GREEN BAY – The conversation started with Mason Crosby, who remains the Green Bay Packers kicker. It ended with ex-Packers return man Jeremy Ross, who is a sure bet to be the NFC special teams player of the week after scoring a pair of touchdowns for the Detroit Lions Sunday in Philadelphia.
The Packers couldn’t have been more right, it appears, in sticking with Crosby through thick and thin. After making all three field goals he attempted at snowy Lambeau Field during Sunday’s 22-21 victory over Atlanta, Crosby is now 29 for 33 on the season after going 21 for 33 last year. He’s on track to earn back in incentives every penny he gave up when he took a pay cut this summer.
“Kicking the ball in the NFL is no easy chore, I think Mason’s had some high points, he’s had some low points, he’s at an excellent point right now,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said during Monday’s weekly coordinator media availability session. “He’s a very talented kicker. It’s a tough process.
“As I said last year, the easy thing to do is to change personnel. That’s not always the right thing to do. He’s having a good year, that’s a credit to him and his work ethic.”
The corollary with Ross, whom the Packers dumped the day after his Sept. 24 fumble on a kickoff at Cincinnati, apparently does not apply.
Ross scored on a 98-yard kickoff return and a 58-yard punt return Sunday against the Eagles, with his two touchdowns accounting for all of the Lions’ second-half scoring in a 34-20 loss. Ross also added a 46-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter and finished with 243 return yards, more than the Lions’ offense (228) managed in the snow.
Against the Packers on Thanksgiving, Ross had a 5-yard touchdown catch (his first NFL TD reception), a 24-yard rush on an end-around and a 35-yard punt return. He also had a 60-yard fourth-quarter punt return wiped out by a questionable holding penalty.
"It was about the only offense we had for three quarters," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
Ross’ mistakes in Green Bay were well-documented. Although he had some big plays late in the 2012 season – a 58-yard punt return in the Packers’ Dec. 23 victory over Tennessee, and a 44-yard kickoff return and a 32-yard punt return against Minnesota in the regular-season finale on Dec. 30 – his costly fumble against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs led to a momentum-shifting touchdown in the Packers’ 45-31 loss.
He had an up-and-down training camp but the Packers kept him at the final cutdown. But his mistake in Cincinnati proved to be the final straw.
With the Packers already down 7-0, Ross misjudged the ensuing kickoff and muffed it, with the Bengals recovering at the Green Bay 2-yard line. The next play, they scored again to make it 14-0.
When the club cut him the next day, coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers “haven’t given up on Jeremy,” adding that he’d “have no problem working with him again.”
After managing just a 12.5-yard average on six kickoff returns and a 10-yard average on two punt returns, Ross, who signed with the Lions’ practice squad after his release and then was promoted to the 53-man roster, is now averaging 19.9 yards per punt return with the Lions (on eight returns) and 33.5 yards per kickoff return (on 10 returns).
The Packers as a team rank dead last in kickoff return average (18.8 yards) but sixth in punt return average (11.4, including Micah Hyde’s 93-yard punt return for a touchdown).
Asked Monday why the team’s approach with Crosby wasn’t applicable to Ross, Slocum replied, “Well, Mason played one position for us. The other young man played more positions. Had some problems before he left us. They were critical. In [the span of] four consecutive games [he] had two major problems and we made a decision to move. He did a nice job against us; he did a nice job yesterday in the snow.”
It’s certainly plausible that Ross needed the fresh start that Detroit gave him after the mistakes he made in Green Bay. He may never have regained his confidence with the Packers. It’s impossible to know for certain.
But he’s clearly making a difference now for a different team.
“I think mindset is a big part of performance. I think a person with a clear head and confident ability to trust their training and execute is a key to success,” Slocum said. “Guys can do it and stay in the same spot, sometimes guys need a new front door.”
GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy said it himself Monday.
The Green Bay Packers coach was asked during his usual day-after-the-game press conference how important it was to have Eddie Lacy come back into the game during the second half of Sunday’s 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field.
Lacy suffered a sprained ankle at the end of the first half but was re-taped and convinced team physician Dr. Patrick McKenzie to let him return to the game by running and jumping on the sideline. McCarthy confirmed Monday that Lacy has a “sprained ankle.”
“Well, Eddie Lacy is our starting running back,” McCarthy replied. “It’s always important to have your starters on the field.”
