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Broken bones, unbroken spirit

by Mark Daniels

It was a pretty somber day at 1265 Lombardi Avenue after such an uplifting victory in Baltimore against the defending champs on Sunday.  The Packers withstood the loss of wide receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb in the second quarter to post a hard fought, 19-17 victory.  Word after the game was both suffered leg injuries and only a few more details were released by the team on Monday.  Mike McCarthy described both as "knee" issues.   By late afternoon however, it was reported that Cobb suffered a broken fibula and will be lost between 6 and 8 weeks.  He could be headed for injured reserve and be the one player each team gets to designate as eligible to return in a minimum of six weeks.  Jones suffered an injury that might not rule him out of Sunday's game against Cleveland at Lambeau Field.   Cobb was injured after catching a 15 yard pass with :22 left in the first half.  Just steps after making the grab, Baltimore rookie safety Matt Elam dove low and flipped Cobb.

He was in obvious pain, was helped to the sidelines and carted to the locker room.  Cobb returned on the cart and with crutches in the second half. An MRI was scheduled in Green Bay today and Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was the first to report the broken fibula.  

And to add injury to insult, the Packers learned today that linebacker Nick Perry suffered a broken foot on the play in which he sacked Joe Flacco moments after Cobb's injury, forcing a fumble that Datone Jones recovered and set up Mason Crosby's field goal just before intermission.  Perry sat out most of the third quarter but returned to play a handful of snaps in the fourth.  That injury caught McCarthy by surprise and at Monday's 3:00 PM weekly visit with the media, McCarthy talked about why he doesn't want to reveal injury details so soon after a game and how the team must find a way to accept it's fate, ready replacements and continue pressing on.

Audio:  Mike McCarthy

So how will the Packers move on?  Let's start with the liinebackers, already without Clay Matthews and Brad Jones.  Matthews is still a few weeks away with his surgically repaired broken thumb.  Not sure how far away Jones is with his pulled hamstring.   Mike Neal started for Matthews and Jamari Lattimore started for Jones.  Both held up fine in Baltimore.  Perry's spot will likely be filled by undrafted rookie free agent Andy Mulumba who played over 30 snaps against the Ravens.  Defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Mulumba showed flashes of a pass rush and is a willing worker who will now have to sieze his opportunity.  The backup outside is draft pick Nate Palmer who also got a taste against the Ravens.

It gets a bit more complicated on offense.  The Packers were down to Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin on Sunday.  Myles White is the only practice squad receiver available after Charles Johnson was plucked off the squad and signed to the active roster by the Cleveland Browns over the weekend.  By Monday afternoon, Reggie Dunn, the 5-9, 178 pound receiver and kick returner from Utah was brought back on to the Green Bay practice squad after getting released only last week. Tyronne Walker, who had his moments in camp before getting cut, had a look with Seattle and is on the market.   Because Cobb's injury is considered long term, you have to wonder if General Manager Ted Thompson will consider taking the dreaded step of surrendering a coveted draft pick to shore up the position.  Several veteran receivers have been mentioned as potential trade prospects, including Kenny Britt of Tennessee, Josh Gordon in Cleveland and Hakeem Nicks of the Giants.  It would take as much as a fourth, maybe even a third to land Gordon, the best of that bunch, and that may be a price too steep for Ted, especially considering Gordon's off field baggage.

A couple of factors will help the Packers weather this almost overwhelming rash of injuries.  One, the schedule is in their favor.  Over the next month, they face the Browns at home, the Vikings on the road, the Bears at home on a Monday night, the Eagles at Lambeau and the winless Giants in New York.  Hardly murderers' row although the Chicago game will be huge in the NFC North.  Secondly, the Packers are less reliant on 380, four touchdown games from Aaron Rodgers now that they have established a bona fide running game.  You know Eddie Lacy's having an impact when a safety actually bites on play action to allow Jordy Nelson a free run down the middle for a 64 yard touchdown.  The Packers are a top five rushing team in the league six weeks in.  Thirdly, the defense is playing at an accelerated rate, third best against the run.  The only missing ingredient is the takeaways and Casey Hayward may be the first of the hamstring victims to return.

While comparisons to 2010 are coming fast and furious, the uplifting fact is there are five, not 15 names on the injured reserve list, and only one of them a starter in Bryan Bulaga.  The wounded on this year's team will heal and return.  Hopefully the season won't be lost before they get back.