NFC North: NFL injury wire

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's one thing for a proven player like Clay Matthews to miss the entire offseason program while recovering from his twice broken thumb.

Matthews has turned in Pro Bowl seasons before while missing major parts of the offseason and training camp because of hamstring injuries.

Perry
But for a player like Nick Perry, the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker who has yet to perform like the first-round pick that he was in 2012, the fact that he has been unable to participate in any on-field activities this offseason could prove to be another detriment to his development.

"I don't think it helps any player to miss a whole offseason," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Tuesday following the first practice of minicamp. "I talked about it last week with the staff. I told the team about it today. Our coaching staff took a different approach. You're accustomed to being a 15-week program. Obviously we're in a nine-week program going on here in Year 4 [of the new CBA]. To get all that work done, nothing changes. You have a season to get ready for. You have this much work. And to do it all in a nine-week period, and for a player to miss all of it, obviously it's not a good situation to be in.

"I think any of the players who did not take advantage of this nine-week opportunity or due to injury is definitely something they're going to have to work harder to catch up once training camp starts."

McCarthy would not specify the reason for Perry’s absence, but Perry missed five games last season because of foot and ankle injuries.

"I mean, he's injured, so. ..." McCarthy said.

There is frustration throughout the organization about Perry's inability to get on the field. He missed nearly half (15) of the 32 regular-season games in his two NFL seasons.

When asked what Perry is missing by being unable to practice, linebackers coach Winston Moss said: "Everything. Everything."

"It's unfortunate," Moss said. "It's disappointing."

In addition to Matthews and Perry, three other former draft picks have been unable to participate this offseason: defensive end Jerel Worthy, tight end Andrew Quarless and running back Johnathan Franklin.

Perhaps the biggest concern is about Franklin, the fourth-round pick from UCLA who finished his rookie season last year on injured reserve following a neck injury. The Packers are worried that Franklin's neck injury might be career-threatening. According to two people with knowledge of his situation, the Packers are putting Franklin through more tests to determine whether it's safe for him to continue playing.

Worthy, who last season played in only two games after coming off a torn ACL in the 2012 regular-season finale, missed the first two weeks of OTAs following the accidental shooting death of his grandmother in Ohio, but he also is dealing with an unspecified injury that is not believed to be related to his knee.

Quarless, who signed a two-year, $3 million contract to return to the Packers, also has not practiced. He missed all of the 2012 season because of a knee injury in 2011 but returned to play in every game last season, including 10 starts.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A week after quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Randall Cobb returned from long injury absences, there was no drama among the Green Bay Packers’ inactives for Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field.

Other than linebacker Clay Matthews, who was ruled out early in the week because of his broken thumb, the Packers had a healthy roster to choose from for their 46-man game-day roster.

Linebacker Brad Jones, who was listed as probable on the injury report, returned a week after missing the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears because of an ankle injury.

The Packers also decided to dress only two quarterbacks this week, Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Against the Bears, Scott Tolzien was active as the third quarterback in Rodgers' return from his fractured collarbone.

The biggest news among the inactives came from the 49ers, who will be without cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Here’s the Packers full inactive list:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the past three weeks, the only practice reps Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy took came last Friday and even those were limited and not in pads.

Lacy
So the fact that Lacy was back on the field for Thursday's practice is a good indication that his sprained right ankle has improved.

Lacy was officially listed as a limited participant, but he was in full pads and might be as healthy as he's been at midweek since he was injured in the Dec. 8 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

“Eddie looked good,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice. “He was limited in practice [but had a] good day's work.”

It's possible the Packers could rest Lacy on Friday to make sure he's fresh for Sunday's NFC wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Here's the full injury report:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers are about as healthy as they have been in months heading into Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Matthews
The only player not at practice on Thursday was outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who already has been ruled out because of his thumb injury.

The other 52 players on the roster all took part in the full-pads practice.

Running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) practiced on a Thursday for the first time since he sprained his right ankle on Dec. 8 against the Atlanta Falcons. The past three weeks, Lacy had been practicing only on Fridays.

Banged-up linebackers Brad Jones (ankle), Mike Neal (abdomen), and Nick Perry (foot) all practiced.

