GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers running back AJ Dillon said he missed the second half of Saturday night’s playoff loss against the 49ers with a broken rib.
The injury happened at the end of a kickoff return early in the third quarter. Dillon was knocked over by a member of the 49ers’ coverage team. Oren Burks blocked that player and fell knee-first into Dillon’s chest.
“Those weird football injuries,” Dillon said. “I kind of wish I was running the ball and got hit really hard and I could say, ‘Shoot, somebody just got the better of me.’ It’s one of those weird football things that happens and a reminder that you’re not invincible.”
If the Packers had won the game, he didn’t think he’d be available for the championship game but perhaps for the Super Bowl.
Alas, there will be no championship game. The Packers lost 13-10. Dillon scored the game’s only offensive touchdown, a 5-yard run to cap the opening drive.
Without Dillon, Green Bay’s offense was miserable. Its four possessions in the second half included three three-and-out punts and one 57-yard drive that stalled following a first-and-goal at the 7 that produced only a field goal. Aaron Jones produced 21 yards on seven carries in the second half. So, Dillon might have changed the team’s fortunes if he could have played. It just wasn’t an option.
“I’ve really never hurt my ribs before, so I didn’t really have anything to compare it to,” he said. “The thing about is I could walk around, I could move. I was like, ‘All right, maybe just let this pass,’ so you’re giving it a couple minutes. I tried to bump into a couple of my guys on the sideline and see if I could take some impact and that’s when I knew. I was hitting them kind of soft and it was pretty painful. I was like if I can’t do that, then there’s no way I’m going to benefit the team.”
It was the second consecutive season in which the Packers’ season ended with a top running back exiting with a broken rib. Jones was injured on his pivotal fumble to start the second half of last year’s title game vs. Tampa Bay.
Dillon, a second-round pick last year, produced a strong second season. Even while playing only 42.7 percent of the offensive snaps in Green Bay’s effective backfield timeshare, he finished 18th in the NFL with 1,119 yards from scrimmage. More than his 803 rushing yards and ability to continually gain yards beyond what was provided by the blockers, his 34 receptions in 37 targets showed his every-down skill-set.
Still, Saturday’s outcome meant a painful ending for a player who has embraced everything about being a Packer.
“I’m what they would call a Green Bay for lifer,” he said. “You see it all the time, I talk about Door County, my fiancé and I just got a house here. Regardless of football, this is where I’m going to be living. It’s more than just the team that I’m playing on. It’s a pride thing now. So, it’s like you got slapped in your face at home, really. And I guess that kind of, I don’t want to say anger, but that’s kind of going to fuel me into this offseason and fuel me until whenever it is we get that done. I’ve never been more motivated. There’s no doubt in my mind at some point it will get done, and hopefully I’m a part of it.”