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In Defense of the Packers Training Staff

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In Defense of the Packers Training Staff

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. 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 You can contact her via twitter at @jaymelee1 or email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (48) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

It seems that both Tretter and Richardson have healed well, and I have no doubt that Dr. McKenzie and his colleagues are fully capable team physicians.

But let's be real here: both guys being discusses are projects with unknown ceilings. The ONLY reason they're not on IR (with Miles White and a host of other "futures" prospects) is that GB has a straight up dumpster fire at safety and interior OL behind the starters right now.

If EDS, Sitton or Lang don't play next to each other, the next answer is Newhouse.

If Richardson doesn't play, the only other answer is MD Jennings and Banjo.

Not. Good.

Bearmeat's picture

And add Worthy to that discussion as well. Pickett is hurt. Jolly has been hurt. Raji is JAG. CJ Wilson is hurt. Neal is now an oversized OLB. D Jones is still learning how to play and not stout enough against the run. Ditto Josh Boyd.

Enter a 1/2 healed Worthy. The team is simply desperate at DL right now.

Evan's picture

This seems like a bit of a stretch.

Don't these examples speak more to the surgeons who performed the neck surgery (Richardson), ankle surgery (Tretter) and knee surgery (Worthy) than the Packers training staff?

Evan's picture

Or did McKenzie do all three of those?

Jayme Snowden's picture

James Andrews did Worthy's. Robert Watkins, who did Peyton Manning's, performed Richardson's.

Evan's picture

Cool, thanks.

Yeah, I dunno. I agree that the training and medical staff get a lot of blame for all the injuries - and the injury situation 3 out of the last 4 years has been ridiculous. I feel like there must be an underlying reason behind it, but I'm not remotely qualified to provide it.

Jayme Snowden's picture

FTR, McKenzie performed Tretter's surgery.

But yes, I do agree that the surgeon plays a large part as well.

Evan's picture

Ah, gotcha.

Mark in the montain's picture

And the patient's post surgery compliance and rehab effort are huge as well! Those are clearly influenced by training staff involvement.

Arlo's picture

Hard to give credit to the Packer's training staff when they had little to do with any of these cases. Outside doctors called the shots, didn't they? Sounds like it.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Where did these players get their training and rehab done?

Arlo's picture

An obvious answer, so why ask the question?

However, just like anyone, the players usually go outside to the experts. FYI, it's called referrals.

RC Packer Fan's picture

So what is the obvious answer?

That they got their training from the Packers training staff???

So your whole point of 'Hard to give credit to the Packer’s training staff when they had little to do with any of these cases' isn't true. With the fact that these players received rehab and training with them.

That is the reason why I asked the question...

Arlo's picture

Give it a rest. Your opinions and questions are irrelevant to me.

RC Packer Fan's picture

That's ok. Your statement was proven wrong. And now your not happy. Not a big problem to me...

My whole point was you were quickly to not allow any credit given to the training staff for having any involvement in these players injuries and recovery's.

Why shouldn't they receive credit for the work they did, even if it was a small part.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Honestly, at the beginning of the season, I felt that none would suit up this year.

I thought Worthy had the highest chance of playing because of his injury and when it happened, and the fact that he was a 2nd round pick I thought they might try to get him on the field. But I wasn't sure he would because the DL was deep at the time.

But I thought Tretter had almost no chance of being activated due to when his injury happened and the fact he had no practice before his injury.

I was skeptical of Richardson ever playing again because of his injury. Neck injuries are very serious.

That being said, I am happy that all 3 have made it back to be on the roster.

PackerPete's picture

I'm actually not getting the argument here. Is this an attempt to show positive things the training staff did? It seems a bit far-fetched at best. "Neither Tretter nor Richardson were given much hope at the start of training camp to be on the Packers active roster this season" - who didn't give them any hope? A team doctor? A different, independent physician? The examples are just journalists, and no disrespect, but most probably know about as much about injuries and required healing time as I do - next to nothing. Tretter's agent, able to judge better by similar injuries to other clients, was spot on - he was physically ready in 6 months. Richardson was cleared medically in October. Unless there is any evidence that the training staff did something extraordinary that one of the players wasn't supposed to play again this season based on evaluation by a medical professional, I simply don't understand. Is there any evidence that training staffs on other teams did not get players ready with similar injuries and timelines?
Also, the fact that the players are active is more a consequence of the fact that the Packers' depth is thin for certain position groups or that some players did not perform up to standards.
To me, it'd be a positive if the average time to recover and be fully ready would be much longer than the time it took a player to come back with superb conditioning and rehab by the training staff. Everything else is to be expected.
Sorry, just don't understand the point you are trying to make at all, and don't see any evidence listed that lets me believe the Packers training staff did anything that any other training staff on other teams could not do.