The Packers don’t appear to be limiting quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb, who returned last Sunday after lengthy absences. Neither was even listed on Wednesday’s injury report.

The full injury report will be available after practice.

Earl Bennett out for Chicago Bears

December, 29, 2013
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman called the likelihood of Earl Bennett's availability “questionable at best” on Friday, and the scenario played out Sunday as the team listed the receiver among its inactives for the matchup against the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title.

Bennett missed practice all week leading into Sunday’s game, and another workout last week as he’s currently out of town dealing with a personal family issue.

Trestman plans to divvy up Bennett’s repetitions against the Packers between veteran Eric Weems and rookie Marquess Wilson. Wilson was inactive last week, and has caught only one pass this season for 3 yards. Weems, meanwhile, is mainly a special-teams contributor who has logged one reception for 8 yards.

A sixth-year veteran, Bennett is the club’s No. 3 receiver, and possesses chemistry with quarterback Jay Cutler because they played ball together in college at Vanderbilt. Bennett has caught 32 passes this season for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

Other Bears inactives included quarterback Jordan Palmer, offensive tackles Joe Long, Jonathan Scott, and James Brown as well as defensive end Cornelius Washington and receiver Chris Williams, who was recently added to the active roster.

Packers inactives included receiver Chris Harper, cornerback Jumal Rolle, linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones, along with guard Lane Taylor, center/guard JC Tretter and defensive end C.J. Wilson.

With starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers returning from a broken collarbone, the Packers made all three of the quarterbacks on their roster active for the matchup against the Bears.

Packers inactives: Cobb good to go

December, 29, 2013
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CHICAGO -- The Green Bay Packers did not add Randall Cobb to the 53-man roster on Saturday so that he could sit on the bench. A day after he came off the temporary injured reserve list, Cobb will play against the Chicago Bears.

It will be his first action since he broke the tibia in his right leg on Oct. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens.

With the return of Aaron Rodgers from his Nov. 4 broken collarbone, the Packers kept all three quarterbacks – Rodgers, Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien – active.

The only surprise on the inactive list was linebacker Brad Jones. He was listed as probable on the injury report after he returned to practice on Friday, albeit on a limited basis because of an ankle injury. Jamari Lattimore will start in Jones’ place.

At outside linebacker, rookie Andy Mulumba and Mike Neal will be the starters in place of Clay Matthews (thumb) and Nick Perry, who is active.

Defensive end Jerel Worthy is active for only the second time since coming off the physically unable to perform list on Nov. 23.

Here’s the full inactive list:

Lions without Johnson, three corners

December, 29, 2013
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit Lions made the correct call.

Johnson
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is among the seven players inactive for the Lions, ending his season with 84 catches for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns. The receptions and yards are his lowest totals since the 2010 season.

His 12 touchdowns more than doubled the five he had a season ago.

In Johnson's place, the Lions will start receiver Kevin Ogletree. Ogletree has 16 catches for 194 yards and two touchdowns this season, split between Tampa Bay and Detroit.

No Johnson is only part of Detroit's issues Sunday. Three of top five Lions cornerbacks are out as Chris Houston, Bill Bentley and Jonte Green are all inactive. Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay, who is coming off a torn meniscus, will start and Chris Greenwood, who played his first NFL game earlier this month, will be the top backup.

Also inactive for Detroit is its starting right tackle, LaAdrian Waddle, and he'll be replaced by Jason Fox. Dylan Gandy is the other inactive on the offensive line. Guard Rodney Austin will be active for the first time in his career.

And this also ends Kellen Moore's second season with the Lions -- and second season where he has yet to play in a game.

Vikings inactives: Rhodes out

December, 29, 2013
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Hello from the late, great Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which sees its final NFL game today as the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions finish their seasons (and possibly the tenures of their respective coaches). We'll have plenty more on that later, but from a competitive perspective, today's game will be missing a few things.

