For a team that already lost Greg Jennings and Donald Driver during the offseason and is now dealing with a knee injury to Jordy Nelson that will keep him out until at least the regular-season opener, the last thing the Packers need is another lingering injury at the wide receiver position.
Randall Cobb's biceps appeared to be bothering him Tuesday at Green Bay's training camp practice, according to head coach Mike McCarthy, but he fought through the pain and practiced anyway.
For Cobb, he's struggling with the push and pull of trying to prepare himself and the team for the 2013 season and resting himself because it may be in the best interests of his own personal health.
"The hardest part for me is, I'm a tough guy," said Cobb. "I want to be on the field. I don't want to miss practice. I hate missing practice. Trying to be smart and being tough at the same time is difficult for me. But I understand that I have limitations and that I have to be smart about it, but it's hard and difficult at times."
The logical follow-up question to Cobb when he met with the media on Tuesday was, do you think you were smart today?
"No," said Cobb succinctly, declining to elaborate.
The injury first cropped up during the Packers' annual Family Night intra-squad scrimmage back on Aug. 3, though Cobb couldn't pinpoint when it happened. It wasn't enough to stop Cobb from playing, but the first-string offense wasn't exactly out of the field for a long period of time in any case.
Cobb soldiered on as if nothing happened and participated in the team's next practice on Tues. Aug. 6, although he dropped out in the midst of that session. He returned again on Wednesday, but practiced on only a limited basis the rest of the week.
The Packers erred on the side of caution during their preseason opener, keeping Cobb relegated to the sidelines. It seemed like the proper decision, preventing him from making the injury any worse.
But there was Cobb, back out at practice on Tuesday, perhaps in spite of common sense. Even so, Cobb didn't seem overly concerned, and neither did McCarthy.
"In Randall's case it's something we understand what the injury is, and we wouldn't put him out there if we thought that he was in jeopardy of moving forward and getting healthy," said McCarthy. "But every case is different.
"There's a lot of time that's spent between the doctors, the trainers, Ted Thompson and then to myself, as far as if a player can't practice, when he's cleared on the physical, is he in the limited category as far as his reps just like Eddie Lacy and DuJuan Harris, or opposed to going full. So it's something that a lot of time is spent. Frankly, it's not one of my favorite things to do because it is very time consuming during the mornings. In Randall's case, I think it's something that he's going to probably be battling for a while."
Based on McCarthy's comments, Cobb's injury would appear to be something that's not going to be put to bed anytime soon. But it's also not something that's going to prevent him from playing, at least when the games count.
The Packers might continue to play safe, trying not to expose Cobb to further injury during exhibition games, but the regular season seems to be fair game.
Perhaps the more difficult decision will be whether to continue playing Cobb in his return role on special teams.
If the Packers want Cobb to be an integral part of the offense in 2013, they may have to sacrifice the surest thing they have in the return aspect of the game.
Players such of Jeremy Ross and Johnathan Franklin have been taking the bulk of the leftover repetitions on kick and punt returns during training camp, but neither has proven without doubt that they can be as dangerous and reliable as Cobb.
No matter how things work out on special teams, Cobb wants to push through the injury that he says is in part limiting his mobility and in part forcing him to fight through a pain threshold.
"I know at some point during the season I'm going to be in pain, and I'm going to have to play. And I'm going to have to be productive when I do play," said Cobb. "Trying to push through it right now is more of a mindset for me. It's nothing to be worried about. I may look like I'm in a lot of pain and I may be in a lot of pain, but I'll be fine."
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 [email protected].
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