Green Bay Packers: Kahlil Bell

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the Green Bay Packers' first training camp practice on July 26, we will break down each position group.

Next up is running back.

Returning players: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill, John Kuhn.

Gone from last season: Johnathan Franklin, Kahlil Bell.

New this season: Ina Liaina (street free agent), Rajion Neal (undrafted rookie from Tennessee), LaDarius Perkins (undrafted rookie from Mississippi State).

Position coach: Sam Gash (first season), replaced Alex Van Pelt (who became quarterbacks coach).

Biggest issue: Lacy set the Packers' record for rushing yards by a rookie (1,178) on the way to winning offensive rookie of the year honors and in the process became one of the most promising running backs in the NFL. But with a year's worth of film on Lacy, teams will be better prepared for the Packers' running game this time around. How does Lacy counter that? For starters, the Packers would like to keep him on the field longer. That does not necessarily mean more plays or more carries in total. However, coach Mike McCarthy wants Lacy to be able to stay on the field for all three downs in order to prevent substitutions from slowing down the offense. That means Lacy will have to perfect his pass blocking skills. It also could mean more opportunities to catch the ball coming out of the backfield.

Player to watch: The small and speedy Harris was supposed to team with Lacy to give the Packers a different look out of the backfield, but a knee injury ended Harris' season in August. Harris was a full participant in the offseason program and will get the chance to compete with Starks for the top backup job.

Medical report: The Packers had high hopes for Franklin, who flashed some ability with a 103-yard performance last season against the Cincinnati Bengals, but the neck injury he sustained late last season turned out to be career-ending. He was released last month after doctors determined it would be unsafe for him to keep playing.

Help wanted: If five running backs make the roster, it means there's at least one spot that is wide open behind Lacy, Starks, Harris and Kuhn. Hill had two different stints on the practice squad last season sandwiched around two weeks on the active roster before finishing the season with the Buccaneers and re-signing with the Packers in the offseason. Neal and Perkins are both slashing backs similar Harris. Liaina would give the Packers a younger option at fullback but there/s no indication Kuhn's job is in jeopardy.

Quotable: "We haven't sat down and figured out 'X' number of carries for Eddie," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "We want to get him touches, trying to get him more involved in all aspects of the game, but Eddie was a workhorse for us last year. And then when James got in there last year, he ran very hard. That was a great one-two punch. Now you factor in DuJuan and the other guys, it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out."

Previous installments

Monday: Quarterbacks
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers began this offseason with 17 players scheduled for unrestricted free agency.

They have re-signed five of them: outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal, tight end Andrew Quarless, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, cornerback Sam Shields and running back James Starks.

Four of them signed with other teams: center Evan Dietrich-Smith (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), receiver James Jones (Oakland Raiders), tackle Marshall Newhouse (Cincinnati Bengals) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (Raiders).

That leaves eight still on the market. Here's an update on where things stand the Packers’ remaining free agents:

Kahlil Bell, RB: With Starks back on a two-year, $3.165 million deal, it’s unlikely Bell, a late-season pickup last year, will be re-signed. The Packers already have five halfbacks with NFL experience on the roster -- Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris, Michael Hill and Starks -- plus practice-squad member Orwin Smith.

Jermichael Finley, TE: There's no guarantee Finley will receive medical clearance to resume his career following last season's neck injury. Finley reportedly failed a physical during a free-agent visit to the Seattle Seahawks, and the Packers say they are still monitoring his condition. At this point, Finley's career remains on hold.

Matt Flynn, QB: It's all but a lock that the player who kept last season alive while Aaron Rodgers was sidelined with his broken collarbone will return. Coach Mike McCarthy wants Flynn back and would like to keep three quarterbacks on the roster this season. Expect Flynn to be re-signed soon.

Robert Francois, LB: The special-teams player is coming off a torn Achilles tendon. If healed, he could be re-signed for a minimum contract later in free agency.

Johnny Jolly, DT: Like Finley, Jolly underwent neck fusion surgery. But Jolly's injury was not as severe as Finley’s and the fusion took place lower in his neck, which makes it safer for him to resume his career. McCarthy said he liked how Jolly played last season, so expect the Packers to bring back Jolly at some point.

John Kuhn, FB: The Packers remain in talks with the fan favorite who completed a three-year, $7 million contract last season. Kuhn is a valuable special teams player and has been their best pass protector out of the backfield the past several seasons. But it's not a given he will return. And if he does, it likely will be for less money than he received three years ago.