Both the Vikings and Lions are out of the playoff chase, both will be missing their star players (Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson) and both will be missing at least two of their top five cornerbacks. For the Vikings, that means rookie Xavier Rhodes will be out with a sprained ankle. Rhodes had been listed as questionable for the game after working out late last week, but he evidently wasn't able to go today. Chris Cook, Shaun Prater and Marcus Sherels will be the Vikings' top three corners today. Not having to defend Johnson will make things easier, but the Lions showed in September they can gash the Vikings' defense with Reggie Bush, too.

Josh Freeman, of course, ends his season on the inactive list, which could bring his bizarre tenure in Minnesota to a close. Freeman has only been active as a backup quarterback since his "Monday Night Football" debacle in October, and it seems unlikely he'll be in the Vikings' plans going forward, unless a new coach would have some strong ties to him.

Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives:

Practice report: No issues for Rodgers

December, 27, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For the first time in a month, this should be a low-stress Friday in terms of the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback situation.

Rodgers
Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers took all the first team reps during the portion of practice that was open to reporters, meaning there were no setbacks after it was announced on Thursday that he would return from his broken collarbone to start Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Will running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) and receiver Randall Cobb (tibia) join him?

Both were on the practice field Friday, although Lacy appeared limited. Cobb’s reps appeared to increase for the second straight day, and there’s a chance he could be activated off the injured reserve/designated to return list.

Linebacker Brad Jones (ankle) and tight end Ryan Taylor (illness) returned to practice.

The Packers were thin on outside linebackers with Clay Matthews (thumb) already ruled out and Mike Neal (abdomen) and Nick Perry (foot) in street clothes. Neal and Perry practiced on Thursday, so it’s possible they were just being held out as a precaution. Tight end Jake Stoneburner, who was not listed on the injury report, also did not practice.

The full injury report with status designations for Sunday's game will be available after practice.

DeMarcus Ware misses practice

December, 27, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware missed Friday's practice. Ware was listed on the injury report with a sore back but he was a full participant during Thursday's session.

Also, wide receiver Dez Bryant (back) did practice on Friday after missing Thursday's session with a sore back.

Linebackers Sean Lee (neck) and Ernie Sims (groin) and quarterback Tony Romo (back surgery) missed practice as expected.

With the Cowboys placing Romo on injured reserve on Friday it opened a roster spot.

Coach Jason Garrett said the team hadn't made a decision as yet on how to fill it.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson missed practice for the third straight day for the Detroit Lions, lending credence to the theory he won't play in Sunday's season finale against Minnesota.

He was one of seven Lions to miss the final practice of the season, joining linebacker DeAndre Levy, cornerbacks Jonte Green and Bill Bentley, safety Louis Delmas, defensive lineman Israel Idonije and offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle.

Offensive lineman Dylan Gandy returned to practice, as did cornerback Chris Houston and safety John Wendling.
Aaron RodgersMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesIn his first game back from injury, the Packers have to find a way to keep quarterback Aaron Rodgers on his feet.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone has healed to the point where the Green Bay Packers feel comfortable putting their franchise quarterback back on the field.

On Thursday, when he announced Rodgers would start Sunday’s regular-season finale at the Chicago Bears, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said: “It’s time to play football.”

But neither McCarthy nor Rodgers would discuss the medical specifics of what led them to this decision when only a week earlier, it was not time.

Even if team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie was able to assure them that Rodgers was no more susceptible to the injury than he was before -- and even that was not known -- the Packers would rather not find out how much punishment the quarterback’s collarbone can withstand. In order for that to happen, those charged with protecting Rodgers -- his offensive line, tight ends, running backs and even McCarthy with his play calling -- will need to be on high alert in Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

“No question, there’s definitely an added urgency to keeping Aaron clean in the pocket,” said Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt, whose players are often charged with picking up blitzing defenders. “There’s no question. I don’t think we need to coach our guys any differently. Their responsibilities or who they have, that’s all game-planned during the week and prepped on their part, but yeah, I’m sure they’re feeling a little more pressure to keep him clean, which is understandable, obviously.”

Despite the rules designed to protect quarterbacks, Rodgers doesn’t play in a bubble. He’s going to get hit. Perhaps the better question is what kind of hits can he take and what kind would be most problematic for his collarbone?

