Packers Hope for Better Health in 2019

The Green Bay Packers have their new head coach and are on their way to preparing for the 2019 season.

Again in 2018, the Packers had more than their fair share of injuries to deal with.  They ended the season with 15 players on injured reserve.

That number seems high and, compared to many other NFL teams, it is but 10 of those players were placed on injured reserve in December.

Some of those decisions were made because the Packers had already been eliminated from playoff contention so it likely inflated the total.

But after a relatively healthy start to the season, the bumps and bruises caught up with the Packers and while they didn't have a lot of major injuries throughout the season, they lost too many key players.

Prior to the season, linebacker Jake Ryan tore his ACL and his 2018 was over.  Blake Martinez filled in fine and was the preferred starter anyway, but rookie Oren Burks didn't make anywhere near the impact many hoped he would.  The loss of Ryan was seemingly valuable depth.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson was lost before the end of September. That was a big blow to the rotation on the line but then came an even bigger blow: the loss of Mike Daniels followed by Kenny Clark.

Clark emerged as the star on the Packers D-line but Daniels did some valuable dirty work to keep Clark free as well as those rushing the passer.  When Clark wasn't able to suit up against the Chicago Bears in a must-win, it was clear that injuries would be part of the headline, once again, in a failed season.

The Packers also lost receiver Geronimo Allison, thrusting rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown into key roles down the stretch.

Last but not least, linebacker Nick Perry's season ended early with a knee injury, adding to an already long laundry list of injuries that have plagued his career.

Injuries are obviously unavoidable and unpredictable.  To play football is to get some bumps and bruises.

To assume that a new coaching staff and even an entirely new training staff would reduce injuries to Packers players is misguided.

But if there is a chance that a new staff might make a difference for the better, we would all welcome it. 

The Packers medical staff is known as one of the more conservative in the league.  That won't likely change moving forward.

I don't know that I'd want to go as far as to see what we saw in weeks 16 and 17 with Aaron Rodgers suiting up and playing in meaningless games, but hopefully a new regime brings some better fortune.

It's often said "if you have your health, you have it all".  That will once again be a big key to the Packers' success, moving forward.

Beyond that, the Packers need to focus on the quality of their depth.  Knowing that guys are going to get hurt, the bottom of the roster is going to have to be worlds better than it has been in recent history.  Easier said than done, but for once and for all, the Packers need to win the war of attrition.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (31)

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 14, 2019 at 07:15 am

I haven't looked at the numbers but it does seam like the Packers perennially in the bottom of the league in keeping preferred starterd on the field. At some point after it goes on basically the entire MM era it's reasonable to have doubts that the Trainers and Coaches are doing the right things to keep the players as healthy as possible.

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Slim11's picture

January 14, 2019 at 07:34 am

"The Packers medical staff is known as one of the more conservative in the league."

This is true. What was also widely known is McCarthy ran soft training camps. I know some of that was due to the CBA. Personally, I think he gave players too much time off in the preseason. The extra time off might be a factor in the conditioning shortfalls this team appears to have.

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Coldworld's picture

January 14, 2019 at 07:41 am

Lightning has struck too often in recent years with respect to injuries. For me, the chances increase that we are in part at fault.

I may be jumping to a conclusion, but nothing ever gave me the impression that MM was a conditioning guru. I have to believe that he was acting based on advice from that team.

While one can’t rule out bad luck, I think we are at a point where the strength and conditioning (not medical staff) regime needs to be thoroughly overhauled. We need a new approach, just as we did with Special Teams.

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dobber's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:11 am

"but nothing ever gave me the impression that MM was a conditioning guru."

I had a student who worked in my lab about 10 years ago who was our starting shortstop. I asked him what their off-season conditioning regimen looked like. He said, "There is none. Coach says we're baseball players, not athletes."

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TheBigCheeze's picture

January 14, 2019 at 10:06 am

"I may be jumping to a conclusion, but nothing ever gave me the impression that MM was a conditioning guru."---------------MM's ever-expanding waistline is a dead giveaway....

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TheBigCheeze's picture

January 14, 2019 at 10:11 am

deleted

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Razer's picture

January 14, 2019 at 07:56 am

Any number that I have seen doesnt put us outside the injuries norm. What does show up is our lack of depth. Our OLine was marginal to start the season and had little in reserve. DLine was much the same - although I like what Lancaster showed in the end. You can add safety and RB to these thinly manned groups.

It also doesn't help when you knowingly build breakables into your roster. Guys like Nicked Perry, Kevin King, Randall Cobb, Bulaga, etc are strictly season starters. Blaming our training staff for anything other than a lack of bandages is probably unfair.

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dobber's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:13 am

The number that gets bantied about is player-games (or man-games) lost to injury (usually for preferred starters), and usually is more telling in terms of how badly a team is ravaged by injury. I haven't seen that comparison for 2018, yet.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:15 am

"Any number that I have seen doesnt put us outside the injuries norm."

I wasn't able to find it just now but the Defense had an absurd number of players start last season. I'm sure the Dix trade and Whitehead release impacted this. But the count was rediculous.