SOL's picture

Packer Pete, You are asking the right questions, just take them farther. In fact, the article was written as if "Corrective Actions" were taken by the trainng staff. Yet no backup as in quotes from the training staff or analysis or statistics of what was different. Hence the article is strictly conjecture.
The real questions would come from a true "5 Why" analysis going through why the player was injured to begin with.
A recent Dan Patrick show (2 weeks ago) talked about why all the breaking bones were occuring. His "experts" were stating that Human Growth Hormone (HGH) injections, which are rampant in the HS & College ranks via doctor's prescriptions, actually weakens the bones. They stated this was due to muscle and ligaments growth are affected first by HGH. Hence the push to build muscle is somewhat depleting the minerals for the bones.
(Opinion)I've been watching the Pack since 1960, I can not recall such a high amount of broken bones and other injuries as the past 5 to 7 years has brought. Nevertheless, I would like to see more of an indepth report on the who, what, where, why, & how of training, but realize it will not happen due to secrecy. So the end result will be articles that are simply conjecture and feel good fluff on the topic.

xuyee's picture

I've suspected this too. Isn't PED testing scheduled and therefore easy to evade? For every person caught juicing ( Seahawks) there's got to be ten getting away with it. Stuff like androgens and HGH might make muscles stronger (and thus collisions more violent) and tendons/bones weaker. Add the fact that stronger players can't be arm tackled anymore and basically have to be knocked off their feet with power or hit at knee level, then you've got a perfect storm for ACLs and concussions almost entirely driven by PEDs.

The union should care about player safety and allow for random testing. If baseball can be hurt by PEDs, so can the NFL. The recent increase in offensive production could be the NFL's version of the Bonds/McGwire/Sosa HR derby of the 90s, and Junior Seau, the NFL's version of Ken Caminiti.

Jake's picture

Not that I disagree with what you're saying at all, because I think you make some very good points. But with regards to what you said about there being more injuries in the past 5-7 years, could some of that not be attributed to athletes just getting bigger, stronger, and faster every year?

There's no doubt in my mind that other factors are in effect here as well. For instance the increase in the passing game usage in recent years leading to more players put into position to possibly be hurt, or the use of banned substances, rule changes leading to different tackling techniques, or especially this season the reduced practice schedule for players leading to their bodies not being physically read to endure the harsh season, etc.

I just think there a myriad of factors in play here and it's hard to pinpoint just one.

lebowski's picture

You know WHY athletes are getting "bigger, stronger, and faster"? HGH

Stroh's picture

That may play a role but its far from the only reason. Legal supplements, better nutrition, year round training, better training methods. Money is a big driving factor that isn't always mentioned.

T's picture

Why the hell do fans think they are doctors?! Even if they are, why do they think they can diagnose anything without actually examining the players? Why don't we speculate on how much income tax the players pay? We then, at least, have an idea of what they make. Oh, wait, we aren't accountants and we don't see their W-2s, know about their investment income, or their endorsement deals. Injuries happen. This is football, and there are probably numerous similar examples on every team, we just don't read their fan-blogs.

Lou's picture

The real question is whether after the surgery/rehab how effective can the players perform. Sherrod who has all of the physical qualites and and high Wonderlic score stuggled as a rookie when healthy (opposite of Bulaga). Worthy was a non factor when healthy almost an entire season last year and it appears Boyd has moved ahead of him now. Richardson showed promise as a special team performer last year and now will get a solid look at safety the rest of the year. The jury is out on Tretter because he has not been able to practice until recently. Now we get more answers as they are put on the roster - like the Brooklyn Dodger fans of old, "wait until next year".