Ryan Pickett, DT: The plan to move Raji back to nose tackle might make Pickett expendable. Or perhaps his age (34) has already done that. McCarthy was non-committal when asked about Pickett's status last week at the NFL annual meetings.

Seneca Wallace, QB: McCarthy would like to bring four quarterbacks to training camp, but don't expect the 33-year-old Wallace to be one of them. He couldn't stay healthy when the Packers needed him after Rodgers' injury. Instead, they would like to add another young, developmental prospect.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Sometimes, NFL players outperform their contracts.

Without tearing up those deals, there is a way for players who fit that description to earn more money. It’s called the NFL's performance-based pay distribution in which each team can allot a total of $3.46 million in additional play to its players.

It typically benefits players in their first NFL contracts or minimum-salaried free-agent signings who become key contributors.

For example, Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, a fourth-round pick with a base salary of $405,000 last year, will receive an additional $256,882.22 in performance-based pay, according to documents obtained by Bakhtiari started every game last season as a rookie. He received the largest pay increases among Packers' players. According to the NFL, those payments will be made on April 1, 2016.

The smallest distribution to a Packers' player went to backup tackle Derek Sherrod, who will receive $2,154.55. He was active for seven games but only took six snaps on offense all season.

Here’s a list of the top-10 and bottom-10 performance-based bonuses on the Packers’ roster:

Top 10
Bottom 10
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position look at what the Green Bay Packers have and what they need.

We can revisit this process before the draft based on what -- if anything -- general manager Ted Thompson does in free agency.

On Monday, we looked at the quarterback position.

Next up, running backs:

2014 free agents: Kahlil Bell, John Kuhn, James Starks.

The good: Eddie Lacy, who rushed for an NFL-rookie best 1,178 yards, gave the Packers their first true franchise back since Ahman Green nearly a decade earlier. The only question about the second-round pick is whether he can withstand the kind of abuse he takes given that he refuses to go down easily. Lacy missed nearly two games early in the season because of a concussion, then battled a sprained ankle late in the season, but otherwise held up OK. Starks was productive in a backup role, averaging a career-best 5.5 yards per carry. Kuhn showed the value of keeping a fullback by making several key blocks on big plays throughout the season.

The bad: The Packers had hoped DuJuan Harris would team with Lacy to provide a 1-2 punch, but Harris’ season never got going. He suffered a knee injury in the offseason, was injured again in training camp and was placed on injured reserve. Rookie Johnathan Franklin showed potential when he rushed for 103 yards in Week 3 against the Bengals, but he fumbled late in that game and fell back to third on the depth chart before a late-season neck injury landed him on injured reserve.

The money: The Packers shouldn’t have to spend major money on this position for a while. Of the players under contract for next season, Lacy has the highest salary-cap figure at only $771,003, followed by Harris ($645,000) and Franklin ($596,367). If Starks does return, it likely would be for a minimum-type contract. The only expense here would be if they re-sign Kuhn, and even that likely won’t be anything enormous.

Draft priority: After picking Lacy in the second round and Franklin in the fourth last year, it’s unlikely the Packers would pick a back this year, especially if Harris’ knee checks out fine.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Last week, we graded the Green Bay Packers by position groups as part of our season wrap-up.

This week, we’ll go a little deeper and rank the roster as it stood at season’s end.

The rankings will include 64 players and are based on how those players performed this season -- not their overall importance to the team.

We'll start at the bottom of the roster and work our way up.

Today we’ll address players 51-64:

51. Marshall Newhouse, T: Demoted after starting at left tackle in 2011 and 2012, the fourth-year pro started two games at right tackle after Don Barclay injured his knee and played in spot duty in three other games (including some snaps at right guard). After allowing 18 sacks in the previous two seasons combined, according to, he allowed three sacks and committed two penalties in essentially six games this past season. An unrestricted free agent who likely won’t be offered a contract to return.

52. Jake Stoneburner, TE: Undrafted rookie who was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 15. Played mostly on special teams (29.3 percent of the season snaps), where he had three penalties (including two personal fouls). His role diminished late in the season. Played only 10 snaps on offense, and despite a reputation as a good receiver did not catch a pass. Could develop into a receiving threat.