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TheBigCheeze's picture

January 14, 2019 at 10:15 am

"Nicked Perry"...........LOL.........I like it......

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Packer_Fan's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:22 am

Injuries happen. It is part of the game. And I think that some of the DL placements at the end of the year after losing out on the playoffs were made to protect guys like Clark, Jones and Daniels from further injury. What gets me is all of the hamstring and groin injuries to the WR's and DB's. Those injuries are not caused by someone hitting or falling on or even being torqued. They are caused by starting and stopping and just running. That is happening way too often for the Pack. And I have said that most of the coaching staff should go. Same for the conditioning staff. Sure letting go will cause you to lose good people. But the issues mounting up over the past 3-4 years: injuries, complacency, no accountability are tale tell signs there are things wrong with the staff. Just start over with new unless you know specifically someone is not caught up with the old system. It didn't work.

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:30 am

"What gets me is all of the hamstring and groin injuries to the WR's and DB's. Those injuries are not caused by someone hitting or falling on or even being torqued. They are caused by starting and stopping and just running. That is happening way too often for the Pack. And I have said that most of the coaching staff should go. Same for the conditioning staff."

Here is my question.
Is this due to individuals offseason workout programs they are doing? Perhaps the way they train in the offseason compared to how they train in the regular season are different and the change in training creates the injuries?

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Packer_Fan's picture

January 14, 2019 at 11:13 am

Good question. But keeping the same staff repeats the issue. On to the new

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 14, 2019 at 11:26 am

I'd be curious to see and know of how many of the guys that workout together in the offseason, get injured during the season with a similar type of injury.

For example if a group of guys workout together at a place and 4 of the 5 guys have hamstring injuries in the season, perhaps its not as much the team stuff, its the training they do in the offseason.

I have no way of knowing, but I do wonder if this might be part of the problem.

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Lare's picture

January 14, 2019 at 11:54 am

Although incorrect workout programs can cause injury issues, most muscle strains like hamstring & groin pulls are due to lack of adequate hydration and inadequate warmup and stretching. All players stretch out before games but that doesn't do any good if they have a lot of physical exertion and then go sit on the bench for 20 minutes waiting to go out on the field again.

It also doesn't help that the new television contracts call for so many commercials. Sometimes you have 10 minutes of commercials in a 15 minute timespan.

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:27 am

This current roster when healthy can compete with just about anyone. Look at the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks games. Problem is the roster isn't healthy and never seems to be.

One of the problems this year was injuries to players early that affected them the rest of the year. Its not just about the players that missed the rest of the year. Its also about the players that were playing injured that were not playing up to their abilities.

Look at Rodgers. He got hurt in week 1 and honestly probably changed the rest of the season for him. We saw him missing throws that we never saw him miss before.
Oren Burks mentioned is another guy. He was coming on and then had a freak injury and never was the same after.

But then injuries really hit. All of these players missed significant time or were injured which affected them (that we know of). Allison, Cobb, Davis, Aaron Jones, Graham, Taylor, McCray, Bell, Wilkerson, Daniels, Clark late in the year, Perry, Ryan, Breeland, King, House, Greene, Campbell.
I'm sure there were others that were injured that were gutting through the injuries.

I don't know what the cause is to us having so many injuries year in and out. Perhaps a new schedule for practicing will help? Maybe its getting more high quality players?

Whatever the cause of all these injuries, hopefully with a new staff coming in, we will see fewer injuries. All injuries won't be avoidable, but maybe some of them can be?

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Razer's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:49 am

...This current roster when healthy can compete with just about anyone...

Every year I start the season thinking this way but find out soon enough that we don't matchup with the better teams. What we started on our OLine was not good enough to run or pass block against good teams. Our Dline was decent but woefully thin to play a full game let alone a full season. We had nothing at safety and totally inexperienced at corner. Other than Davante Adams the receiving corps is very average or college students.

Packer fans need to face some of the realities about this team. If Aaron Rodgers ever gets real again, we are a full two years and some luck away from getting to the playoffs again. As the coaching purge suggests - a lot of rebuild is needed.

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 14, 2019 at 09:29 am

The truth is we were right there.

The difference is though we were right there with the big teams. The Packers played against the Bears and split with them.
They played away against the Rams and had a chance at the end to possibly win it if it weren't for a fumbled kickoff return that got a guy fired.
Playing at Patriots they were tied going into the 4th quarter, were driving until Jones fumbled for the first time in his career and lost all the momentum.
The Seahawks game they should have won.
All 3 of those teams were playoff teams and they had chances in each of those games to win.

This was all with our QB who was not playing up to his level of play.

The truth is this team is under a rebuild. But lets also be honest with ourselves. Our rebuild could be very short.

A new improved offensive scheme, should allow guys like MVS & EQ to fluourish. Also going into their 2nd year they should be much improved.
They have Adams and Aaron Jones.
Their trio of Rodgers, Adams and Jones are as good as anyones. They have a premiere LT, and should have a pro bowl caliber OC. The offense is not that far away.
The defense will have Clark and Daniels, Alexander, King (if healthy). Great building blocks. They have other players that can play as well.

