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Packers Can't Prevent All the Injuries, but They're Preparing to Handle Them

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Packers Can't Prevent All the Injuries, but They're Preparing to Handle Them

After limping through an injury-plagued season for the third time in the last four years in 2013, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy appears committed to handling and dealing with injury issues as they arise, knowing that he works in a profession where at least some of the injuries can't be prevented.

"We have to be real aware of what we’ve been through the last couple years," said McCarthy, according to a transcript from the recently completed NFL Owners Meetings in Orlando. "I’m not saying we’re going to get hurt again this year. We just have to be ready to play with a bunch of guys at 5, 6, 700 plays as opposed to thinking we’re going to have a handful play 1,000. That’s what it’s coming down to."

It's not as if McCarthy and the Packers aren't going to try their damndest to ward off injuries before they happen, indeed, they've been trying to do so for years. McCarthy has attempted to do his part by altering the practice schedule.

The Packers also have spent more than $150 million on the latest round of renovations at Lambeau Field that features the addition of the CRIC (conditioning, rehab and instruction center) that was completed late last season.

"The CRIC is a FieldTurf area that measures the width of a regulation football field by roughly 30 yards long," reads a description at the team's official website. "It can be used for a number of strength and conditioning purposes, as a rehab area for injured players and for walk-through practices, which are becoming more important as collective bargaining rules limit the number of on-field workouts year-round."

Also included in the renovations were a new weight room and cafeteria with an on-site kitchen. McCarthy has gone so far as to make note of changes in nutrition in interviews as evidence of the steps taken to curb the injury epidemic.

If tens of millions of dollars can't put a stop to the injuries, it's difficult to say what will, but McCarthy refuses to rest on his laurels.

"It never stops," said McCarthy on Wednesday. "I think you have to look at things, control the controlables. You look at how you practice them, you look at the stress points of every aspect of your training. I think it’s important to characterize your injuries. There’s a percentage of them you can’t avoid. It’s part of the game. When you get into the fatigure injuries and training injuries, that’s where you have to take some responsibility of your program.

"The other part of it is how fast our players are coming back from injuries. You look at the rehab and getting them back on the field. That’s something we take a hard look. I think we have outstanding personnel in strength and conditioning and our medical group. Our players are cared for at a very high level. We’re very comfortable with that. It’s something the last three out of four years have been tough."

The Packers have lost a league-high 153 games by preferred starters due to injury over the past two seasons, according to the annual studies published by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. The Packers ranked sixth in the NFL with 70 games missed last season and have had as many as 91 games missed in 2010, the year they won the Super Bowl.

And perhaps that's the most important takeaway from all the statistics. In spite of all the injuries, the Packers have qualified for the playoffs for five consecutive seasons, claimed three straight division titles and won one world championship.

Somehow the Packers have weathered the storm and continue to do so. Their approach to the offseason seems to fall in line with McCarthy's stressing the importance of preparing many players to play hundreds of snaps rather than a few with a thousand.

The only players on the defensive side of the football to play more than 1,000 snaps last season, according to statistics kept at ProFootballFocus.com (premium content), were linebacker A.J. Hawk and cornerback Tramon Williams. The only non-offensive lineman on the other side of the football to see more than 1,000 plays was wide receiver Jordy Nelson.

And so the Packers are focusing on prepping as many players possible for multiple and versatile roles. It's why McCarthy has been hesitant to dive head first into naming Micah Hyde a full-time safety, and why he's leaving open the possibility of nearly any offensive lineman coming away with the starting center job.

It's also why the Packers signed Julius Peppers in free agency and have created an "Elephant" position that is sort of a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end, a position that will be shared by Mike Neal and Nick Perry and perhaps an incoming rookie or two. McCarthy knows better than to rely on Peppers and Peppers alone.

"I would say just because of our past experience the last couple years, when we went to the 3-4 one of the biggest reasons was to have that many body types," said McCarthy. "Now (Peppers) is an exception to the body type, as many as 6-3, 6-4, 6-5, 255-60 pound men on your football team, because not only offense and defensively the way you want to utilize them, but the ability to match up favorability on special teams so I don't think you ever from that perspective have enough and, if you look at our injury situation the last couple years, we probably wish we had more."

Still six months away from the start of the 2014 season, McCarthy obviously isn't as anxious as most fans to name the team's starting lineup. He knows there will be injuries between now and September, now and the end of the season. While he hopes there will be fewer of them than previous seasons, he also knows it's naive to assume the Packers can simply prevent them from occuring entirely.

