LB Matthews, S Woodson among sidelined Packers

Mike McCarthy likes the forecast for Sunday night.

”Well, we live in Green Bay, Wisconsin, so snow’s going to

happen,” the Packers coach said Friday. ”I hope it does snow. I

think it’d be great. It’s a great setting. Personally, I think

snow’s fun to play in, so I think our players will enjoy it.”

The Packers host Detroit on Sunday night and Green Bay will try

to stay atop the NFC North without five starters.

The team has ruled out linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring),

safety Charles Woodson (collarbone), receiver Jordy Nelson

(hamstring), running back James Starks (knee) and defensive end

C.J. Wilson (knee) against its NFC North rival.

Woodson returned to practice on a limited basis this week after

being sidelined since suffering his injury Oct. 21. Matthews, who

leads the team with nine sacks, still hasn’t been cleared to

practice after he reinjured his hamstring Nov. 4.

”We’re getting close (with Matthews),” McCarthy said. ”But I

think it’s very important for Clay, no different with Charles, that

when we do bring those guys back it’s not potentially just a

one-week situation.”

And in the big picture, the Packers are vying for a second

straight division title with a first-place showdown against the

Bears looming Dec. 16 in Chicago. Having playmakers such as

Matthews and Woodson back for that game would be ideal for Green

Bay, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers isn’t looking that far


”I’ve always felt that when we get them back let’s have them

because every game is critical for us,” Capers said. ”There’s not

one (game) that’s more critical than another. The game Sunday night

is the most critical game for us. We’ve got to find some way to go

play our best.”

After rallying in the final minutes for a 24-20 victory at

Detroit (4-8) three weeks ago, Green Bay (8-4) will try to extend

its league-best home winning streak of 21 games over the Lions with

a depleted offense as well.

Right tackle T.J. Lang returned to practice Friday in limited

fashion after suffering an ankle injury in the Packers’ win over

Minnesota last Sunday.

Lang is questionable to play against the Lions. But McCarthy

indicated after practice Friday that undrafted rookie Don Barclay

would make his first pro start at Lang’s spot.

”That’s the way we’ve prepared all week,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy confirmed Alex Green would be the starter at running

back after Starks suffered his injury in the last game.

Green, a second-year player, had been splitting carries with

Starks the last few games. Before that, Green was the primary back

in a three-game stretch after Cedric Benson suffered what turned

out to be a season-ending foot injury in early October.

”It’s a blessing to get a second chance to make a first

impression again. That’s rare,” said Green, who leads the team

with 360 rushing yards.

Veteran Ryan Grant also will see action in the backfield after

the team re-signed him earlier this week.

If McCarthy gets his wish for a snow game Sunday night, he could

be compelled to take a long look at Grant. He ran for Packers

postseason records of 201 yards and three touchdowns on a

snow-covered Lambeau turf in their rout of Seattle in the 2007

divisional playoffs.

”He plays well in the snow. History would tell you that,”

McCarthy said. ”I’m comfortable with Ryan Grant.”

Notes: Packers DE Mike Neal didn’t practice this week and is

doubtful for Sunday. But McCarthy said the news on Neal’s injured

shoulder from the last game was better than what team personnel

initially feared. If Lang and Neal aren’t cleared, the Packers

would be down to six offensive linemen and four defensive linemen

healthy enough for the game. Making a roster move this weekend to

provide depth at one or both position groups is possible, McCarthy

said. . Green is looking forward to potentially playing in snow for

the first time. The West Coast native played in college at Hawaii

and missed the final two months of his rookie season with the

Packers last year because of a knee injury. ”It’s one thing I

looked forward to when I was being drafted here – we play in the

snow,” said Green, a third-round pick. ”I know that’s a big thing

around here.”