are expected to play on Sunday.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s Friday press conference:

  • McCarthy was unaware of any interview being conducted with Packers quarterback coach Tom Clements at Penn State. Said Clements would be “an outstanding candidate.”
  • McCarthy was glad that WR Tori Gurley decided to stay. Pointed out that Gurley is an “up-and-coming player” and an “inquisitive” young man. He’s taken advantage of his opportunities in Green Bay so far.
  • Andrew Quarless has not had surgery on his knee. That procedure will happen soon. Quarless is on crutches but “spirits are high.”
14

December

McCarthy: Status of James Starks, Josh Sitton in Doubt For Sunday Against Chiefs

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t sound too optimistic Wednesday that either running back James Starks or guard Josh Sitton would be available to play Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

McCarthy said that Starks worked out hard on Tuesday, but the ensuing medical reports done today weren’t encouraging. He was a no-go at Packers’ practice on Wednesday.

Starks has dealt with a lingering ankle injury that forced him out of games against the Buccaneers and Lions in consecutive weeks. Starks then missed last week’s game with the Oakland Raiders after not being able to practice during the week because of the injury.

Regarding Sitton, McCarthy said that the Packers plan to have some patience with him this week as he continues to rehab a knee sprain suffered in Detroit three weeks ago. Sitton was a limited participant during Wednesday’s practice, which is an encouraging sign for his return. Team doctors didn’t sound optimistic on Sitton’s availability for this week, however.

The Packers have started Evan Dietrich-Smith in Sitton’s place the past two games with varying results.

Desmond Bishop (calf) was unable to participate today but McCarthy made it sound on Monday that Bishop would have a good chance at playing on Sunday. A.J. Hawk (calf) was a full participant. McCarthy praised both D.J. Smith and Robert Francois again on Wednesday.

Brandon Saine and Ryan Pickett, who both suffered concussions against the Raiders, were held out. Vic So’oto (back) was a full participant, and Chad Clifton (hamstring/back) was out.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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12

December

Source: Packers Likey To Activate WR Tori Gurley Soon

According to a source, Gurley will be promoted to the Packers' active roster soon.

According to a source close to the situation, the Green Bay Packers are working on promoting rookie receiver Tori Gurley from the practice squad to the active roster in the coming days.

The source, speaking on terms of anonymity, said that the Packers are working on a deal to pay him money in the range of an active player. Combined with Greg Jennings’ injury that will keep him out 2-3 weeks, there’s a good chance that the Packers could activate Gurley sometime before Green Bay takes on the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday.

Gurley had an extended talk with both quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coaching staff on Monday and came away from the meetings encouraged about the upcoming situation, the source said. That would help explain Gurley’s tweet about an hour before McCarthy’s press conference on Monday that said “God works in mysterious ways ;- ) Go Pack Go.”

The source also said that another team was in talks to claim Gurley off the Packers practice squad. The team wasn’t named, but that likely helped give Gurley even more leverage to get onto the active roster.

To make room for Gurley, it is possible that the Packers will put Vic So’oto, a rookie linebacker who has dealt with a recurring back issue throughout the season, on season-ending injured reserve. Chad Clifton is another option for IR, but McCarthy said on Monday that they still have hope for his return this season. Either way, the Packers will have to trim their current roster by one if they plan to make room for Gurley.

An undrafted free agent from South Carolina, Gurley has impressed coaches and fellow players throughout the season. When asked earlier in the year, many of the veteran players had nothing but glowing reviews for Gurley and his play-making ability. Gurley made a name for himself on the punt unit during the preseason, blocking several kicks.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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9

December

Packers Rule Out James Starks and Desmond Bishop for Sunday’s Game With Raiders

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy announced on Friday that his team would be without the services of running back James Starks and linebacker Desmond Bishop on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Neither practiced on Friday.

Starks, the Packers leading rusher this season with 565 yards, left his third straight game last Sunday in New York with an ankle injury. In his absence, the Packers will lean more on Ryan Grant with undrafted rookie free agent Brandon Saine seeing snaps on passing downs.

Bishop will miss his second straight game because of a calf strain he suffered in Detroit. Fellow inside linebacker A.J. Hawk is listed as questionable with the same injury, and rookie D.J. Smith would start along side Hawk if he can go on Sunday. Without Bishop and Hawk in the lineup last week, the Packers surrendered 100 rushing yards on just 20 carries to the Giants. The Raiders currently rank third in the NFL in rushing this season.