So in March and April, May and June, July and August, the Packers are anticipating injuries. And they're taking advantage of an offseason roster size of 90 players to fill-in as needed.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (18) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Birney the baker's picture

Hey Mr. Carriveau, who is our strength and conditioning coach or coaches this season? Just curious.

Nice job on this article by the way.

Brian Carriveau's picture

The team's entire coaching staff can be found at Packers.com:

http://www.packers.com/team/coaches.html

Birney the baker's picture

Thanks!! I see Chris Gizzi is one of them. I remembered that name immediately and sure enough there he was carrying out that flag. A memory I'll never forget. He and Mark Lovat and Action Jackson. Hopefully these three guys will be like the Maytag repairman this season.

Birney the baker's picture

So Brian, what do you think about this season injury wise? Do you think this is the year where we finally catch a break and most of our players can stay healthy all season or do you think this is going to be yet another unlucky year. What does your gut tell you?

Brian Carriveau's picture

My instinct is that the injury situation will be better than year's past. I think they've been largely unlucky in recent years in that regard.

Stroh's picture

As someone that knows quite a bit about the Packers training methods, I've always said that the injuries were poor luck more than anything else. What the Packers do from a training perspective is very much concurrent w/ the most universally endorsed methods.

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

MM is making moves to handle the injuries this year just like he handled the running situation last year. In a related note, another post says the Packers went to Laurent Duvernay-Tardif's pro day. He's a med student and will be a doctor.I believe. Problem: injuries. Solution: draft doctors in key positions.

Birney the baker's picture

Doug, Teddy Tee actually does have a history of picking up doctors and to be honest it still didn't help. He picked up Dr. Samkon Gado in 2005 which probably was his best one of the group. He also drafted House a few years ago then picked up M.D. Jennings who's now with the Bears. None of them really helped curb the injuries.

I doubt McCarthy knows either. I am sure it really does just come down to being unlucky though it sure is hard to look at us the past three years with the most injuries in the league and say that it's just bad luck. Damn I wish I knew the answer!!

Doug In Sandpoint's picture

Saw you mentioned Chris Gizzi above. I thought he was a doctor but turns out he was a vet.

4thand1's picture

I hope the new treatment Pitt found really helps hamstring injuries.

Nick Perry's picture

Wow interesting, I just read a articles about it. Lets start with Matthews and Hayward NOW. Just read where McCarthy really doesn't know how Casey is doing and won't really know much till physicals.

4thand1's picture

OK CHTV, an ignore feature would work better than the like/dislike feature. Bet I get at least 10 dislikes, lmfao.

Nick Perry's picture

Can't take it personal 4th and 1, as long as you're not attacked personally who cares? I normally "Like" your opinions.

murphy's picture

I'd like the ignore feature because I'm tired of reading the same predictable drivel from the same 2-3 posters. Giving me the option to not see their posts is preferable to me having to scroll through their walls of text to get to the next meaningful comment. It's a pretty common feature on sites that allow for registration.

The like/dislike feature is useless.

L's picture

While I agree that the like/dislike feature is pretty useless in regards to the comments themselves I do however think the addition of just a "like" feature which would identify who gave the "like" is interesting; especially, for the articles themselves because I like being able to let the authors know when I really enjoyed reading specific articles that I thought stood out as really good or informative.

On the other hand I think adding an ignore feature is pretty useless too. I mean if you're tired of reading the same predictable drivel from the same 2-3 posters just exercise your god-given right to ignore them instead of requiring a feature. Nobody is forced to read what others write; nor is anyone required to respond to anything.

Imma Fubared's picture

I wanted to blame the training staff but got to thinking unlike a lot of teams, Ted picks a lot of late 5,6,7 and un-drafted's and those guys have a lot in common:
played at lesser schools - for a reason, smallish, injury prone and not able to take Div I beating
were passed over by 31 other teams - for a reason
Made the team and play first string - for a reason
If I'm wrong a lot of these guys get picked up asap when cut. If I right a lot of them are disregarded as not suitable to other teams.

The TKstinator's picture

Football is a violent sport. Players get hurt all the time.

jimtalkbox's picture

At some point the Packers' luck HAS to change, I honestly think most of it has been bad luck.

As some of you might remember, there was also this interesting article about Shannon Turley at Stanford and the way they kept players on the field and out of the training room.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/sports/ncaafootball/stanfords-distinct...

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