Nick Collins: Early gut punch for Packers

News that Green Bay Packers safety Nick Collins will miss the season is enough to take your breath away. For no other reason, it takes us back to the chaotic first half of the Packers' 2010 campaign, the one where they were literally losing prominent players on a weekly basis. The Packers persevered to win Super Bowl XLV, but I don't think anyone thought they would find themselves in such a familiar karmic situation so early in 2011.

Collins suffered an undisclosed neck injury during in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 30-23 victory against the Carolina Panthers. Medical officials wheeled him off the field as a precautionary measure, but as of Sunday night the Packers reported he had "normal feeling and complete movement" in his extremities during an overnight stay in a North Carolina hospital.

Collins returned Monday to Lambeau Field wearing a neck brace, coach Mike McCarthy said. A consultation with team doctors led to the decision to shut him down for the season. McCarthy said it is "too early in the evaluation process" to make a long-term prognosis, and surgical options haven't been determined. Hopefully, McCarthy said, the injury is just "a bump in the road" on the way to a Hall of Fame career.

"It's tough," a subdued McCarthy told Wisconsin reporters Monday afternoon. "We've been through the injury stuff before, but it's something that you never get used to as a head coach."

Charlie Peprah will replace Collins in the starting lineup, just as he stepped in for the injured Morgan Burnett for the final 12 games of last season. In this case, however, Peprah will be lined up next to Burnett and won't have the luxury of a Pro Bowl player next to him. McCarthy said "we have all the confidence in the world in Charlie," but I think we can all recognize it is a much different situation when you lose one of the NFL's top safeties so early in the season.

As they prepare for Sunday's NFC North clash against the Chicago Bears, the Packers are now dealing with two significant injuries in their defensive secondary. Pro Bowl cornerback Tramon Williams was inactive Sunday because of a bruised shoulder, and his status for the Bears game is uncertain. It's worth pointing out that with Williams playing most of Week 1 and Collins playing three quarters of Week 2, the Packers have still given up an NFL-high 800 passing yards this season.

The Packers proved to have the depth and mental toughness to push through last season's injury debacle. The 2011 season is only two weeks old, and already they've taken their first punch in the mouth.