53. Robert Francois, LB: Journeyman backup and special teams player tore his Achilles’ tendon in Week 5 against the Lions in his first action on defense. He played 12 defensive snaps in relief of Brad Jones and made two tackles before getting injured. Was placed on injured reserve the next day. An unrestricted free agent who could return for another minimum contract.

54. Seneca Wallace, QB: Signed on Sept. 2 after the Packers deemed B.J. Coleman, Graham Harrell and Vince Young unfit to back up Aaron Rodgers. Was forced into action when Rodgers broke his collarbone on the first series against the Bears on Nov. 4 and played decently until he tore a groin muscle on the first series the next week against the Eagles and was done for the season. At age 33 and an unrestricted free agent, he’s not likely to return.

55. Kahlil Bell, RB: Veteran was signed on Dec. 3 as insurance after rookie Johnathan Franklin (neck) was placed on injured reserve. Did not appear on offense but played on most special teams units, where he had two tackles and one kickoff return for 22 yards. With all the depth returning at running back, it’s unlikely he will be back next season.

56. Casey Hayward, CB: Second year was derailed from the start when he pulled his hamstring in a pre-training camp workout. Re-injured it two more times and played in only three games before landing on injured reserve. A year after leading all NFL rookies with six interceptions, he was a non-factor.

57. Jerel Worthy, DE: Second-round pick in 2012 was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Nov. 23 after tearing his ACL in Week 17 of his rookie season. Made his season debut with nine snaps the next day and then was a healthy scratch for four straight weeks. Played just four more snaps the rest of the season. So far has been a major disappointment.

58. Sam Barrington, LB: Rookie seventh-round pick played seven games almost exclusively on special teams before a hamstring injury on Nov. 4 ended his season. Could be in the mix for playing time at inside linebacker next season.

59. Derek Sherrod, T: Former first-round draft pick was activated off PUP on Nov. 5 and saw his first action since he broke his right leg on Dec. 18, 2011 when he played on special teams against the Giants in Week 11. Played only six snaps on offense (all at right tackle) in the late stages of the Thanksgiving game against the Lions. Will have a full offseason to work out and compete for a job for the first time since his injury.

60. Chris Harper, WR: Rookie was claimed off waivers on Oct. 18. Was originally a fourth-round pick by the Seahawks. Appeared in just three games, mostly on special teams. He played only two snaps on offense but at 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds, he has good size and will be worth developing.

61. Greg Van Roten, C/G: Second-year pro won a roster spot coming out of training camp and was a backup at all three interior positions. Sustained a season-ending foot injury in practice and was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 15. Depending on whether starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith is re-signed, Van Roten could be in the competition for that job next season.

62. James Nixon, CB: First-year player was promoted from the practice squad on Oct. 7 and played in three games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 11. If the injury doesn’t cost him any of his remarkable speed, he could be in the mix again next season.

63. JC Tretter, C/G: Rookie fourth-round pick broke his ankle in offseason workouts in May and did not return to practice until Nov. 19. Was activated of PUP on Dec. 10 but did not suit up for any games. Late-season practice time could help him compete for the starting center job.

64. Jumal Rolle, CB: Rookie was signed to the practice squad on Oct. 8 and promoted to the roster on Dec. 27 but did not appear in a game. At 6-0 and with decent speed, he has a chance to compete for a backup spot next season.

Not rated because they were placed on injured reserve prior to Week 1: Bryan Bulaga, T; Kevin Dorsey, WR; Sederrick Cunningham, WR; DuJuan Harris, RB.

Coming Tuesday: Players 41-50.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In 16 regular-season games plus the NFC wild-card playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers’ special teams was on the field for 511 plays, according to weekly snap counts kept by the NFL.

Special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum used 58 different players on his units this season. That was four more than in 2012 and explains why coach Mike McCarthy said all the personnel changes caused in large part by injuries caught up with the Packers’ special teams by year’s end.

The Packers finished the regular season ranked seventh in punt return average (thanks largely in part to rookie returner Micah Hyde) but just 30th in kickoff return average. Slocum’s units struggled in coverage, ranking 29th in both punt return and kickoff return average allowed.

The specialists -- kicker Mason Crosby, punter Tim Masthay and long-snapper Brett Goode -- all had strong seasons.

Davon House, who played a team-high 338 snaps on special teams, led the Packers with 12 special teams tackles.

