Starter Pack: The most bizarre injury of all

A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

The Packers’ injury problems have been well documented, but this one -- the story of Charles Johnson -- almost goes beyond the imaginable.

Remember the news on Saturday, when the rookie receiver accepted an offer to leave the Packers’ practice squad and sign with the Cleveland Browns? To borrow a phrase from Chevy Chase’s character in the movie "Fletch," it was a smaller story, but I know you’ve been following it.

The story got a whole lot more interesting on Wednesday, when the Browns placed Johnson on the reserve/non-football injury list after they discovered he had a torn ACL and will need surgery.

This brings up several questions:

  • Why didn’t the Browns put Johnson through a physical before they signed him?

  • When did Johnson sustain the injury?

  • How did the Packers not know about it?

  • Are the Packers in any way responsible for paying Johnson’s salary or liable for an injury settlement if the Browns can prove he was injured during his time in Green Bay?

Johnson sustained a knee injury on the second day of training camp. He said at the time it was diagnosed as an MCL sprain, which typically heals in 2-4 weeks. Perhaps he actually had a torn ACL at that time, and the Packers missed it. Johnson, a promising but raw seventh-round draft pick from Grand Valley State, was so far behind when he returned from the injury that he never made a serious bid for a roster spot.

The Packers immediately signed him to their practice squad, and there was no indication of a problem. However, Johnson was absent from practice on Oct. 9. Practice squad players do not appear on injury reports. Johnson returned to practice the next day.

This likely won’t be the end of this story.


  • In our ESPN.com coverage, we discovered that coach Mike McCarthy has an appreciation for history, at least when it can help his football team’s mindset. He probably felt that it was necessary given the fact that all the injuries -- which has left a shortage at receiver and outside linebacker -- have forced the Packers to get even younger. They now have 14 rookies on their roster. Also, it was a milestone day for tackle Derek Sherrod, who was cleared to begin practicing again. The former first-round pick has not played since he broke both bones in his lower right leg on Dec. 18, 2011. In our weekly QB Watch feature, we detailed just how heavily Aaron Rodgers relied on Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley after the Packers lost Randall Cobb and James Jones last Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

  • In Dan Graziano’s weekly MVP Watch, Rodgers has moved up the list.

  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde talked to tight end Jake Stoneburner and receiver Myles White, the rookies who were promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday and likely will play on Sunday against the Browns.

  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Pete Dougherty wrote that the possible return of cornerback Casey Hayward from a hamstring injury will make a deep position even deeper and playing-time decisions even tougher.

  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Silverstein wrote that the Packers’ injury situation is so bad that they might have a hard time coming up with 46 players to activate on Sunday against the Browns.