Unbeaten Packers return from bye healthier
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) T.J. Lang's knee feels good, and the veteran right guard feels even better about his Green Bay Packers coming off a much-needed, get-healthy bye week and heading into Sunday night's showdown with the Denver Broncos.
Lang was one of many Packers who welcomed the bye, although he did not miss the team's Oct. 18 victory over San Diego like many of his injured teammates did. When the team returned to work Monday for a practice in pads, wide receiver Davante Adams (ankle), nose tackle B.J. Raji (groin), safety Morgan Burnett (calf) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder/hand) were all back on the field after not playing against the Chargers.
''You definitely have to be very optimistic, knowing that we feel we haven't played up to our full potential as a team yet, but we're sitting here at 6-0,'' Lang said. ''Obviously a lot of momentum on our side, a lot of confidence, and getting a couple key guys back for us this week is going to be huge.''
Only two players were sidelined Monday: rookie wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who suffered an ankle injury against San Diego, and running back James Starks, who ran for 112 yards against the Chargers. Starks' injury is unknown, as the team isn't required to issue an injury report until Wednesday.
The Packers have Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson (knee), starting inside linebacker Sam Barrington (foot), defensive end Josh Boyd (ankle) and safety Sean Richardson (neck) on season-ending injured reserve, and have tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) on IR with the designation for possible return.
''Hey, there's a reason why you ask me about the injury report every single day. It's the No. 1 information that everybody wants to know, coaches included. I get that,'' said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, whose staff spent the first half of the bye week self-scouting. ''But we've never used it as an excuse. You have to work around it. Frankly, in the self-scout, (we found) our team has handled injuries very well as far as going out and winning games. Now, you can pick it apart as much as you want just like we have, but those are the learning moments. That's how you improve.
''The worst thing we can do is say, `Hey, we're 6-0, we've got this thing figured out, let's keep it rolling.' That's not how it works.''
But getting healthy will certainly help.
Burnett has played in one game this season because of the calf injury, which initially occurred in training camp.
''We're headed in the right direction. ... All I can do is speak in the now, and as of right now, I felt good practicing,'' Burnett said. ''It was fun to be back out there, and now I'm just looking to keep progressing and not have any setbacks.''
Adams injured his left ankle on Sept. 20 against Seattle, but was able to finish that game. He reinjured it three plays into the team's Sept. 28 game against Kansas City and missed the next three games.
''There's a little soreness with different things,'' Adams said of the ankle. ''It kind of depends on plant to plant, it's not always the same. I just want to get it to where I'm not thinking about it.''
Raji went down Oct. 11 against St. Louis, and although the injury did not seem serious at the time, he was unable to play against the Chargers.
''I went out there and practiced a little bit, but I didn't really do a lot of different things I normally would do,'' Raji said. ''Today was an extra day (of practice) for us, so there was no need to push it on an extra day.''
In addition to players who missed games, the bye week surely helped others playing through injuries. Wide receivers Randall Cobb (shoulder) and James Jones (hamstring) and running back Eddie Lacy (ankle) had been able to keep playing but clearly were not 100 percent.
And yet, the Packers reached their goal of making it to the bye with an unblemished record. Now, they'll face another 6-0 team, the Broncos, who are coming off a bye week of their own.
It's only the fourth meeting of 6-0 teams in NFL history.
''It's going to be a challenge for us,'' Lang said. ''You could definitely tell out there today, the excitement and energy floating around at practice for us, it was definitely a good start to the week for us.''
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