The Green Bay Packers are mostly a healthy bunch one day after they wrapped up the regular season with a 45-41 win over the Detroit Lions and a 15-1 record.
That’s good news for a team that will return to practice on Wednesday and Thursday this week before getting the rest of the weekend off having clinched home-field advantage and a bye in the first round of the NFL playoffs.
“I anticipate to have everybody back,” said head coach Mike McCarthy. “That was the intent going into (Sunday’s) game, making sure Greg (Jennings) and Bryan (Bulaga) had the extra week to get back. I would be hopeful to have everybody back for practice Wednesday. James Starks is the one person we’re concerned about.”
Starks has sputtered to stops and starts since first injuring his knee and ankle in Week 11 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Packers’ leading rusher was limited to four carries in Week 12 at Detroit and Week 13 when visiting the New York Giants before aggravating his injuries in both games. Starks was then held out of the Week 14 and 15 games before returning Week 16 versus the Chicago Bears. He was held to six carries that day before, again, aggravating his injuries.
Starks did not practice last week and was inactive for the regular season finale yesterday. It would appear he’s one of the few players whose status is still up in the air as the Packers prepare to learn their foe in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The only injury coming out of the New Year’s Day game was an ankle sprain reserve tight end and special teams player Ryan Taylor.
Perhaps the best news for the Packers will be that they’ll be getting back the services of Pro Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings for the playoffs.
“Just saw Greg, he’s in the training room right now,” said McCarthy. “He looks good. I’m hopeful he’ll practice on Wednesday, and I think with the two practices this week, he’ll be ready to go into a full week of practice the following week. I don’t see Greg missing a beat.”
Clifton will start: McCarthy didn’t mince words when indicating who the starter at left tackle would be when the Packers return to action in the playoffs.
“Chad Clifton will be the starter,” said McCarthy. “Marshall’s done an excellent job. We won a lot of games with Marshall Newhouse, but Chad Clifton is the starter. There won’t be no gray area for that.
“In the same breath, Chad, he’s got a little more work to do, and we’ve got the time to get it done. I’m encouraged with the progress he’s made, and as long he can stay healthy through these next couple weeks.”
McCarthy said the goal coming into yesterday’s Lions game was for Clifton to play 25 plays, and they accomplished that when Clifton exited after the first three offensive series of the game.
The head coach said Clifton’s experience was a determining factor in naming Clifton the starter for the playoffs. The veteran left tackle had one of the best stretches of his career by keeping opposing pass rushers away from quarterback Aaron Rodgers during last year’s playoff run.