Even, McCarthy explained, when there’s only a few seconds left in the half and you have the ball at your own 32-yard line.
After the Falcons’ fluky pick-six interception return for a touchdown made it 21-10, the Packers took possession after the ensuing kickoff at their own 32-yard line with 14 seconds left in the half. The Falcons had all three of their time outs.
On first down, the Packers ran a screen pass to Lacy, but Lacy tripped over guard Josh Sitton and Matt Flynn’s pass fell incomplete with 11 seconds to go.
On second down, Flynn threw a dump-off to Lacy in the right flat that was also incomplete with 4 seconds to go.
On third down, Lacy took a handoff out of the shotgun from Flynn, started toward left guard and then bounced outside. By the time he was tackled, the half had run out. As the Lambeau Field crowd was booing, Lacy was limping off the field, favoring his right ankle. James Starks opened the second half at running back when Lacy came out of the locker room late and spent the first series with McKenzie.
Asked about Lacy’s injury Monday, McCarthy said Lacy was doing rehabilitation work and “we’ll see how the week goes.” He added that it is "too early to tell" if Lacy will be ready for Sunday's game at Dallas.
However, he wasn’t willing to explain why he didn’t have Flynn kneel on the final plays of the half, although McCarthy intimated that the Falcons having all three of their timeouts was the primary reason.
“I’m not going to get into all that. Frankly, there’s a reason why you run the ball at the end of the half,” McCarthy said. “I’m comfortable with the call. I don’t call plays based on trying to get anybody hurt or not hurt.
“Running the football was the primary focus in the game plan.”
When it was pointed out that the Packers passed on the first two plays, McCarthy replied, “Look at the clock. There’s obviously, there’s field position, timeouts, things like that.”
GREEN BAY – While Sean Richardson will definitely have a role in the Green Bay Packers defense, neither coach Mike McCarthy nor defensive coordinator Dom Capers was willing to anoint him as the starter Monday.
Richardson replaced incumbent starter M.D. Jennings during Sunday’s 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, but the Packers stopped short of naming him the starter alongside Morgan Burnett for next Sunday’s game at Dallas.
“No, we haven’t made any decisions that way,” Capers said. “I think both of them will have a role and it kind of depends on how the game goes. We felt at the time with having a big back in there [in Steven Jackson] and having Sean being able to step in there and play that, you saw him make a couple nice physical tackles up in there and supporting on the run.”
Richardson played 38 snaps to Jennings’ 21 Sunday. The only time Richardson came off the field after taking over for Jennings to start the second half was when the shield inside his facemask iced over and had to be scraped off on the sideline.
“I liked what he did on defense,” McCarthy said. “Sean brings an attitude, an energy, juice. So he may get some more opportunities this week.”
Because Richardson is much bigger (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) than Jennings (6-feet, 195 pounds), he makes more sense as a physical, up-in-the-box, run-support safety. But Capers said he believes Richardson can also do OK in coverage, where Jennings would seemingly have the advantage.
Richardson was activated off the physically unable to perform list last month after suffering a season-ending neck injury that required spinal fusion of the C5 C6 vertebrae last year.
“I thought he went in and did a nice job. What we asked him to do, you can see he’s got a physical presence to him in terms of being able to step up in there, had a couple nice plays on the run, filled on the run,” Capers said. “So we’ll continue to work him. You think about it, he’s only been back a few weeks here now.
“He’ll have another week of practice, and I can see him playing more possibly this week.”
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers will approach the week as if Matt Flynn will start for them at quarterback, but that doesn’t mean Aaron Rodgers will be ruled out or has no chance of playing against the Dallas Cowboys six days from now.
That said, based on coach Mike McCarthy’s response Monday, it doesn’t sound promising that Rodgers will get clearance to play.
“As we plan tonight and tomorrow, we’re planning to play the game with Matt. That’s the way you have to go about it,” McCarthy said Monday afternoon, following Sunday’s 22-21 victory over Atlanta – the Packers’ first since Rodgers suffered a fractured left collarbone against Chicago on Nov. 4.
“It’s the same way we went last week. Visiting with Aaron (Sunday) about where he is, he has hurdles to go over. And medically, he’s not cleared. So we’re planning for Matt Flynn.”