Josh Sitton will also miss his second straight game with a knee strain. A timetable for his return hasn’t been officially set, so it’s unclear when Sitton might return to the field. Evan Dietrich-Smith will make his second start in Sitton’s place.

Vic So’oto had a flair up on a back injury he suffered earlier this season and won’t play. Chad Clifton (hamstring) was also ruled out. Clifton hasn’t played since Week 5 in Atlanta and may not return during the regular season.

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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8

November

Erik Walden’s On-Field Theatrics: Exit Stage Left?

There were a lot of things that can be taken away from the Packers more-difficult-than-it-should-have–been 45-38 win over the San Diego Chargers, in particular on the defensive side of the ball, but there is one player I want to focus on and what his role should be in the Packers defense going forward.

Erik Walden, come on down.

After watching his breakout game against the Chicago Bears in the 2010 regular season finale, my initial reaction was that we were witnessing another Ted Thompson-discovered diamond in the rough and that he would be a key player in the defense going forward, in particular with Nick Barnett gone.

Turns out Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers agreed with me.  When the season started, Walden was named the starter at right outside linebacker, opposite of Clay Matthews.  With Barnett having left for Buffalo, Walden beat out Frank Zombo in large part due to an injury Zombo suffered during training camp.

With Zombo finally becoming healthy, the time has come to evaluate Walden’s progress after half of the Packers’ schedule.

The verdict? Zombo better start sharpening his Zorro sword.

Walden is a great story.  Thompson signed him off the street basically and he was a big contributor in a game that the Packers had to have in order for them to make their magical run to Super Bowl XLV.

Since the however, Walden’s been a letdown and has become further proof of the old adage: “One big game does not an NFL superstar make.”

For evidence, all I would need to present was Walden’s game tape of his performance against San Diego.  It seemed at times he would throw fundamentals right out the window.  I saw on at least two occasions Walden trying to leap on or belly flop on top of Philip Rivers, which was followed by Rivers easily dodging that and making a key completion.  Those completions were a big part of why this game was in doubt until the final minute.

Capers and McCarthy are both big fundamental coaches and looking at this tape should (and likely would) throw them into a fit.  Walden needs to cut out the theatrics and get back to the basics of tackling: wrap up your man and bring him to the ground.

2

November

McCarthy: Neal Could Practice Next Week, Clifton Still “Multiple Weeks Out”

In his Wednesday press conference, Packers coach Mike McCarthy gave reporters both good and bad news on the timeline for injured players Mike Neal and Chad Clifton.

McCarthy was optimistic that Neal could complete his rehabilitation this week and potentially return to the practice field next week. While Neal is still behind schedule on a knee injury he suffered in training camp, news of a return is a positive revelation. Some have speculated that Neal would be unable return in 2011.

Clifton’s timeline was a little less optimistic, as McCarthy said that his left tackle was still “multiple weeks” from completing his rehab. McCarthy didn’t sound like the IR was in the cards. Clifton hurt his hamstring in Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons and has missed the past two games. Marshall Newhouse will again start for the Packers at left tackle against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

Other highlights from McCarthy’s press conference:

  • Watched parts of Monday’s Chargers-Chiefs game live, but fell asleep in the fourth quarter. He watched the full game on the coaches tape on Tuesday morning. McCarthy likes watching division games, especially the second meeting between two teams. You can learn a lot.
  • The Packers will practice again in full pads on Thursday. This week represents the Packers one and only week where they can practice in full pads twice, per the new CBA.
  • McCarthy said Aaron Rodgers is playing at an extremely high level right now. But like any player on the team, there’s always little things to improve on.
  • The best thing about the bye week was the ability to get healthy. The Packers now have a full week to practice with those players.
  • When asked about Jermichael Finley’s comments about living in Green Bay with no distractions, McCarthy responded by saying the city is a great place to live and work. He hopes Finley is in Green Bay for a long time because it’s a great environment for him.
  • Special teams and health have been the big issues holding Vic So’oto back. He’s progressing in his responsibilities as an outside linebacker. Still needs to be better on special teams to compete for a spot on the 46-man gameday roster.
  • McCarthy said you have to treat Chargers TE Antonio Gates as a receiver. He and Finley are similar players. Gates definitely has the ability to get separation.