Here are the snap-count leaders on special teams with playing-time percentages in parenthesis. We’re not going to list all 58 players, but rather those who appeared on at least 10 percent of all special teams plays this season. (Earlier, we looked at playing time for every player on offense and on defense this season):
An analysis of the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers’ 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field:

Offense (63 total plays)

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers 63.

Offensive line: Don Barclay 63, Evan Dietrich-Smith 63, T.J. Lang 63, Josh Sitton 63, David Bakhtiari 52, Marshall Newhouse 11.

Receivers: Jordy Nelson 62, James Jones 60, Randall Cobb 44, Jarrett Boykin 27.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy 37, James Starks 15, John Kuhn 13.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 48, Ryan Taylor 8, Jake Stoneburner 1.

Noteworthy: Bakhtiari had all kinds of trouble blocking outside linebacker Aldon Smith before he leaving in the fourth quarter because of a concussion and giving way to Newhouse. ... Cobb played more snaps than he did a week earlier in his return against the Bears but was targeted only two times. He caught both of them for a total of 51 yards. ... Lacy seemed to tire in the second half, when Starks got more playing time. Starks finished off a productive season as a backup by averaging 5.8 yards on five carries. ... The Packers got almost no production from their tight ends in the passing game. Quarless had one catch for 8 yards. That was the only target for a tight end.

Defense (64 total plays)

Defensive line: B.J. Raji 48, Ryan Pickett 47, Mike Daniels 36, C.J. Wilson 19, Josh Boyd 14, Datone Jones 13, Jerel Worthy 2.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 64, Nick Perry 59, Andy Mulumba 57, Brad Jones 55, Mike Neal 5.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 64, Tramon Williams 64, Davon House 61, M.D. Jennings 46, Micah Hyde 20, Sean Richardson 18, Jarrett Bush 10, Sam Shields 2.

Noteworthy: Injuries to Neal (knee, did not return) and Mulumba (who did return) forced Datone Jones to take his first snaps of the season at outside linebacker. Perry saw his most snaps of the season, two more than in his previous high from Week 1 against the 49ers. ... Defensive coordinator Dom Capers used a heavy dose of his base defense with three linemen, including more than usual with Raji in the middle of the three. ... House, who played only four snaps on defense in the previous three games, was pressed into action in the base defense after Shields’ knee injury on the opening series.

Top special-teams contributors (26 total plays): Bush 22, Jamari Lattimore 21, Taylor 21, Hyde 17, Kahlil Bell 16, Jennings 16, Kuhn 13, Victor Aiyewa 12, Daniels 10, Stoneburner 10.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between now and the start of free agency in March, the Green Bay Packers have plenty of decisions to make about their roster.

Some may already have been made, but with 17 unrestricted free agents and two more that fall under the restricted category, there are bound to be both big-money signings and cost-saving departures.

Every one of the key free-agents-to-be who was in the locker on Monday when players packed up and headed home for the offseason expressed uncertainty about their situations.

“I’ve had a lot of fun with the guys playing,” center Evan Dietrich-Smith said. “I hope we can continue it, but at the same time I think everybody understands the business side of the game and we’ll just have to wait and see.”

For some players, like veteran receiver James Jones, this won’t be the first time going through free agency.

“Whatever may happen, happens,” Jones said. “I would love to be back here. I’ve been here for seven years and would love to be back. You know, you’ve got to go into the offseason, they make decisions up top, I’ll go into the offseason and talk with my agent and we’ll go from there.”

