GREEN BAY, Wis. — Randall Cobb didn’t need to confirm that he was hurting. It was evident on the field throughout the Green Bay Packers’ training camp practice Tuesday. Clutching his right arm during and after every play, the third-year wide receiver was in significant pain. Yet, Cobb stayed in for every series, including the no-huddle finale in which he fell awkwardly to the ground after a deep pass thrown his way fell incomplete.
Cobb shouldn’t have been practicing, and he knew it.
“No,” Cobb said bluntly when asked if it was smart for him to have practiced.
Cobb has been battling a right biceps injury since the intrasquad scrimmage on Aug. 3, which caused him to miss the preseason opener and portions of two previous practices. Watching from the sideline is something he didn’t want to do again, even though he recognized it wasn’t wise to participate.
“The hardest part for me is I’m a tough guy, I want to be on the field,” Cobb said. “I don’t like missing practice. I hate missing practice. So, trying to be smart and be tough at the same time is difficult for me, but I understand that I have limitations and I have to be smart about it. But it’s hard and difficult at times.”
Cobb’s toughness prevailed over his better judgment. Not only was he dealing with the pain, Cobb also admitted that it limited his mobility.
Training camp is only halfway completed and there are still three preseason games to go. For a player like Cobb, this is not the time of year that matters. Last season, Cobb led the Packers in catches, targets and receiving yards. Cobb seemed to understand that his value to Green Bay’s offense is too great for days like this, but he was determined to use it as a learning experience.
“I know at some point during the season I’m going to be in pain and I’m going to have to play and I’m going to have to be productive when I do play,” Cobb said. “So, trying to push through right now is more of a mindset for me. It’s nothing to be worried about. I may look like I’m in a lot of pain, and I may be in a lot of pain, but I’ll be fine.”
This is when coach Mike McCarthy might have to step in and overrule Cobb’s own personal injury assessment and his own desire to not miss practice.
“There’s a line between being tough and being smart, and I think us collectively together, between the coaching staff, myself and the training staff, we have to figure out what that line is,” Cobb said. “I’ve got to take it upon myself personally to be smarter with my communication with the coaching staff.”
McCarthy stated that Cobb was “pushing through” the biceps injury, adding that “Randall’s arm was bothering him at the end of practice.” But, as Cobb concluded his locker-room interview, he had a feeling that McCarthy was looking for him.
Other than deeming himself “a tough guy,” Cobb had other motivations to not sit out of practice. He has not been happy with the way training camp has gone so far.
“I still feel like I have a lot of work to do, and that’s another reason why I don’t want to miss practice,” Cobb said. “Because I still feel I have a lot I need to work on. And when you don’t practice, you can’t work on those things. It’s trying to balance those things.”
Attempting to play through an injury isn’t new to Cobb. In high school, he had a hamstring avulsion — when the muscle tears away from the bone — and still played.
“I just want to be on the field,” Cobb said. “I want to play football.”
McCarthy has held players out of practice based on his own reasoning. It was true even this week with offensive lineman T.J. Lang’s back injury. The challenge from a coach’s perspective, though, comes in assessing how Cobb’s arm may be any better or worse compared to Lang’s back or any other injury on a team that currently has 15 players unavailable.
“Every injury is different; every player is different,” McCarthy said. “Really, the process is always the same. They go through the evaluation with the medical staff. Their relationship with the medical staff is important because of the communication. Obviously the player, the patient, the communication from the individual to the doctor is a big part of the diagnosis.
“In Randall’s case, it’s something that we understand what the injury is and we wouldn’t put him out there if we thought he was in jeopardy of moving forward and getting healthy. But every case is different. There’s a lot of time that’s spent between the doctors, the trainers, (general manager) Ted Thompson, then to myself, as far as if a player can practice, when he’s cleared on the physical, is he in a limited category as far as his reps as opposed to going full.
“It’s something that a lot of time is spent on, and frankly, it’s not one of my favorite things to do because it is very time-consuming during the mornings. In Randall’s case, it’s probably something he’s going to be battling for a while.”
His right arm wrapped in kinesio tape, all the 22-year-old said he was thinking about was the next play. Insisting that he’s fine, Cobb’s tough-guy demeanor was really put to the test Tuesday. But with quarterback Aaron Rodgers needing his top receiver healthy for the start of the regular season in less than one month, Cobb — whether he likes it or not — will probably need to be confined to the bench until his right arm can once again move the way it needs to.