Good news for Packers: Jake Ryan likely to play Monday night
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) The Green Bay Packers finally got some good news on the injury front. And it came on the side of the ball where they needed it most: defense.
Starting inside linebacker Jake Ryan, the team's leading tackler, was able to practice Friday and appears likely to play in Monday night game at Philadelphia.
Ryan suffered an ankle injury early in the team's Nov. 13 game at Tennessee, missing nearly all of that game and sitting out last week's loss at Washington. Then, with five minutes left in their 42-24 loss to the Redskins, the Packers lost their other starting inside linebacker, Blake Martinez, to a knee injury. That will keep him out Monday night and likely longer.
''Everything looks good for Jake so far,'' Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday morning, as the team returned to work after getting the Thanksgiving holiday off. ''We need him, definitely. Jake Ryan's important to how we move forward. He's made a ton of progress, and I'm excited to see him out there at practice today. It's great to have him back.''
During their four-game losing streak, the Packers have allowed 30 points in each and became the first team in the NFL this season to give up 40 or more points in back-to-back games with their losses to the Titans and Redskins.
If Ryan, officially listed as limited on the practice report, has a setback and can't go against the Eagles, the Packers' choices would be to start Carl Bradford, who struggled in his regular-season debut against Washington following Martinez's injury, alongside Joe Thomas/
Thomas normally serves as the dime linebacker when Ryan and Martinez are both healthy.
Or the Packers could shift outside linebacker Clay Matthews inside, where Matthews moved midway through the 2014 season - a switch that reversed the struggling defense's fortunes that season. Matthews then spent virtually all of last season playing inside, earning his sixth Pro Bowl selection, first as an inside linebacker.
''The coaches made (it clear) - especially with how thin it is at that position - to be ready and be available. So I've taken a look at the playbook (to) make sure if for whatever reason they throw me inside, I'll be ready,'' Matthews said. ''We'll see what that means going forward. But what I've been going through in practice has been strictly outside.''
Matthews returned to action last week after missing the previous three games with a hamstring injury, but was largely a nonfactor. McCarthy has said he prefers to keep Matthews at outside linebacker, believing Matthews tilts the field as an edge rusher.
''Clay's an impact player at the outside linebacker,'' McCarthy said of Matthews, who played 56 of the Packers' 68 defensive snaps (82 percent) against Washington. ''That's been the focus of playing him there this year.''
Meanwhile, starting cornerback Damarious Randall, who suffered a groin injury in the Packers' Sept. 25 win over Detroit and hasn't played since undergoing surgery on Oct. 20, practiced Friday. He appears set to return to action. Without Randall and No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields, out for the year following a concussion suffered in the opener at Jacksonville, the secondary has struggled mightily this season.
But, Randall stopped short of saying he would play against the Eagles.
''I felt OK today,'' Randall said. ''I'm just taking it day by day and we'll see what happens.''
The Packers still aren't close to full strength, of course. McCarthy announced earlier in the week that Shields and No. 1 running back Eddie Lacy were both done for the year. Neither will be designated for return from IR, and five other players did not practice Friday, including three starters: right guard T.J. Lang (foot), center JC Tretter (knee) and Martinez.
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