McCarthy wouldn’t say what those hurdles are, but it’s appears there is more than just a clean x-ray or CT scan standing in his way before Dr. Pat McKenzie and the coaching and medical staffs will greenlight him.
Rodgers practiced all three days last week on a limited basis but was only able to do individual drills.
Asked if Rodgers reported greater pain or soreness after that workload than the team had expected, McCarthy replied, “He’s progressing. I think the biggest thing is strength – strength and comfort. He felt better Friday than he did on Wednesday. Hopefully we’ll make the same progress this week.”
To that end, McCarthy said Rodgers’ workload will increase this week but in what way was unclear. He’ll then be reevaluated at midweek. Rodgers said Sunday that he did not have a scan scheduled for Monday or Tuesday.
“The plan for Aaron is he’s going to work out (Tuesday) as part of his rehab. He’ll be evaluated Wednesday morning by Dr. Pat McKenzie,” McCarthy said. “I just met with the training staff before I walked in here. They’re going to do some things tomorrow that they haven’t done last week. He’s still not medically cleared.”
Offensive coordinator Tom Clements said that while the coaches will game-plan as if Flynn will start against the Cowboys, making changes if Rodgers is cleared late in the week won’t be a huge issue.
“As far as what would be in or not be in, there wouldn’t be any problem making adjustments,” Clements said. “We wouldn’t make wholesale changes. A lot of the things we’re doing with Matt, we do with Aaron. Maybe (things would be) tweaked a little bit, but not a big deal.”
GREEN BAY – Center Evan Dietrich-Smith missed his second straight day of practice with the sprained ankle he suffered on Wednesday, meaning the Green Bay Packers could be forced to shuffle their offensive line Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Dietrich-Smith injured his right knee – the same knee he originally hurt Nov. 10 against Philadelphia – during the Packers’ Thanksgiving Day loss at Detroit. But coach Mike McCarthy said it’s his ankle, which Dietrich-Smith injured in practice Wednesday, that has his status in doubt.
Dietrich-Smith is officially listed as questionable on the injury report.
If Dietrich-Smith cannot go against the Falcons, right guard T.J. Lang would shift to center, just as he did against the Eagles and Lions. But to this point, Lang hasn’t had to start a game there.
With Lang at center, the Packers’ options would be to move right tackle Don Barclay to right guard and bring either Marshall Newhouse or Derek Sherrod off the bench to start at right tackle; put Newhouse at right guard as they did against the Lions when Dietrich-Smith went out; or start undrafted rookie free agent Lane Taylor at right guard. Taylor replaced an ineffective Newhouse in the fourth quarter against the Lions.
Here’s the full, official injury report from Friday:
Dietrich-Smith did not stay in the locker room during the media access period. Coach Mike McCarthy said he would be tested Saturday and that a decision would not be taken up to game time.
“We’re going to test (him) I think tomorrow,” McCarthy said after Friday’s practice. “We’re not very big on testing on game day. You don’t get an accurate read. He’s not ready as of today so we’ll see where he is.”
Asked how he feels about the line without Dietrich-Smith, McCarthy replied, “We’ve been able to practice the last two days. I feel we’re ready to go.”
McCarthy said he liked the team’s attitude throughout the week, despite its five-game winless streak while Rodgers has been sidelined.
“I’m very pleased – and I’m not trying to get too high here – but I’m very, very pleased with this week of preparation,” said McCarthy, whose team hasn’t played since a 40-10 whipping at the hands of the Detroit Lions on Nov. 28. “For as poorly as we played on Thanksgiving Day, this break has been very good for our football team.
“I knew it would be physically but I think it’s definitely been mentally. We’ve definitely been recharged. More importantly, we’ve got to show up and express that on Sunday. That’s what we’re set out to do.”
GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb hasn’t given up hope of playing again this season, but the Green Bay Packers wide receiver said still hasn’t gotten clearance to start running – a less-than-encouraging sign for his hopes of returning to action.
“I thought I was going to be cleared to run two weeks ago, and I still haven’t been,” Cobb said in the Packers’ locker room Friday.
But perhaps Cobb, who fractured his right leg against Baltimore on Oct. 13, will get that go-ahead next Tuesday, when coach Mike McCarthy said he will be tested again.
“I got to see Randall a little bit, some of his workout today,” McCarthy said after practice Friday. “Obviously, he’s not ready this week, and Tuesday will be a big day because that’s kind of the week we’ve always looked at for his availability. So we’ll see how that sorts out on Tuesday.”
