Jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
McCarthy says offense lacking in narrow losses: As he assessed Monday what has become a season on the brink, coach Mike McCarthy rejected the notion that the Packers’ inability to win two straight overtime games this season as well as other tight affairs falls completely on the shoulders of his quarterback. “Our timing is not where it needs to be, and that is everything,” McCarthy said a day after falling to 3-3 with a 23-20 loss to Miami in overtime. “I am talking about the protection, the footwork of the quarterback, the route running. When we do it, we make it look very easy, and when we don’t, we have moments like we did yesterday.” “It’s hard to figure why it is the way it is,” said wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson. “We’re just not totally in sync here and it seems like we would be at this point. We’re six games into the season and it seems like routes have to be a little sharper, timing is a little bit off, protection has to be a little bit better.
Reinforcements on the way: Help is on the way for the injury-riddled Green Bay Packers, at least on defense. Veteran cornerback Harris and safety Bigby, who have spent the season’s first six weeks on the physically unable to perform list, will begin practicing on Wednesday. It’s possible both players could be back in action for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Rookie running back Starks (hamstring) also got the go-ahead Monday to begin practicing, but it’s unclear how much he can contribute to the team’s scuffling offense. With rookie safety Morgan Burnett having been lost for the year to an Oct. 3 knee injury, Bigby would be the logical choice to replace him in the starting lineup. Also, the Packers traded a conditional seventh-round draft pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars to bring back safety Smith, who could start against the Vikings if Bigby isn’t ready. Safeties coach Perry said Bigby probably won’t be able to play a full game right away. Given that the Packers play their nickel defense roughly 60 percent of the time, Harris could come back as the No. 3 cornerback, replacing undrafted rookie free agent Sam Shields in that role.
Injury report: NFL sacks leader Clay Matthews, who missed the Green Bay Packers’ previous game because of a left hamstring injury, will return for this weekend’s meeting with the Minnesota Vikings, a team source told NFL.com. The return of Matthews, who has 8.5 sacks in five games this season, is even more important. Also, Green Bay’s decimated defense could have several more reinforcements for the Vikings game. The Packers re-acquired safety Anthony Smith in a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday, and cornerback Al Harris (knee) and safety Atari Bigby (ankle) are eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list this week. Also, injured defensive linemen Ryan Pickett and Mike Neal should be returning this week too.
Harris, Bigby, and Starks set to return: In a season filled with injuries to key players on both sides of the ball, some reinforcements have arrived. The three players who have been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp will begin practicing this week, and the coaches haven’t ruled out the possibility that safety Atari Bigby (ankle), cornerback Al Harris (knee) and running back James Starks (hamstring) could play Sunday against Minnesota, although Starks is probably the furthest away largely because the rookie hasn’t played any real football in nearly two years. Plus, newly acquired safety Anthony Smith, who on Sunday was traded by Jacksonville for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, arrived at Lambeau Field on Monday and will be available against the Vikings. He spent the day reacquainting himself with the team that cut him at the end of training camp last season. Smith has been out of the Packers’ system for more than a year, while Bigby and Harris have been out of football for so long that it’s unclear how quickly they can be assimilated into the plan. Both Bigby and Harris will begin practicing Wednesday. The Packers have three weeks to decide whether to activate the PUP players or put them on season-ending injured reserve.
Masthay on thin ice: So much for Mike McCarthy’s confidence that his Green Bay Packers would be vastly better at punter this season. The Packers coach publicly put punter Tim Masthay on notice Monday after what McCarthy felt was yet another inconsistent performance from the first-year punter. While Masthay’s job isn’t in danger in advance of Sunday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, McCarthy made it clear that he’ll have to punt better or he’ll be out of a job. “The punting was not good yesterday. I think that’s obvious,” McCarthy said of Masthay, who averaged just 33.4 net yards and 38.0 gross yards on five punts, with a long of 42 yards and with two that landed inside the 20. “Tim has been inconsistent, and my mindset in preparation for Minnesota is to keep working with Tim and get him to be more consistent. Frankly, I thought he did a good job with his inside-the-20 punts going in, but the opportunity to change the field position did not happen, especially when we needed it there in overtime. So he needs to do a better job.”