Here’s the list of the free-agents-to-be on offense (to be followed later by the defensive list):
  • Seneca Wallace, QB: Aaron Rodgers said he enjoyed having a veteran backup around, but at age 33 and coming off surgery to repair a torn groin muscle, Wallace is not expected to return. He finished the Nov. 4 game against the Bears after Rodgers broke his collarbone but then sustained his injury on the first series of his first start the following week. 2013 base salary: $662,118
  • Flynn
    Matt Flynn, QB: Back in the system where he’s most comfortable, Flynn has shown that he can be a short-term fill-in for Rodgers. After failed attempts to start in Seattle and Oakland, he might be content to come back as a backup. However, the Packers also have Scott Tolzien under contract and would like to continue to develop him. 2013 base salary: $715,000
  • John Kuhn, FB: If ever there was a question about his value, it should have been answered this season, when he made several big plays – including the key block on Rodgers’ game-winning touchdown pass in Week 17 against the Bears. The role of the fullback has diminished, but the position is far from extinct in Green Bay. 2013 base salary: $1.8 million
  • James Starks, RB: Playing the role of complementary back to Eddie Lacy suited the oft-injured Starks. He missed only three games this season and averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 89 regular-season attempts. He might seek a starting chance somewhere else but could return as a backup. 2013 base salary: $630,000
  • Kahlil Bell, RB: Signed on Dec. 3 after rookie Johnathan Franklin’s season-ending neck injury, the veteran backup played primarily on special teams. With Franklin and DuJuan Harris expected to be healthy by next season, Bell may not be re-signed. 201 3 base salary: $715,000
  • Jones
    James Jones, WR: Perhaps eager to test the free-agent market after receiving little interest the last time around in the post-lockout signing period of 2011, Jones fought through a knee injury to finish second on the team in receptions (59) and receiving yards (817). It will be interesting to see what the market will be like for a 29-year-old who has been mostly a No. 2 receiver – albeit a productive one. 2013 base salary: $2.95 million
  • Jermichael Finley, TE: This will be as much a medical decision as it is a financial one after he underwent surgery following his season-ending neck injury. Finley wants to keep playing, but he will have to be cleared by doctors first. It would have been a difficult negotiation even without the injury, but that has only complicated matters. 2013 base salary: $4.45 million
  • Quarless
    Andrew Quarless, TE: Replaced Finley in the starting lineup and despite a career-best 32 catches for 312 yards and two touchdowns, he did not show the dynamic playmaking ability that Finley has. It doesn’t mean he won’t be back, but the Packers will probably address this position whether it’s by re-signing Finley or looking elsewhere. 2013 base salary: $1.32 million
  • Evan Dietrich-Smith, C: Played last season on a restricted free-agent tender and started all 16 games for the first time in his career. The Packers would like some continuity at the center position, so perhaps re-signing the dependable Dietrich-Smith will be a priority. 2013 base salary: $1.32 million
  • Marshall Newhouse, T: Reduced to a backup role after starting the previous two seasons at left tackle, Newhouse started two games at right tackle while Don Barclay was out because of a knee injury, but his days as a full-time starter in Green Bay appear to be over. 2013 base salary: $1.23 million

Packers' Week 17 playing time breakdown

December, 31, 2013
An analysis of the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers’ 33-28 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field:

Offense (78 total plays)

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers 78.

Offensive line: David Bakhtiari 78, Don Barclay 78, Evan Dietrich-Smith 78, T.J. Lang 78, Josh Sitton 78.

Receivers: Jordy Nelson 77, James Jones 76, Jarrett Boykin 39, Randall Cobb 37.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy 43, John Kuhn 24, James Starks 20.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 61, Ryan Taylor 13.

Noteworthy: In his return from a seven-week absence due to his broken collarbone, Rodgers stayed relatively clean (three sacks) by throwing a lot of quick hitches and receiver screens and also going down early when he had to scramble. There’s no denying he was rusty, especially in the first half, when he threw behind several receivers, but he got much better in the second half. … Cobb was targeted only twice in his first action since he broke his leg on Oct. 13, but he caught both of them for touchdowns (including the 48-yard game winner). His return allowed Nelson to move out of the slot and play more on the perimeter (although he still played some inside), and Rodgers targeted him a whopping 16 times (10 catches for 161 yards). … Lacy probably played too many snaps considering his sprained right ankle made it difficult for him to cut, and he averaged just 3.1 yards on 21 carries. Starks was far more effective (8.0-yard average on 11 carries). Kuhn was often charged with protecting Rodgers on third down and was fantastic.

Defense (50 total plays)

Defensive line: B.J. Raji 32, Mike Daniels 26, Ryan Pickett 25, Josh Boyd 9, Datone Jones 5, Jerel Worthy 2.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 46, Mike Neal 46, Andy Mulumba 42, Jamari Lattimore 39, Nick Perry 12.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 50, Tramon Williams 50, Sam Shields 50, Micah Hyde 47, M.D. Jennings 32, Sean Richardson 18, Jarrett Bush 11, Davon House 4, Chris Banjo 4.