They have needs but their needs are not overwhelming. They need pass rushers. The top of this draft is very strong at pass rushers. They need Safety's. They can go find someone in free agency to help. Possibly draft a guy as well.
They could use help on the OL, which they can get help there in FA and the draft as well.

Give Pettine a 2nd year with the majority of these players and give him some better players. Look out! The Packers defense was 3rd in the league in sacks. our top pass rusher was Kyler Fackrell. Let that sink in. Give him 2 more rushers and watch out.
If Alexander takes a step and King stays healthy their duo is as good as anyone's. I hope they resign Breeland and perhaps Jackson takes a step.

I'm honestly feeling really good about our chances as soon as next year!

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Johnblood27's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:50 am

add Bakh and Taylor, even Spriggs.

Murphy in TC.

Only Lindsley seemed like he made it through.

Thats just OL.

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RCPackerFan's picture

January 14, 2019 at 09:30 am

exactly!

Our starting DL to start the year all 3 were on IR by the end of the year.

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TheBigCheeze's picture

January 14, 2019 at 10:33 am

add Bakh and Taylor, even Spriggs---------we're better off with Spriggs injured.

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Lare's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:30 am

It's almost impossible to quantify injuries in the NFL as teams aren't very honest when it comes to reporting them. Players also don't report every injury and it's hard to determine how much a players performance is affected by any injuries.

That said, LaFleur should reassess the current strength & conditioning program and staff. They've had the same S&C coordinator for 9 years now. LaFleur will also have input from his new assistant coaches on what other teams do in comparison to the Packers.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

January 14, 2019 at 08:44 am

What about comparing teams playing on turf vs combination of grass and synthetic grass? If I understand it correctly Lambeau field is much more forgiving than doomed stadiums.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 14, 2019 at 09:05 am

You start the year with 90 guys on your roster, and you usually churn it around and take a look at other guys. But when training camp starts, you've got ninety and you cut that down to 46 Gameday guys in uniform, another 7 on inactive, and another 8 on practice squad.

80% of the roster is JUST A GUY. That's true with all the teams in the league. You've got another 10% that's better than that, and another that's worse.

Then, injuries start taking a toll. Your starter gets hurt, his backup gets hurt, and now you're playing guys who weren't even on your practice squad when the season started. You're giving major snaps to rookies and UDFAs.

Reducing Injuries:

I think your odds of keeping your QB healthy improve greatly if he stays in the pocket and throws darts. The longer he hangs onto the ball, the greater the likelihood that he's going to take a hit.

Hand off more. Throw more short patterns. Keep an extra guy in for protection more.

Additionally, I think that you could do things on special teams to avoid injuries. Remember, the guys getting injured on special teams are almost certainly the primary backup at some position.

Fair catch every punt and avoid the injuries (and the penalties and turnovers) Down kickoffs in the endzone when possible and let the offense take over on the 25.

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Wilment's picture

January 14, 2019 at 09:18 am

Anyone that has ever put on cleats, skates or sneakers to play knows there are going to be injuries. Conditioning plays into this to some degree. I'm never going to second guess a physician though when they say a player isn't ready to go because of an injury. I think the Packers were playing a dangerous game with AR out there in meaningless situations. Yeah, I get the team leader part, and the "we are paying him x amount" part that some will point out, but what would have happened if he had re injured that surgically repaired shoulder? Or really torn up that knee? Then what? Starting the 2019 season with Kizer under center sound like the road to success? Depth is the issue in Green Bay, not just injuries.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 14, 2019 at 09:23 am

We had 22 players active for all 16 games. Six players started every game.

We had another 10 actives for 13 games or more. And another 6 active for 12. So basically, the opening day roster...38 made it through at least 12 games.

I think when I look through the availability data, that group of Daniels, King, Allison, Cobb, Perry that all missed a lot of time with injuries really had a lot to do with the season. But that's 5 guys. Unfortunately, they were 5 of our better guys.

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Tktman's picture

January 14, 2019 at 09:57 am

I have to laugh at the title of this article, "Packers Hope for Better Health in 2019". Anyone in business knows that "hope" is not a strategy. I agree with some of the other comments. The Packers must be doing something wrong as far as conditioning. Lets start over with a new training plan and new conditioning staff. If our starters keep dropping like flies, our chances of another Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers is slim.

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CoachJV's picture

January 14, 2019 at 06:44 pm

I think it was Jon Spader who said in another thread, "Why can't health be a fluke?" We certainly need that this year.

I hope that LaF hires a whole new S&C staff... the guys at the Y are better than the S&C we have currently.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 15, 2019 at 05:06 am

The Bears got that fluke of health in 2018. In 2016 and 2017, IIRC, injuries hit them fairly hard, but they were remarkably healthy in 2018 by any standard.

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Lofton Dickey's picture

January 15, 2019 at 07:41 am

Vikes got the fluke in 2017 - and blew it. That's why they needed to do much more than upgrade the QB in the offseason (How did that work out?). Makes our SB run in 2010 all the more remarkable.

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josheph267's picture

April 11, 2020 at 02:07 am

What about comparing teams playing on turf vs combination of grass and synthetic grass? If I understand it correctly Lambeau field is much more forgiving than doomed stadiums.

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