Surprising as it may be, a blindside hit -- like the kind backup quarterback Matt Flynn took from Atlanta Falcons safety William Moore in the Dec. 8 game at Lambeau Field -- might not be the most dangerous. Sure, Flynn had no time to brace himself for Moore because he didn’t see him, but the fact that Moore didn’t drive him into the ground with all of his force made the hit less dangerous.

“The most vulnerable situation is when there’s compression, such as with [Rodgers’] first injury,” said ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell, a physical therapist who is a board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist. “That doesn’t mean he couldn’t absorb that, but there’s no way to know for sure.”

Rodgers broke his left collarbone on Nov. 4 when Bears defensive end Shea McClellin sacked him and then landed on Rodgers with all of his body weight. According to Bell, the combination of Rodgers landing on the ground with one shoulder and McClellin’s weight on his other likely caused his collarbone to buckle.

Protecting Rodgers in the pocket is one thing, but he also likes to get outside and make improvisational plays. He was rolling out to his right when McClellin hit him.

“He can make plays with his feet, he can make throws that most quarterbacks in this league can’t make,” Packers left guard Josh Sitton said. “Sometimes, you look at some of his throws, you’re like, ‘Where the hell is he throwing the ball?’ And it’s a catch somehow. He’s a special player and we’re happy to have him back.”

The task now is keeping him healthy. Maybe McCarthy will do that by using a variety of quick throws and three-step drops rather than five- and seven-step drops that could leave Rodgers more vulnerable to getting hit.

Rodgers was sacked 18 times in the first seven-plus games of the season. His’ replacements -- Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Flynn -- were sacked 24 times in seven-plus games.

“I’m sure that Aaron’s going to get hit; he’s going to get knocked down at some point,” Van Pelt said. “That’s just the way the football game goes. But those guys I’m sure have a little added urgency to keep him clean.”

At other times while he was recovering from his injury, Rodgers said there are things the equipment and medical staffs can do to add protection to his collarbone area. But on Thursday, he would not say whether he would use any.

Protecting Rodgers from dangerous hits is critical, but it’s also important for Rodgers to take a hit so that he knows his collarbone can withstand it.

“I’m sure that every guy that comes back when they first step onto the field there’s some emotional hurdles that they need to get over,” Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo said. “But I think that’s everyone, and I think that’s all injuries. But other than that, it’s up to the athlete to get through that.”

Vikings: Xavier Rhodes practices again

December, 26, 2013
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In addition to getting Adrian Peterson back on the practice field, the Vikings saw cornerback Xavier Rhodes practice for the second time this week on Thursday, giving coach Leslie Frazier hope the rookie could play in the season finale against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

Rhodes
Before he missed the Vikings' past two games with a sprained ankle, Rhodes had been turning into one of the Vikings' best cover corners, and the team especially suffered without him in Cincinnati last weekend, when Chris Cook gave up two touchdown passes in a 42-14 loss. If the Vikings were to get Rhodes back on the field, it could help them against Calvin Johnson and give them one more chance to see the rookie against top competition this year. Cook has typically covered Johnson in Vikings-Lions matchups, but if Rhodes is healthy enough to start, he could see time lined up against Johnson.

The Vikings are also trying to get cornerback Shaun Prater back from a sprained ankle, and coach Leslie Frazier said his starters would depend on "how healthy they are."

"They should all be out there tomorrow," Frazier said. "We'll figure out how healthy they all actually are."

Frazier also said running back Toby Gerhart looks like a long shot to play Sunday; Gerhart was not on the practice field again on Thursday with a strained hamstring.

Here is the Vikings' full injury report:

Injury report: Cobb takes another step

December, 26, 2013
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Believe it or not, there was significant injury news to come out of the Green Bay Packers on Thursday that wasn’t Aaron Rodgers-related.

While coach Mike McCarthy announced on Thursday that Rodgers was preparing to make his return on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, receiver Randall Cobb moved a step closer to doing the same. If all goes well during Cobb's medical checkup on Friday, that, too, could happen Sunday against the Bears.

Cobb remains on the injured reserve/designated to return list because of the broken right tibia he sustained on Oct. 13, but he practiced in pads Thursday for the first time since his injury. Cobb returned to practice on a limited basis last week.