Noteworthy: Datone Jones, the rookie first-round draft pick, has all but disappeared from defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ plans. He has played just 31 snaps in the last three games combined. There weren’t a lot of defensive line snaps to go around because Capers played almost exclusively nickel or dime, which use only two down linemen. Worthy was active for just the second time this season but was barely used. … Maybe Perry’s foot injury is still a problem, but twice he was taken out after poor plays. Once, he lost contain on a Matt Forte run in the third quarter. Later in the same quarter, he blew coverage on a swing pass to Forte that went for 33 yards. Mulumba replaced him both times. … Capers used eight defensive backs on the Bears’ final series, which included a key pass breakup in the end zone by Burnett.

Top special teams contributors (27 total plays): Bush 22, House 22, Kahlil Bell 17, Richardson 17, Banjo 16, Hyde 16, Nate Palmer 16, Taylor 15, Victor Aiyewa 15, Jennings 14.

Packers' Week 16 playing time breakdown

December, 24, 2013
An analysis of the snap counts from the Green Bay Packers’ 38-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

Offense (78 total plays)

Quarterback: Matt Flynn 78.

Offensive line: Don Barclay 78, David Bakhtiari 78, Evan Dietrich-Smith 78, T.J. Lang 78, Josh Sitton 78, Marshall Newhouse 2.

Receivers: Jordy Nelson 76, James Jones 73, Jarrett Boykin 70, Chris Harper 1.

Running backs: Eddie Lacy 38, John Kuhn 25, James Starks 25, Mike Daniels 1, B.J. Raji 1.

Tight ends: Andrew Quarless 59, Ryan Taylor 18, Jake Stoneburner 1.

Noteworthy: For the second straight week, coach Mike McCarthy used defensive linemen Daniels and Raji as blocking fullbacks in a goal-line situation. It didn’t work this time. Steelers linebacker Vince Williams shed Raji’s block and tackled Lacy for a 2-yard loss on first-and-goal from the 3. … Operating most of the game out of a three-receiver set, Nelson was targeted only five times (three catches for 46 yards). Boykin (13 targets, five catches for 54 yards) and Jones (12 targets, nine catches for 84 yards) made some tough catches. Jones took away an interception from cornerback Ike Taylor and made it an 8-yard gain. Boykin went over cornerback Cortez Allen to catch a 5-yard touchdown. … After catching 12 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns the previous two games combined, Quarless was used far more often as an extra blocker out of the backfield. On one such play, he collided with Flynn on a run-pass option play that resulted in Flynn’s pick-six. … Lacy reinjured his sprained right ankle in the third quarter, and Starks played more snaps than he had in any game since Week 3.

Defense (58 total plays)

Defensive line: Raji 33, Ryan Pickett 32, Daniels 29, Josh Boyd 24, C.J. Wilson 7, Datone Jones 4.

Linebackers: A.J. Hawk 58, Mike Neal 49, Jamari Lattimore 34, Andy Mulumba 25, Nick Perry 22, Clay Matthews 21, Brad Jones 19.

Defensive backs: Morgan Burnett 58, Tramon Williams 57, Sam Shields 53, Micah Hyde 49, Sean Richardson 36, M.D. Jennings 22, Jarrett Bush 6.

Noteworthy: For the third straight game, Boyd played more snaps than Datone Jones, whose play count was a season low. Wilson returned from a three-game absence because of an ankle injury. … The only sack of Ben Roethlisberger came courtesy of Matthews, who reinjured his broken thumb on the play and is probably finished for the season. Lattimore’s increased workload came because of Brad Jones' recurring ankle injury, and Lattimore forced Le'Veon Bell’s third-quarter fumble. Hawk continued to be the defensive play-caller and intercepted his first pass since Week 16 of 2010. … The nickel-heavy game plan put Hyde on the field for 84 percent of the snaps. For the third straight game, Richardson replaced Jennings during the game and played more snaps.

Top special teams contributors (37 total plays): Bush 31, Davon House 31, Mulumba 26, Taylor 23, Richardson 23, Hyde 20, Lattimore 20, Kahlil Bell 20, Victor Aiyewa 18, Kuhn 17, Stoneburner 17, Jennings 17.

Packers' injuries to watch in Week 17

December, 23, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers still have a chance to make the playoffs.

Win Sunday’s game at the Chicago Bears, and they win the NFC North and get the home playoff game that goes with it.

But do they really have a chance at Soldier Field if they have to play without some of their key playmakers?

