Rodgers back after bye, but Pack guards hurting
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) A bye week gave Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers some much-needed time to rest a sore hamstring.
The injury news isn't as promising for two beefy guys who protect Rodgers in the pocket.
Starting guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang each sat out practice Wednesday with injuries suffered the last time the Packers played, a 44-23 loss at New Orleans on Oct. 26. Sitton and Lang are the Packers' best offensive linemen, and the longest-tenured players on what coach Mike McCarthy considers one of best front fives in his nine seasons in Green Bay.
Now, there are questions about the line going into Sunday night's NFC North showdown against the Chicago Bears.
''The best offensive lines in my opinion are the ones that play week in and week out. The timing, the communication, particularly the non-verbal communication, happens so fast at the line of scrimmage, so it's definitely a big part of the flow of your offense,'' McCarthy said.
Lang was carted off the field in New Orleans with a left ankle injury. Sitton said he may have torn a ligament in his left big toe in the second half of the same game, but gutted it out through the end.
''First few days, it was pretty swollen and pretty sore. So it's come a long way,'' said Sitton, the left guard.
How Sitton and Lang respond to treatment the next few days will be telling about whether they will be available Sunday.
At least the Packers got Rodgers back for the first full practice after the bye. Rodgers, who tweaked his hamstring while scrambling against the Saints, followed a rehab program during the off week and got acupuncture to help with the injury.
McCarthy said his franchise quarterback looked good at practice. Still, some dynamics have changed since the Bears and Packers last met on Sept. 28, a 38-17 win for Green Bay at Soldier Field.
Besides the uncertainty on the line, the Bears figure to have Jared Allen back; the veteran defensive lineman missed the teams' first meeting with an illness. While not a real running threat, Rodgers does rely on his mobility to help extend plays.
Asked about compensating for potentially being without Lang and Sitton or being cautious with his hamstring, Rodgers said ''Well, I take care of my body pretty well, and I trust that by Sunday that it's not going to be an issue.
''I just have to play my game and if something happens I might dial it back a little bit,'' Rodgers said.
But he's having such a good season that ''dialing it back'' for Rodgers might mean an average year for anyone else.
Rodgers leads the league with a 113.6 passer rating. He has thrown 19 touchdowns in helping lead the Packers to a 5-3 record, which included a six-game stretch without an interception.
What makes the season more impressive is that Green Bay hasn't had the production expected out of the running game with Eddie Lacy and James Starks. That in part is due to a lack of opportunities with the Packers' up-tempo offense scoring on quick-strike drives.
While receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have been torturing secondaries, rookie wideout Davante Adams is still emerging as a third target. Also, Green Bay hasn't had a consistent threat at tight end since Jermichael Finley got knocked out last season by a neck injury.
''Well, it's just about finding the right matchups for us, whatever that might be. Jordy and Randall have had a lot of targets go their way. They've been open a lot,'' Rodgers said. ''But you know this is a progression offense, as the West Coast offenses are, and I'm going to go through (them) and look for the guy that's open.''
Notes: The Packers did get three defensive starters at practice with safety Morgan Burnett (calf), cornerback Sam Shields (knee) and end Datone Jones (ankle) all returning at full participation. Rodgers was also officially listed as a full participant. ... Green Bay signed guard Jordan McCray to the practice squad while releasing running back Michael Hill. ... The team announced that is testing the addition of 200 standing-room only tickets for the first time for the next two games, against the Bears followed by the Eagles. That would increase Lambeau Field's capacity to 80,935. The tickets are priced at $75.
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