“I think Tuesday and today was the first day that I actually did some cutting and didn’t think about it,” Cobb said after practice. “That’s definitely progress, and that’s definitely confidence to me, for me, in my knee. I think that’s very important for the next step.”

Cobb often has referred to his injury as his knee because his tibia fracture was just below the knee.

The Packers would have to add Cobb on the roster by Saturday in order for him to play Sunday, but they currently have two open roster spots that have gone unfilled since defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (neck) and tight end Brandon Bostick (foot) were placed on injured reserve last week.

“I feel a lot better now than probably I did this morning,” McCarthy said of Cobb after Thursday’s practice. “He definitely took a step in that direction.”

At the time of his injury, Cobb was the Packers’ leading receiver with 29 catches for 378 yards through five games.

Here’s the full injury report:

Bears prepared for Aaron Rodgers

December, 26, 2013
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears cornerback Zack Bowman drew a parallel to hoops when explaining curiosity about whether Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers would start Sunday when the teams meet in the regular-season finale at Soldier field.

“It’s almost like wanting to know if Michael Jordan was gonna go back in the day because, [like Jordan, Rodgers] is a difference-maker,” Bowman said.

Now that it’s a slam dunk Rogers will play, the question is whether the quarterback’s presence under center changes the approach for the Bears, who need a win in order to capture the NFC North crown and a postseason berth. Chicago’s struggling defense certainly recognizes the challenge it faces against one of the game’s top quarterbacks in Rodgers, but in terms of preparation, nothing changes.

[+] EnlargeRodgers
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsThe Bears say news that Aaron Rodgers will be back under center for the Packers won't change their preparation for Sunday's game.
“It didn’t surprise us. If he could play he would, and we’ve prepared for that,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “That’s no disrespect to the job [backup quarterback] Matt Flynn has done. But if Aaron could play, we expected him to play. We’re prepared for that and we know that Mike [McCarthy] was going to get his team ready to play anyway with whoever was available. He’s proven he can do that year in and year out. With Aaron back, they have a feeling they’ll be at their best and we’re ready for that, excited about it.”

It wasn’t as if the Bears would prepare any less vigorously to face Rodgers than they would any other quarterback, even though several defenders in the club’s locker room on Thursday acknowledged the starter’s capabilities are more vast than those of the backup.

“It doesn’t change anything,” safety Craig Steltz said. “Matt had won games in this league and so has Aaron. You’re going to prepare hard, no matter who the quarterback is.”

Perhaps Chicago might toil even harder in readying themselves for Rodgers, given his track record against the Bears.

Rodgers has won eight of the 10 regular-season games he’s finished against Chicago, posting a passer rating of 107.7 throughout his career against the Bears, and completing 68.8 percent of his throws for 2,513 yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.

When the teams met on Nov. 4 with the Bears coming out of their bye, Rodgers completed 1-of-2 passes in Green Bay’s opening drive before suffering the collarbone injury, which has sidelined him for the past seven games. Prior to that 27-20 Chicago victory, the Bears hadn’t defeated Rodgers and the Packers since Sept. 27, 2010.

When the Bears won that game, they took advantage of an almost fluke James Jones fumble, which gave them possession on the Green Bay 46 with 2:18 left to play to get into position for Robbie Gould's winning field goal. Green Bay committed a franchise-record 18 penalties for 152 yards in that outing, including a call during Chicago’s final drive that wiped out what should have been an interception and gave the Bears possession at the Packers' 9 for Gould’s kick.

Other than that outing, Rodgers and the Packers have owned the rivalry. In the past four games he’s actually completed against the Bears, Rodgers is undefeated, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 1,091 yards, 12 TDs, two interceptions and a passer rating of 117.2.

The Bears expect Rodgers to pick up where he left off Sunday, and don’t anticipate any rust from the quarterback, who has practiced, but hasn’t played in seven weeks.

“I don’t know if he’s rusty or not. I haven’t seen him in about seven or eight weeks,” Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said. “We’ll see come Sunday, but I don’t anticipate him being rusty at all. It doesn’t matter if he’s the quarterback or not. We’ve got to go out there and execute. Everybody knows what’s at stake. Our playoffs start now.”

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8