Here are the key injuries to watch this week:

RB Eddie Lacy: The Packers’ all-time rookie rushing leader -- he set that mark on Sunday with 84 yards to give him 1,112 for the season -- failed to finish Sunday's 38-31 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He missed the entire fourth quarter after he hobbled off the field, favoring his sprained right ankle. He first injured it on Dec. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons. Although he has not missed a start, he has spent most of the past two weeks wearing a walking boot while practicing only the last two Fridays. “It’s the same thing, reaggravated it,” Lacy said. Backup James Starks was effective in place of Lacy, rushing for 47 yards on 10 carries and catching one pass for 23 yards against the Steelers. Fullback John Kuhn also scored a fourth-quarter touchdown. The only other back on the roster is Kahlil Bell, who was signed on Dec. 3.

OLB Clay Matthews: It would seem unlikely the Packers would have Matthews this week and perhaps beyond if they make the playoffs. Matthews reinjured his broken right thumb on his second-quarter sack of Ben Roethlisberger. Matthews knew it was bad as soon as it happened. He ran off the field with his right arm hanging limp at his side. Just like when he broke it on Oct. 6, he couldn’t even use his right hand to unbuckle his chin strap. Matthews needed surgery to fix it the first time and missed four games. “I couldn’t give you a timeline but I think based off the history of what happened the first time, I’m told it’s similar to the [previous] injury," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Sunday after the game. Adding to the concern is the fact fellow outside linebackers Nick Perry (foot) and Mike Neal (abdomen) are banged up. Neal came out for a portion of Sunday’s game but managed to return.

QB Aaron Rodgers: Need we say anything more about Rodgers? As of last Friday, he had not been cleared to return from his Nov. 4 broken collarbone, which means it will be another week of speculation about his status unless McCarthy says something definitive during his news conference Monday afternoon.

Other injuries to watch: LB Brad Jones (ankle), CB/KR Micah Hyde (shoulder), TE Ryan Taylor (ankle).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Thanks to Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless, we know that quarterback Aaron Rodgers took snaps with the starting offense Wednesday.

While Matt Flynn still took the majority of the starter's reps and at this point is planning to start Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys, it represented a significant step for Rodgers in his recovery. How his collarbone feels Thursday will dictate his activities for the rest of the week.

"We'll see how he is tomorrow," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Wednesday's practice. "We'll set a plan for him again tomorrow."

Rodgers is expected to hold his weekly news conference Thursday.

Meanwhile, receiver Randall Cobb, who has been on the injured reserve/designated to return list since Oct. 15 because of his fractured tibia, still has not returned to practice. He is eligible to return to game action this week, but that appears unlikely.

"Randall is doing more, he's doing more in his rehab," McCarthy said. "He's progressing, looks good. He's starting to bounce around. He definitely took a step."

Running back Eddie Lacy won't practice until Friday at the earliest because of the sprained ankle he sustained Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. Lacy finished the game after getting re-taped but if he can't play this week, James Starks would be the starter, and it could mean the recently signed Kahlil Bell would be the backup. Bell was inactive against the Falcons.

McCarthy said he did not have major concerns about inside linebackers Brad Jones (ankle) and Jamari Lattimore (knee) despite the fact that neither practiced Wednesday.

Receiver Myles White, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday, said he injured his knee on his third-quarter catch against the Falcons. White said he has a partially torn meniscus but will not need surgery.

Here's the full injury report:
  • C Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee/ankle, limited participation in practice)
  • LB Brad Jones (ankle, did not practice)
  • RB Eddie Lacy (ankle, did not practice)
  • LB Jamari Lattimore (knee, did not practice)
  • OLB Mike Neal (abdomen, did not practice)
  • OLB Nick Perry (foot, limited participation)
  • QB Aaron Rodgers (collarbone, limited participation)
  • DE C.J. Wilson (ankle, did not practice).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers won’t have to shuffle their offensive line because center Evan Dietrich-Smith is going to give it a go on his sprained ankle.

Dietrich-Smith was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report after he sprained his ankle in practice on Wednesday. That, combined with the knee injury he sustained in the Thanksgiving game at the Detroit Lions, left his status in doubt for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

It means that the Packers won’t have to move right guard T.J. Lang to center and find a replacement for Lang.

