Josh Sitton (right) is dealing with turf toe, and fellow offensive lineman T.J. Lang is hampered by an ankle injury, causing the Packers concern as their clash with the Bears nears.
Andrew Weber/Matthew Emmons
GREEN BAY, Wis. — If Josh Sitton weren’t an offensive lineman, the torn ligament he suffered on his left foot’s big toe likely would’ve required surgery. Fortunately for the Green Bay Packers’ All-Pro left guard, surgery isn’t necessary.
Being able to actually play — and more importantly, play well — with the injury is another story.
Even after having a full bye week to rest, Sitton missed Wednesday’s practice. That’s not an encouraging sign with the Packers being four days away from hosting the division-rival Chicago Bears.
"It’s on my left foot, so it’s my kick leg — my plant leg, so it makes it a little more difficult," Sitton said. "We’re just kind of seeing how it goes."
Sitton will test it out Thursday and see how it feels. He also plans to meet with team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie to discuss the potential ramifications of playing with the injury.
"Depending on how I’m feeling and how much progress I’ve made, we’ll see if it’s just pain or if I can do more damage," Sitton said.
Pain level has varied quite dramatically for Sitton based on what he’s doing.
"Sitting here, it’s a .5, but when you’re trying to move and plant and put all my weight on it, it’s pretty painful," he said.
Sitton suffered the injury while pass-blocking in the third quarter of Green Bay’s Week 8 loss in New Orleans. Given that Sitton’s injury is what’s often referred to as "turf toe," the playing surface in the Superdome certainly had a role in it.
"Playing on turf ain’t no fun," Sitton said. "I definitely don’t like the turf. It beats your body up. I noticed pretty much every time I play on turf, I do something. It’s no bueno."
Had the Packers not had their bye in Week 9, Sitton said "it would’ve been extremely difficult" to play in a game this past weekend.
The only other Green Bay player who was unable to participate in Wednesday’s practice was the starting guard opposite Sitton, T.J. Lang. After the Packers’ opening-drive touchdown against the Saints, Lang injured his ankle on the extra point and did not return to the game. Even with 10 days of rest, Lang is still not medically cleared.
"I was telling (Lang) not long ago, I feel like we always get sympathy pains for each other," Sitton said. "His right hip hurts, my right hip starts hurting. He hurts an ankle, I hurt a foot. He needs to stay healthy, dammit."
The strength of Green Bay’s offensive line is its two guards. The ratings system at ProFootballFocus has Sitton as the NFL’s second-best guard this season and Lang as the league’s seventh-best guard.
Aaron Rodgers wasn’t ready to count out Sitton or Lang yet, but he knows how much it would impact the offense if either of them (or especially both of them) missed Sunday’s game.
"It’s a blow," Rodgers said. "Those guys are very talented. They’re having great seasons; Pro Bowl seasons. But it is next man up. No one’s going to feel sorry for you or wait around for you. You have to step up and be a professional and be ready to play. That’s what being a backup is all about. It’s about preparing each week as if you’re going to play because at times you have to step in and you have to pick up the slack. There’s no excuses in this league."
I was telling (T.J. Lang) not long ago, I feel like we always get sympathy pains for each other. His right hip hurts, my right hip starts hurting. . . . He needs to stay healthy, dammit.
Packers OL Josh Sitton
When Lang left the New Orleans game, it was Lane Taylor who stepped in. Taylor struggled, most notably on a fourth-down running play in which he was quickly pushed backward and got Eddie Lacy stopped for a loss.
It would likely be Taylor — a second-year undrafted player out of Oklahoma State — to get the start if Lang or Sitton are out against the Bears.
"He needs to perform better," head coach Mike McCarthy said of Taylor. "He knows that. New Orleans was not his best night. He was given a big opportunity. I thought pass-protection-wise he did some really good things. I was impressed with what he did in pass protection. But the one part of it, he will improve on and he’ll learn from it as a young player.
"Lane will be much better prepared for his next opportunity."
If two replacement starting guards are needed, the other would be JC Tretter. Three months ago, Tretter was preparing to be Green Bay’s starting center before a knee injury landed him on the temporary injured reserve list. Corey Linsley has since stepped in as the starting center and has played so well that the Packers aren’t going to make a change back to Tretter.
Tretter was just activated this week, a move that corresponded with Green Bay releasing 2011 first-round pick Derek Sherrod. During the two weeks before the bye in which Tretter was allowed to practice, he played all five offensive line positions. The most immediate need for the Packers right now, though, is at guard.
"JC can play a number of those positions, and we’d be comfortable with him playing one of the guard positions," McCarthy said.
Chicago hasn’t had a very good defense this season, ranking 23rd in passing yards allowed and 13th in rushing yards allowed. ProFootballFocus has the Bears’ run defense rated as the 10th-best in the NFL and their pass defense rated 25th. But if the Packers are without Sitton and Lang, they could really be challenged to find success on offense in either area.