Starter Pack: Injuries still baffle McCarthy

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
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A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the third time in four seasons, injuries have hit the Packers hard.

Despite exhaustive offseason studies, coach Mike McCarthy still can't say exactly why.

The Packers ended the season with 15 players on injured reserve, equaling their total from the Super Bowl season of 2010. Another, linebacker Clay Matthews, never returned from second broken thumb, although he remained on the roster.

Pulled hamstrings were the injury of the year, with cornerback Casey Hayward getting the worst of that ailment. He pulled his three times, which limited him to just three games. That's three more than projected left tackle Bryan Bulaga played. He tore his ACL in August and never even made it to the first preseason game.

And of course, there was quarterback Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone.

"We didn't hit the target and we've got to find a better way to keep guys healthy," McCarthy said. "We'll continue to strive to do that."

In his annual study of injuries, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News determined the Packers ranked sixth in the NFL in 2013 in terms of most games missed by starters. The Packers lost 70 games by starters. The New York Giants had the most with 91, and the New York Jets had the fewest with 20.

"Everything we do from a training standpoint -- you look at our facilities, the way our players are cared for, the nutrition, the practice structure now -- we've made a number of adjustments in favor of helping us be a healthy football team," McCarthy said. "And we didn't get that done."

According to Gosselin, the Packers have lost more games by starters (153) than any other team in the NFL over the last two seasons.

"You have to look inside of it and make sure you have a clear understanding of everything that happened within that statistic," McCarthy said. "That's the answer. That's what we're looking for and we'll continue to do that. Do I like it? No. It's a challenge. It's a challenge when you can't get guys to practice. It's a challenge when you have a young football team and the same guys aren't playing together each and every week. And it shows up, and it definitely showed up this year."

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • In his season wrap-up news conference on Wednesday, McCarthy gave a strong indication that defensive coordinator Dom Capers will return for a sixth season. He twice called Capers "an outstanding coach" and said he's not going into the offseason looking to make big changes.
  • If that's the case, then the Packers need to either acquire or develop more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
  • On the day quarterback coach Ben McAdoo interviewed for the Cleveland Browns head coaching job, another up-and-coming member of McCarthy's staff -- cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt -- said he remains under contract with the Packers for next season.
  • Multiple reporters who cover the New York Giants, including our own Dan Graziano, reported that McAdoo will interview for the offensive coordinator job on Tom Coughlin's staff. Graziano reported that the interview will take place on Saturday.
  • The end of the season means extensive evaluation, including position group grades. More detailed player-by-player grades will be forthcoming.
  • Here's No. 8 on our list of the top-10 plays that shaped this season. No. 7 comes later on Thursday.
Best of the rest:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde wrote that if McAdoo departs, the Packers may already have his replacement on staff in running backs coach Alex Van Pelt.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Weston Hodkiewicz wrote that the Packers need to get more out of their young defensive linemen. So far, only Mike Daniels has been a major contributor.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tom Silverstein wrote that the Packers might find even more ways to highlight running back Eddie Lacy next season and therefore take some pressure off Rodgers.

Rob Demovsky

ESPN Green Bay Packers reporter

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