Week 4 might not be the best time for a bye, but the timing might be fortuitous for the Green Bay Packers’ backfield and safety Morgan Burnett.
Coach Mike McCarthy, however, said his thinking won’t change, even with the opportunity to give his injured players an extra week off by resting them for Sunday’s clash at Cincinnati. If players are cleared by the medical staff, he’ll line them up against the Bengals.
“It doesn’t affect mine,” McCarthy said after Thursday’s practice. “I hope it doesn’t affect the medical staff and I hope it doesn’t affect the players because, at the end of the day, you’re granted 16 opportunities to play in this league and it takes everybody to win every one of them. Whoever is ready, whoever we feel gives us the best chance to win, that’s always the approach every single week from a coaching staff. At the end of the day, we want to field the best 46 (players) we have that helps us win this football game.
Along that line of thought, McCarthy wouldn’t rule out playing rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who was a spectator at practice for the second consecutive day as he recovers from last week’s concussion.
“Eddie Lacy took a step today in the protocol, so we’ll see where he is tomorrow (Friday),” McCarthy said. “The medical staff still feels like he has a good opportunity, so he has to practice tomorrow for us to be able to gauge him. We’ll see where he is tomorrow.”
McCarthy, on the other hand, said Burnett is a “long shot” to play against Cincinnati. Burnett has missed the first two games with a hamstring injury. He was limited at Wednesday’s practice but did not participate on Thursday. Burnett, who has practiced lightly periodically over the last three weeks, sustained the injury in the Aug. 23 game against Seattle. Sunday’s game at Cincinnati would be one day shy of a full month.
If Burnett is out, the Packers might go to a similar rotation as last week, when M.D. Jennings played all 61 defensive snaps and Jerron McMillian and Chris Banjo essentially split the other snaps. Jennings played 48 snaps, though some of those were at dime, and Banjo played 29.
Fullback John Kuhn wasn’t even on the practice field for a second consecutive day after a late-game hamstring injury against Washington.
At this point, the Packers have two healthy backs: James Starks and Johnathan Franklin. Starks is coming off a monster game against Washington but has a troubling injury history. Franklin, a fourth-round pick, hasn’t played a snap on offense in the first two games.
“I’m prepared, that’s my job,” McCarthy said. “The preference is not to go into the game with two running backs. I did that one time in Kansas City (last season and) learned a hard lesson, especially when one of them (Ryan Grant) was nicked going into that game. It hurt us in the second half. We’ll be much better prepared than we were two years ago in Kansas City.”
If the Packers are in a bind, they could promote Michael Hill off the practice squad. Hill, who set records at Missouri Western, was signed on Sept. 2 after spending training camp as an undrafted rookie with San Diego. That, however, would force the Packers to release a player.
Packers injury report
Out: CB Casey Hayward (hamstring). Did not participate: S Morgan Burnett (hamstring), CB Jarrett Bush (hamstring), FB John Kuhn (hamstring), RB Eddie Lacy (concussion). Limited: TE Jermichael Finley (toe), DE Johnny Jolly (neck), G T.J. Lang (back).
Tight end Jermichael Finley progressed to limited after sitting out on Wednesday.
McCarthy wasn’t concerned about Lang, who was added on Thursday.
Bengals injury report
Out: DE Robert Geathers (elbow; injured reserve). Did not participate: OT Anthony Collins (knee), CB Brandon ghee (concussion), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring), S Jeromy Miles (hamstring), G Mike Pollak (knee). Limited: RB Giovani Bernard (hamstring), DE Carlos Dunlap (thigh), DE Wallace Gilberry (knee), CB Adam Jones (abdomen), TE Alex Smith (illness). Full: None.
Bernard, Gilberry and Smith were added on Thursday, and Collins and Jones took a step backward. Jones did not participate on Wednesday.
-- In a pinch, Randall Cobb could fill in in the backfield, though that wasn’t McCarthy’s preference. “I don’t want to make a living running the ball with Randall Cobb. Let’s be honest. Randall’s a dynamic player, but he doesn’t need to be lining up behind the center carrying the ball 20 times. That’s not the plan.”
-- If Kuhn doesn’t play on Sunday, the tight ends will serve as fullbacks. “It’s just a matter of trying to have as many interchangeable parts as you can,” tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. “You introduce your team to so many different schemes and you want to be able to play within that framework. Having guys that are interchangeable parts certainly lends itself to doing that, especially with guys being dinged and having to move guys around. I feel really good about those guys doing what they need to do.”
-- After Green Bay’s dominating win over Washington last week, the Packers have improved from 14/1 odds to win the Super Bowl to 11/1, according to online bookmaker Bovada. Denver (4/1), Seattle (11/2) and San Francisco (8/1) are the only teams with better odds. New England also is 11/1 and Houston is 12/1.
-- The Packers are up to No. 5 in the AP Pro 32 rankings after being sixth last week. Denver, which got eight of 12 first-place votes, is No. 1, followed by Seattle, which got the other four first-place votes. Here is the full poll.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.