Nerd's picture

Hope Worthy can bolster the Dline and help us make the playoffs.

Hope Richardson can help consolidate the back end.

lebowski's picture

if they could only do something about Clay's hammys.

Icebowler's picture

All of the injuries mentioned are not the ones that bother me. The injures from the PUP guys are not preventable in the first place. What bothers me are all of the "preventable" injuries, particularly muscle pulls: the quads, hamstrings, and groins, etc. I have no problem with the medical staff. It's the "conditioning" staff that doesn't appear to be doing their job. Humor me: replace them. It can't possibly get worse that 3 of the past 4 years.

Evan's picture

Yeah, Ted, why don't you just humor this anonymous internet commenter and fire the whole strength and conditioning staff.

packeraaron's picture

Oh man that made me laugh Evan.

RunAndHyde's picture

Um....yea...sorry guys "icebowler" says you gotta go so...yea you gotta go.

larry's picture

Did you wash motta play for the falcons he was all over the field mackin tackles he was drafted in the 7 round and rabbi in the 6 Ted draft two wr in the 7 both are gone.

markinmontana's picture

Did anybody see Bob's Burgers last week? There was this guy, and he came into the restaurant, and...

...oh wait, is this completely off-topic too? Sorry.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

agree with icebowler. It is the strains and hamstring injuries that are of concern. GB seems to be cautious with the players, and that is good. On the other hand, it appears that Hayward came back too early. Quarles does not look like the same player, but every patient is different.

Moreover, the evidence presented by the author does not really support her premise. Tretter fractured his ankle on 5/20/13, had a screws and a plate inserted surgically, and the recovery time was reported to be 6 months. He started practicing 11/20/13, or 6 months later. No miracles there, but it is about right. There would have been considerable physical therapy as well.

Worthy injured his knee on 12/30/12, and had surgery on 1/15/13 (by Dr. James Andrews). Recovery time for ACL surgery is generally 6 to 9 months. It seems that some NFL players take a full year to really come back. Worthy was activated 11/23/13. No miracles there, but ACL's do require a lot of careful physical therapy.

Richardson's herniation (at C-4/C-5 if I recall) required a surgical fusion. I gather a lot of the wait involved assessing the extent of stenosis at this lower level of the neck and the risk of catastrophic re-injury. Putting any time frame on this is very difficult. We know that multiple surgeons cleared Richardson to return weeks before GB's medical cleared him.

RC Packer Fan's picture

There was no miracles with Tretter and Worthy. But the fact that they are playing says that they did their rehab work and they did their training the right way.

Before the season, how many people thought that Richardson, Worthy or Tretter would be playing? When they were first put on the PUP list, just about everyone that I heard said they would be a stretch to play this year.

I do think the training staff does deserve credit for getting these players ready to play. In essence that is what this article is about.

PackerPete's picture

RC, I don't necessarily disagree with you, but I'm not sure any of us here has all necessary information. Whether the training staff truly deserves credit or not is unknown to us. One can assume, but was it that the players did a good job themselves, seeking outside opinions and adhering to those, or was it the training staff, making sure everything went the right way, was it a combination? This topic is very interesting, but we simply don't know enough, and the article doesn't shed any new light or information. It would probably be very hard to find out what was and is really going on and who deserves the most share of praise, so it's certainly not easy. I just have a hard time giving credit to someone if I don't know whether they are worthy of said credit. And just because some journalists and us fans thought those guys wouldn't be on the roster this season and now they are doesn't mean anything in terms of giving credit if we don't know exactly what was going on.
And in light of the seemingly extraordinary flood of so-called "preventable injuries", the training staff is under scrutiny by us fans. I'm not sure whether that is un-called for and we are just to harsh or whether they truly deserve being scrutinized, since I simply don't know enough about the topic. And the article didn't give me any new information that allows me to deepen my knowledge, so I'm sorry but it is rather fluffy.

C's picture

Very challenging article to write, Jayme. Well done, especially when you dive into a topic as ambiguous as training, conditioning and overall medical management of players. This is probably the most nuanced,convoluted topic to tackle in the NFL. Unfortunately, fans don't do nuance.