That Tuesday is a key day for him came as a surprise to Cobb. Told McCarthy had said Tuesday would be a big day for him, Cobb replied, “Did he? You broke some news to me.”
Cobb was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 15 with the designation for return. Per the NFL’s rules for being designated for return, the first game Cobb could play would be Dec. 15 at Dallas, although that appears unlikely. He said he met with Dr. Pat McKenzie on Friday.
“I feel pretty good, but until I’m able to run and able to test out, I won’t know exactly where I’m at. It’s kind of hard to tell where I’m at without running,” Cobb said. “I talked to the doctor this morning, and after the scan that I had right before Thanksgiving, from what that scan showed, he still wasn’t ready to let me run yet.
“So until he gives the OK, I just continue to do the things I’ve been told I can do.”
Cobb’s return, despite the designation, has never been a sure thing. Last year, running back Cedric Benson suffered a Lisfranc foot injury on Oct. 7 at Indianapolis and was given the IR return designation but never played another snap.
Cobb had caught a team-leading 29 passes this season for 378 yards (second to Jordy Nelson’s 484) and two touchdowns at the time of his injury. it has been seven weeks and five days since the injury.
“When it happened, they said best-case was six to eight weeks,” Cobb said. “Worst case, I wouldn’t play the rest of the season. I’d be ready for next season, obviously, with a full year of recovery, but … that’s just where we’re at.”
Much like quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who’ll miss his sixth straight game Sunday against Atlanta with the broken collarbone he suffered Nov. 4 against Chicago, Cobb has struggled with being a spectator while the Packers’ season has spiraled downward.
“I try to stay positive. In the end, this injury that occurred is best-case scenario to what I thought it could have been. So that’s just how I look at it,” Cobb said. “I try to keep that in the back of my head as I go day to day and try to stay as positive as I can. But it’s been tough. It’s frustrating, not being able to be on the field, not being able to be of any help whatsoever. It’s hard for me.”
GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers is officially out for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Green Bay Packers quarterback will miss his fifth straight start after practicing on a limited basis all three days this week. The Packers are 0-4-1 since Rodgers fractured his left collarbone on the opening offensive series of the team’s Nov. 4 loss to the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
“Aaron Rodgers is not ready to go,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Friday’s practice, when backup Matt Flynn again took the starter’s reps. “He’s out for the game.”
Asked how Rodgers, who did not speak to reporters Friday, is handling being sidelined, McCarthy replied, “Aaron’s frustrated. But we’re in meetings all day together. There’s a conversation each and every day. He’s like every other player that’s fighting to get back on the field. He has a rehab program, and how he feels going through it is obviously expressed every day. He’s frustrated.”
McCarthy essentially ruled Rodgers out on Wednesday when he said the quarterback would not have his collarbone scanned again during the week. It has been made clear by both Rodgers and McCarthy that he cannot play until he is medically cleared to do so.
The one positive for Flynn was that the coaches made sure he got as many snaps as possible with the No. 1 offense. In advance of the team’s Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit, the Packers basically held glorified jog-through practices, which weren’t overly helpful to Flynn, who left as a free agent in March 2012 after serving as Rodgers’ primary backup from 2008 through 2011.
“It was good just to be able to call the plays. Now I feel like I’m calling the plays and not really thinking about where guys are lined up or what they’re running,” said Flynn, who took over for Scott Tolzien Nov. 24 against Minnesota and rallied the Packers from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the Vikings, 26-26. “I feel more fluid with everybody, and I feel like we were able to get a little chemistry going.”
GREEN BAY – If only that really had been a Detroit Lions player that cornerback Tramon Williams swatted away late in the Green Bay Packers’ Thanksgiving Day loss.
Instead, it was back judge Dino Paganelli, and Williams’ contact with the official resulted in the NFL fining him $26,250.
Williams said he intends to appeal.
"(I) didn't mean any harm by it at all," Williams said after practice Thursday, when he confirmed to a group of reporters that he’d indeed been notified of the fine. "(I) wouldn't do that if I knew who it was. Hopefully they give me some money back."
Unlike Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Cook, who also made contact with an official during Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears and was ejected for doing so, Williams was not kicked out of the game. But he and Cook did get similar fines.
