With the Packers injured reserve list once again in the double digits, the team’s franchise player still not medically cleared and key players on both sides of the ball missing substantial time, the Packers medical and training staff find themselves once again in the fan’s cross hairs.
And while some of the criticism is warranted and well meaning, seemingly unnoticed this year was that all four players who started the season on the physically unable to perform list have been placed on the active roster.
When J.C. Tretter injured his leg and ankle last May, his rookie season appeared in jeopardy.
During a non-contact, fumble recovery drill, Tretter suffered a fracture at the lower end of his fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle. Alan Herman, Tretter's agent, likened the injury to ones suffered by Ryan Grant in 2010 – which landed Grant on the IR, and to Kyle Cook in 2012, who missed three and a half months.
Tretter had surgery to reattach the ligaments and have a plate and screws inserted to help his ankle heal. Herman predicted Tretter would be out six months.
While Tretter and his agent hoped his season wouldn’t be lost, Tretter looked like a long shot to be on the Packers active roster in 2013.
In a roster prediction show on CheeseheadRadio last August, Bill Huber of Packer Report was asked whether he thought Tretter would be activated this year and his reply was that he would be shocked.
Shocked felt like the appropriate answer. J.C. Tretter has no experience in the Packers offense, and the Packers don’t rush people back. The odds were stacked against Tretter.
Yet on Tuesday, Tretter was activated off of the physically unable to perform list and with recent injuries, some poor play and lack of depth at center, Tretter could realistically be active come game day.
Tretter isn’t the only player who is making an against the odds return.
In addition to the return of both Derek Sherrod and Jerel Worthy, Sean Richardson has come back from the brink of never playing again.
On the opening kickoff in the Packers loss to the Giants in 2012, Sean Richardson injured his neck. He said he never loss feeling, just felt tightness mostly in his back. He practiced a couple of days after the game, but during an evaluation it was discovered the he had a herniated disc.
A month after being placed on injured reserve, Richardson underwent spinal fusion surgery with the same doctor who operated on Peyton Manning and in June of 2013, per Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Richardson felt optimistic that he was healing ahead of schedule and predicted he would return in time for training camp.
Regarding his surgery,
“A lot of the things they had planned on doing on the neck they didn't have to do. It was a great.”
Regarding his future, “I just keep faith and keep pushing. I’ll be back out there.”
Yet at the start of training camp, the future did not appear as bright. Rob Demovsky, then with the Green Bay Press Gazette quotes Mike McCarthy, “We’re gathering information and hopefully we’re getting close to a decision with Sean. “
Richardson’s tone was also more somber,
“I’ve got a long life to live…So we’re going through all the tests and different opinions from everybody’s perspective, and we’re just going to go from there.
It’s their decision to clear me or not. If I’m not cleared, I’ll go on to the next step and move on in life.”
In just under two months, Richardson went from a man anxiously planning his return to the field, to a man mentally preparing himself to “move on in life.” None of that feels positive.
In October, five separate doctors cleared Richardson to play. Yet the Packers waited. A full month passed between Richardson receiving clearance and when he joined the active roster.
Since returning, Richardson has played primarily on special teams, racking up over 60% of snaps in each of the three games. Last Sunday against Atlanta, Richardson came off the bench to play 65% of all defensive snaps. Profootballfocus.com credits Richardson with three tackles and one stop in the game.
Neither Tretter nor Richardson were given much hope at the start of training camp to be on the Packers active roster this season, yet here they are. They, along with Sherrod and Worthy represent players who were given time to heal, worked with the staff and away from the public eye, fought back to play again. And in a year where the Packers have lost key starters, are thin at depth at nearly every position and now seem to be moving players to IR quietly and quickly, these stories help tell the better side of the Packers training staff and injury woes.
Jayme Snowden is a feature writer at CheeseheadTV and a contributor to Today’s TMJ4. She also co-hosts CheeseheadRadio, part of the Packers Talk Radio Network at Packertalk.com. You can contact her via twitter at @jaymelee1 or email at Jaymelee1@gmail.com.