Morgan Mundane's picture

I feel there are people who for some reason are injury prone. No explanation why but we've all see and heard players who play injured all the time and don't seem to lose a beat and others that have a hammy and are out 5 or 6 weeks?
My take has always been, if the Packers are year in year out having these multitude of injuries, is it the players we are drafting?
Take Bishop, no longer a packer but was oft injured in and out of lineup. Went to the Vikes, played one play, injured out for the season. Different team and training staff.
I say when you start getting into the late rounds where Ted like to dauble you start getting into the guys who were smallish, injury prone in college, slower than most and had bodies that could not take the div I beating let alone the NFL.
You go take a look at the injury records of these guys we drafted late and I would be money its a telling story.

Evan's picture

Speaking of Richardson, here is a nice piece from BR breaking down his play against the Falcons:

RC Packer Fan's picture

great article, thanks for sharing Evan.

This sentence should be enough to plant Jennings on the bench.
'Per Pro Football Focus, Jennings has allowed quarterbacks a passer rating of 150.1 into his coverage—the sixth-highest passer rating allowed by any safety in the NFL.'

The other thing I like about Richardson playing is it will allow Burnett to go to the FS role more then SS. Hopefully that will help Burnett out as well.

bomdad's picture

These kids just aren't getting ENOUGH MILK!

Jordan's picture

Maybe not enough water for all the hamstring injuries. And muscle imbalance.........and the list goes on....

C's picture

Pepper Burruss basic bio:

He's highly recognized, even among his NFL peers. I think he gets basic concepts from your link. Hell, every guy I know at the gym gets these concepts. I would guess Burruss and his staff have advanced beyond the early 80's.

I get the frustration with soft-tissue injuries, but I'm highly cynical the staff approach is leading to an abnormal number of injuries. Look at the week-to-week list of required injury reports accross the NFL, Packers haven't been that far outside the norm, they often don't report the most. Other teams appear to have chronic ankle injuries. Other teams it's non-contact knee injuries. Sometimes it's just poor fortune, even in multiple years.

Evan's picture

I think we might have found our answer to all the muscle pulls.

From his bio:

"Burruss has won several awards during his NFL tenure. Most recently, he earned the NFL Physicians Society’s Outstanding NFL Athletic Trainer award for the 2012 season at the annual NFL Scouting Combine.

Burruss is also the author of two critically acclaimed books on athletic training: "Why Stretching is Over-Rated" and "Hydration, Shmydration," the latter of which is currently in development as a feature film starring Brad Pitt."

Icebowler's picture

Wow, I wasn't expecting to get slammed that bad by the CHTV guys, but I can take it, I started being a fan in the mid fifties when I learned to swear from my dad while watching Packer games. Evan: aren't all of you readers "anonymous"? Aaron: At least somebody got "humored" There are a lot of people who write books who don't know what the hell they are talking about! I hope it's just the law of averages and we will have the least amount of injuries in the next five years. Per the Bears own talk radio guys (I now live in NW IN) the Bears have had the least amount of injuries over the past five years, so I hope the law of averages kicks in...SOON!

Evan's picture

Ha. I'm just bustin your balls. All in good fun. And, yeah, we're all "anonymous" to varying degrees. I use my real first name at least.

Jordan's picture

You dared criticize the legendary Pepper Buruss. Pepper is a licensed physical therapist and has a degree in health and safety education. Pepper personally supervised the fitting of A.J. Hawk's helmet after he got all of his hair cut off. That is why Hawk is the only player in the NFL not to lose his helmet this year.

Pepper has been nominated for the "Helmet Fitter of the Year Award" by his peers. He takes great pride in fitting helmets. Most of what he learned was in 2010 when the NFL appointed him to the Head Neck and Spine (concussion committee).

You might as well be criticizing Bart Starr if you're going to criticize Pepper. ;)

Icebowler's picture

I wonder if the Bears staff doesn't "Over-Rate" stretching? Maybe they haven't written any books because they are too busy doing their day jobs.

Icebowler's picture

Evan: For what it's worth my name is Jerry Trittin, born in Milwaukee and raised by adoptive parents in Wausau, WI. I graduated from Valparaiso University in Indiana. That's where Fuzzy Thurston went to school. Don't mess with Fuzzy, he'll bust your balls:)

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