Multiple outlets reported today, without official word from the Green Bay Packers, that veteran nose tackle B.J. Raji tore a bicep muscle in Friday night's 31-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders and will be lost for the entire 2014 season. The injury leaves a huge void in the middle of the Pack's defense. Raji returned to the team this year after signing just a one year, four million dollar contract, hoping a big season would result in a long term, far more lucrative deal. That will have to wait.
Raji got injured in the first quarter of the game and did not return. He went t the locker room and returned later with his arm heavily wrapped in ice. The former number one pick moved back to the nose tackle position this year after playing defensive end in the 3-4 system of coordinator Dom Capers. The change suited Raji who's quickness and strength helped anchor the defensive line, tie up blockers and allow the inside linebackers to flow to the football. The 6th year veteran out of Boston College was one of the heroes in the Pack's run to Super Bowl XLV. His interception return for a touchdown help seal the 2010 NFC Championship game victory in Chicago and set off a "Do the Raji" dance craze.
So what's next? Mike McCarthy and the staff can go in a couple of directions. First, they can do nothing and go with what they currently have on the roster. Second year pro Josh Boyd stepped into the nose against the Raiders but he got only minimal experience as a rookie in 2013. They drafted Khyri Thornton this spring but he's got a long ways to go. Undrafted free agent Mike Pennel has had a strong camp and will almost certainly gain a roster spot. A hamstring injury has sidelined former Minnesota Viking Letroy Guion throughout the entire training camp. A candidate for the physically unable to perform list through the first six weeks of the regular season, Guion might now be carried onto the active roster injured if he can get on the practice field soon. There's 35 year old Ryan Pickett, still home playing with his five kids. The Packers released Pickett, along with Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson during the off-season to get younger and quicker up front. Pickett has said he still wants to play and in Green Bay if possible, but I don't think that's going to happen.
The team returns to the practice field Sunday to prepare for their final Preseason game against Kansas City, on a short week with the Chiefs coming to Lambeau Field on Thursday night. No matter how they fill the roster spot, the Packers will be hard pressed to duplicate the production Raji has given and was going to give them up front this year, it's a big blow.