Packers defense strugging with injury bug
Having enough healthy players on the defensive line has been a challenge for the Green Bay Packers, who almost had to turn to the offensive line for reinforcements in their season-opening win.
The Packers lost former first-round draft pick Justin Harrell to a season-ending knee injury and also had starting end Cullen Jenkins leave the game at Philadelphia with a broken hand that has him wearing a cast.
''It seems like when injuries come, they kind of come in one area,'' defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Friday.
After having as few as four defensive linemen in practice this week, Green Bay is hoping to stay injury-free Sunday when the Packers play Buffalo in their home opener.
''It was kind of tough, but we got through it and worked hard and did what our coach wanted us to,'' said defensive end Jarius Wynn, who re-signed with the team Tuesday after he was cut before the season started.
Jenkins is probable to play against the Bills, though he had limited work throughout the week. Rookie Mike Neal, however, may be sidelined for the second straight game because of side and rib injuries he suffered in practice last week.
The Packers listed Neal as questionable on the injury report after holding him out of Friday's practice.
''I don't know if he's going to make it,'' coach Mike McCarthy said. ''I don't like the fact that he did not practice today.''
The only defensive linemen who have stayed out of the training room early in the season are veteran Ryan Pickett, nose tackle B.J. Raji, rookie C.J. Wilson and now Wynn, who is recovered from a hip injury.
Attrition at the position has created dilemmas in practice as well as with playing time in the first game.
''Individual periods are even harder on me because sometimes I've got to play some offense to give them a look,'' defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said.
After Jenkins left the game against the Eagles to get his fractured left hand X-rayed, Harrell dropped out with what later was diagnosed as a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Jenkins returned a short time later, enabling Green Bay to finish the game with three defensive linemen after activating only four.
''We've never done that since coach Capers has been here,'' said Trgovac, noting the Packers usually have five linemen in uniform on game day. ''Luckily, Cullen came back. So, hopefully, we won't be in that situation again. That's kind of rare that that happens.''
Trgovac said Raji, a 2009 first-round draft pick in his first year as a starter, was needed Sunday to play a career-high 58 of Philadelphia's 60 snaps. The target number for the 335-pound Raji is 35 to 40 snaps in a game.
Raji was tired by the end of the game because the Packers had to contend with scrambling quarterback Michael Vick, who replaced an injured Kevin Kolb after halftime and ran for 103 yards.
The Packers had starting right guard Josh Sitton ready to go in as a defensive lineman just in case.
''Yeah, we don't want to get any thinner there,'' Capers said.
NOTES: CB Charles Woodson (toe) and LT Chad Clifton (knee) went through a full practice Friday for the first time this week and are probable for Sunday. LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), who was limited all week, also is probable. The Packers added LG Daryn Colledge (illness) and FB Korey Hall (hip) to the injury report, both as questionable, after neither practiced Friday. McCarthy said rookie Bryan Bulaga would start if Colledge can't play.