Against the Lions, Lang played center after Dietrich-Smith left in the second quarter. It was only the second time in Lang’s career that he played center. Marshall Newhouse and Lane Taylor split playing time at right guard after Lang moved against the Lions.

Newhouse was a surprise inactive after coming down with flu-like symptoms. Running back Kahlil Bell, signed on Monday, also will not play.

Here’s the Packers’ full inactive list:
A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers’ beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When Matt Flynn was last quarterbacking for the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, he was running the no-huddle offense with precision.

He used it to help rally the Packers from a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit on Nov. 24 to tie the Minnesota Vikings -- the only non-loss the Packers have had since Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone on Nov. 4.

And then the Packers went on the road, and the no-huddle disappeared. They did not use it all in the Thanksgiving blowout loss at the Detroit Lions. But it wasn’t just a function of playing on the road, where crowd noise can make it difficult for visiting teams to operate the no-huddle. The Packers have used it in such situations in the past.

“It was three and out so many times, and our defense was out on the field for so long, you kind of want to huddle up and try to give your defense some time on the sideline,” Flynn said. “If you no-huddle and you’re three and out, it takes 45 seconds or whatever it does. So I think that was kind of the process.”

Whatever style of offense the Packers run when they return home Sunday to face the Atlanta Falcons, their aim is to get Flynn -- the presumed starter again this week -- into a rhythm he could never find against the Lions. The no-huddle could help accomplish that.

“I can’t count how many three and outs we had, but not getting any rhythm as an offense or a quarterback, that’s kind of an empty feeling,” Flynn said. “It’s one of those feelings where the harder you keep trying, the more you keep digging yourself in hole.”

In case you missed it on
  • At, Jason Wilde wrote that former Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, who twice broke his collarbone, said in an interview with the NFL Network that it would be a mistake for Rodgers to return until the tests show the risk of reinjuring it is almost nil.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Pete Dougherty wrote teams will continue to stack the box against the Packers until Flynn can prove he can beat them with his arm.
  • The Packers announced that vice-president of sales and marketing Tim Connolly will resign in February after spending four years with the team. Connolly was a polarizing figure. During my tenure at the Press-Gazette, we wrote about that. Given the latest news about him, it might be worth re-reading.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne wrote that the Packers still haven’t corrected their missed tackles problem.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – New Green Bay Packers running back Kahlil Bell might not be one of those guys who constantly checks how many people follow him on Twitter. However, the former Chicago Bears running back couldn’t help but notice what happened after he tweeted that he was signing with the Packers on Monday.

“It’s funny, when I put it on my Twitter, I lost like 500 followers,” Bell said Wednesday after his first practice in Green Bay. “Honestly, it’s the NFC North. I’m very familiar with the teams in this division, and it’s icing on the cake that we get a chance to play Chicago.”

Who knows what Bell’s role will be by the time he plays his old team in Week 17? For now, the fifth-year veteran is just trying to get acclimated to football again after being away from the game since he was cut by the New York Jets before the season.

“I’m just happy, and I’m grateful and I’m humbled to be here,” Bell said.

Perhaps the highlight of his career came right here at Lambeau Field on Christmas 2011, when he rushed for 121 yards on 23 carries in a 35-21 loss to the Packers. It remains the only 100-yard rushing game of Bell’s career.

“I remember coming up here to Lambeau, and it was my first NFL start,” Bell said. “It was a good day individually, but this game’s not about individual accolades. It’s about winning as a team. Even though it was nice to get an opportunity to start and showcase my talent on an individual stage at that point in time, we still got blown out and we didn’t make the playoffs. That’s what resonates with me more than anything else.”

The Packers were in need of a third running back behind Eddie Lacy and James Starks after rookie Johnathan Franklin was placed on injured reserve last week because of a neck injury. Franklin was injured on the opening kickoff against the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 24, and the Packers played with only two halfbacks last Thursday at the Detroit Lions.

Bell also has some experience as a kick returner, most of it in the preseason during his time with the Bears, but the Packers haven’t said how they plan to use him.

“We looked at that,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We also looked at the responsibilities he’s had in the past on special teams. I’ve been impressed with him in the classroom as far as his recall of his past offenses and language that was used that relates to us. We’re trying to get him ready for both running back and special teams.”

As for Twitter, Bell might need to change his handle from @KahlilBell32 because he’s wearing jersey number 22 with the Packers.