GREEN BAY, Wis. — When the NFL schedule was released in April, a Week 4 bye for the Green Bay Packers certainly didn’t seem like a positive. But with a 1-2 record and a slew of injuries, getting a break this early in the season is perfect timing for the Packers.
Just the Packers and Carolina Panthers are off this weekend, drawing what’s usually considered an unfortunate circumstance. Instead of enjoying a Week 10 bye like Green Bay did last season and in its Super Bowl-winning 2010 season, Packers players are escaping from football before the calendar even turns to October.
It’s the soonest that a bye has ever come for Green Bay during coach Mike McCarthy’s eight years.
“There’s nothing I can about it,” McCarthy said last week. “It’s the earliest I’ve been a part of, so I’ll let you know how it goes.”
The only other season in which the Packers ever had a bye as early as Week 4 was in 1999.
But with Clay Matthews, Morgan Burnett, Casey Hayward, Jarrett Bush and John Kuhn all nursing hamstring injuries, the drawbacks of Green Bay having a week off at this point aren’t nearly as significant.
“I kind of feel like the bye week coming early this year with all the guys with the hamstrings is kind of like a blessing,” Kuhn said late last week. “I think with the extra bye week we should be able to get some guys to return come the Detroit game (in Week 5).”
Yes, when the Packers report back to Lambeau Field headquarters Sept. 30, it’s likely that Matthews, Burnett, Hayward, Bush and Kuhn will all be medically cleared.
Burnett and Hayward missed all three games so far, Bush missed two games, Kuhn missed one and Matthews left early from Green Bay’s Week 3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
“Clay has had that (hamstring) issue before, and we lost him for a month last year,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “If he said it’s tweaked a little bit, you don’t want him back in there, because we’re going into the bye week. So hopefully that gives him time to recover and we don’t miss a beat.”
Matthews was having a dominant performance in Cincinnati with one sack and two forced fumbles before he injured his hamstring. As Capers noted, Matthews missed four games last season with a more severe hamstring injury. With the ability for him to rest in this bye week, Matthews is not expected to miss any additional game action.
Hayward can relate to the sensitive nature of hamstring problems. The second-year cornerback injured his hamstring while working out on his own before training camp. When it was healed and Hayward returned, he aggravated it in preseason and has been out since.
“We’ve been without some guys here,” Capers said. “We’ve had some hamstring issues and now, with Clay’s situation, hopefully it comes at a good time for us.”
Packers tight end Ryan Taylor admits that he isn’t sure what the answer is to preventing hamstring injuries. Taylor has had hamstring tweaks in his three-year career, but he does what he calls “prehab” — preventative rehabilitation — each offseason in the hope that it helps at least somewhat.
“I try to look at what guys who have had a lot of issues with them, specifically for myself, shoulders and hamstrings are big issues in the NFL,” Taylor said Monday. “Such a long season; you play four preseason games, you have a long training camp, you got 16 regular-season games, and hamstrings are just something that become fatigue. So, I try to do a lot of work personally in the offseason on my hamstrings and on my shoulders.”
Taylor works a lot with medicine balls and also mentioned remedial deadlifts — or RDLs — as part of his prehab.
“A hamstring is a tricky thing because it’s not something you can run through,” Taylor said. “It’s something that you have to really work on. I have to knock on wood now, but it’s something that you have to really stay on top of. It’s a freak thing that sometimes happens. Who knows.
“I don’t know what the answer is, but I know what I do, and it seems to be working so far. Now you’ve probably jinxed me.”
Before Green Bay’s loss at Cincinnati, quarterback Aaron Rodgers pointed out that an early bye means having to play 13 consecutive games to conclude the regular season without getting more than a day or two off consecutively at any time for the next three-plus months. Even though the Packers benefitted from playing teams in Weeks 2 and 3 that were coming off Monday night games, Rodgers said, “I don’t know how many favors we’re getting here” in terms of the schedule.
But, add in the concussions to running back Eddie Lacy and tight end Jermichael Finley, and suddenly the timing of this bye week for Green Bay became an ideal scenario.
“It’s been a strange couple of weeks,” Taylor said. “I think the bye week is actually; initially we didn’t think it was coming at a good time for us, but I think as this season has worked out, it’s coming at a really good time for us. Guys can get away, guys can get healthy, come back really reenergized and finish up the last 13 games, which is quite a run. It is what it is.