“I mean, c'mon man, the referee's on the field just like us. I didn't think Chris Cook's was actually that bad for him to get thrown out,” Williams said.
The incident happened in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 40-10 loss, following a 1-yard touchdown run by Lions running back Joique Bell. On Thursday, Williams said Lions center Dominic Raiola – an acclaimed instigator who infamously got into it with the University of Wisconsin band during their performance at the Oct. 6 Packers-Lions game at Lambeau Field – pushed him at the end of the play. Williams was on his way to confront Raiola when Paganelli stepped in. Williams then swatted his hands away and the flag was thrown.
"I don't think I initiated the contact, but I did finish the contact, I guess," Williams said. “I mean, there's a lot of emotion going on at that point in time. Really, you’re not paying attention to what you're doing, not even paying attention to who it was at that point in time. And I just saw a guy walk out in front of me, maybe trying to make contact with me, and (I) just kind of knock his arm out my way because he put it out at me.”
GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers took another step toward returning to game action Thursday. It’s too bad the Green Bay Packers quarterback’s teammates took a step backward in the injury department.
While Rodgers donned pads for the first time since he fractured his left collarbone against Chicago on Nov. 4, center Evan Dietrich-Smith was unable to practice after rolling his ankle Wednesday, left tackle David Bakhtiari missed practice with an illness and veteran defensive tackle Ryan Pickett was added to the injury report with a knee injury after not practicing.
Here’s the full, official injury report from Thursday:
After saying Wednesday that Rodgers would not undergo any bone scans before Sunday’s game – thereby making it seemingly impossible to gain the medical clearance he needs to play – McCarthy was asked again Thursday if Rodgers would undergo any more scans.
“I’m not going to sit here and get into specifics of Aaron’s injury, just like I’ve stood up here for eight years. Aaron Rodgers has not been cleared by the medical staff. If Aaron would like to share the details of his injury and the steps of his protocol, that’s the player’s option,” McCarthy replied. “Until he’s been cleared by the medical staff he will not be able to play. We’re making progress. He feels better, he’s doing more in the weight room, he’s a step closer. But how far away, time will answer that question.”
Rodgers experienced significant pain the last time he tried to put on shoulder pads – the night of Nov. 4, when he broke his collarbone against the Bears, took off his pads to be examined and then put them back on in hopes of returning to the game.
“Aaron did a little more today in the individual work, was able to wear shoulder pads and things like that,” McCarthy said. “I thought he made a little bit of progress today.”
Meanwhile, McCarthy isn’t sure whether Dietrich-Smith, who began the week nursing a knee injury suffered on Thanksgiving, will make it back for the game Sunday after sustaining the ankle injury in practice Wednesday.
“I’m hopeful he can do something (Friday). But getting injured on Wednesday is never a good thing,” McCarthy said. “I guess it’s better than getting injured on Thursday. We’ll just take it day to day.”
GREEN BAY – Evan Dietrich-Smith limped over to the trash can, threw his ankle tape in the receptacle and limped back to his locker.
“(Expletive) happens,” the Green Bay Packers center said.
Indeed it has to Dietrich-Smith, who injured his knee against Philadelphia on Nov. 10, reinjured it last Thursday during the Packers’ Thanksgiving Day loss to the Detroit Lions and then topped it off by rolling his ankle in practice Wednesday.
As a result of the ankle injury, Dietrich-Smith wasn’t able to finish practice. He didn’t sound like he expected to miss Sunday’s game against Atlanta, however.
“I stepped on someone’s foot,” Dietrich-Smith said. “It’s fun, huh? I love this sport. Good thing we get paid money. I remember when I used to play this for free.”
Here’s the full, official injury report from Wednesday:
Other than Dietrich-Smith – and of course Rodgers, who is expected to miss his fifth straight game Sunday – the players on the Packers’ active 53-man roster appear to be in reasonably good health. Neal has been bothered by a pulled abdominal muscle for weeks but has played through it; Wilson is the only player who seems doubtful for Sunday.
“I think it’s clearly physical,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy replied when asked how his team might improve after the quasi-bye week. “Obviously mentally we have to get ready to play. No one feels good about where we are, but we still have great opportunities in front of us. Based on today’s energy on the field, we definitely benefitted from this break.”
There are no games scheduled for today.
There are no games scheduled for today.