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A Look at Packers Players Coming Off Injuries as OTAs Open

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A Look at Packers Players Coming Off Injuries as OTAs Open

As Organized Team Activities begin on Wednesday in Green Bay and the Packers practice for the first time this season in a full-team environment, there's a feeling of "hope springs eternal" in the air.

Every NFL team has aspirations of a season ending in Super Bowl glory, and the Packers are no exception.

Fans will be getting a chance to see how rookies will fit into their team's plans and how players coming off injury last season are coming along in their recovery.

With 15 players placed on injured reserve last season, there's no shortage of Packers to keep tabs on as the offseason progresses.

What follows is a look at the Packers players whose seasons were ended by injury or didn't play in their final game last season and a projection on how much they'll still be impacted by their various ailments as the offseason progresses:

 

Linebacker Clay Matthews, Thumb

After breaking his thumb for a second time on Dec. 22 last season, there's legitimate concern about the long-term damage that could have been caused.

As someone that lines up on the line of scrimmage and uses his hands to grab, rip and shed, the strength of Matthews' thumb is important to his style of play.

There's been no indication that irreversible damage has been caused, but according to Matthews in an offseason interview with USA Today, surgery went beyond just inserting a screw in his thumb:

It's called a tendon transfer. I broke it (the first time), and they did a closed-pin reduction. (The thumb) was dislocated, so they put it back in there. The bones line up, but it was a real small piece of the bone. So, everything was fine. I was coming out, I was working hard, and I was in a cast. And unfortunately, on a sack of (Ben) Roethlisberger (on Dec. 22), the tip of my thumb (hit) my teammate's helmet. All that pressure went down the cast, broke it again. So then, to make it tighter, we took part of the tendon, turned it around, drilled some holes and they almost tied a knot through. It's stronger than (the left one). Now it's super tight.

As part of the same interview, Matthews expressed reluctance that he would be able to fully take part in the team's offseason program. While doing things like conditioning shouldn't be a problem, the Packers likely aren't going to take many chances with Matthews doing anything that would involve heavily using his hands.

Projected offseason limitations: Moderate to Severe

 

Cornerback Casey Hayward, Hamstring

Hayward originally injured his hamstring while working out on his own during the offseason last year and twice aggravated the injury: once during training camp and again in Week 10 of last season, eventually landing him on injured reserve.

Due to injury, Hayward was limited to just 88 snaps on defense over the course of three games last season, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Enough time should have passed for Hayward to put his injury behind him, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers put Hayward on some sort of "pitch count" in order to prevent him from overexerting himself.

It might be a different story when training camp takes place in July and August but for the time being, it's still just May and the season is still months away.

Said Hayward during an offseason interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in March:

At a time like this, in the off-season, there's no need to push it and go to the extreme. When we get to OTA's (oragnaized team activities), hopefully I'll be able to push it to that extreme....I'm still hesitant on it. It's being cautious more than anything. Trying to be smart with it.

Projected offseason limitations: Moderate

 

Tackle Bryan Bulaga, Knee

More than nine months have passed since Bulaga's torn ACL during training camp last season. And while he should be well on the road to recovery, it's doubtful he's ready to practice without limitation.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Packers withhold Bulaga from all activity during OTAs, other than the normal and regular rehab that takes place, not wanting to take any risks.

Once training camp opens, the Packers will likely bring Bulaga along slowly from injury in hopes that he'll be ready to go in time for the start of the regular season.

For the time being, the Packers have plenty of options opposite David Bakhtiari at left tackle. Both Don Barclay and Derek Sherrod received playing time at right tackle when Bulaga was gone last season, and it will be interesting to see who lines up in his place once practice is open to the public on Thursday.

Projected offseason limitations: Severe

 

Center J.C. Tretter, Ankle

After breaking his ankle during the team's OTAs last season, Tretter took a long time to recover, being activated from the PUP list on the last possible day allowed by the NFL.

Tretter returned to practice late last season and finally made the team's 53-man roster in December, although he was never active for a game.

The fact that Tretter was able to practice last season should bode well for his recovery. As a player that's still relatively young, his timetable to return to full strength is probably shorter than most veterans.

With the starting center position up for grabs, Tretter can't afford to miss much time if he has any hopes of winning the job.

Center will be one of the most scrutinized battles of the offseason as Tretter, rookie Corey Linsley and others engage in a fight to be Aaron Rodgers' exchange partner.

Projected offseason limitations: Mild

 

Running Back Johnathan Franklin, Neck/Concussion

There may be no bigger unknown on the Packers roster than Franklin after it was learned he was placed on injured reserve both both a concussion and neck injury late last season.

While a concussion should not be taken lightly, enough time has probably passed to for Franklin to put those concerns behind him.

A neck injury, particularly if it has to do with his spine, presents an even bigger concern.

The Packers have been mum about Franklin's injury, although there's been no indication that anything is severely wrong.

Much more should be learned about Franklin's injury and recovery this week.

Projected offseason limitations: Moderate

 

Running Back DuJuan Harris, Knee

Like Bulaga, more than nine months have passed since Harris was placed on injured reserve during training camp of last year.

The good news for Harris is that his patellar tendon wasn't ruptured last season when his season was ended.

That being said, Harris did have a procedure done on his knee, and he also had a cyst removed from his lung last offseason as well.

Ever since the cyst was removed last June, Harris has practiced no more than a handful of times, so he has plenty to prove.

Projected offseason limitations: Mild

 

Tight End Brandon Bostick, Foot

As long as Jermichael Finley remains unsigned, Bostick has a chance to become the team's go-to receiving tight end in 2014.

Before that happens, however, Bostick has to put a foot injury that landed him on injured reserved last season behind him.

While the Packers haven't shared many details about the specifics of Bostick's injury, it's never been indicated that he had broken any bones.

Seeing as Bostick was placed on injured reserve with just two weeks left in the regular season, it could have been a case where injury was rather mild but there just wasn't enough time to return before the season ended.

Projected offseason limitations: Mild

 

Wide Receiver Myles White, Knee

White overcame long odds by simply making the team as an undrafted rookie last season, and actually became a contributing member of the team's offense when injuries to others occurred at the position last season.

Unfortunately for White, his season was ended late last year when he partially tore his meniscus in a December game against the Falcons.

The good news for White is that he did not fully tear his meniscus, which could be considered a silver lining.

If and when he's ready to go this offseason, White will find a crowded position group after the Packers selected three wide receivers in the NFL Draft.

Projected offseason limitations: Mild to Moderate

 

Linebacker Sam Barrington, Hamstring

At various points last season, fellow inside linebackers Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore and Rob Francois all missed time due to injury.

Hypothetically, Barrington might have been able to take advantage of other's misfortunes, but unfortunately, he couldn't stay healthy himself.

The rookie linebacker was placed on injured reserve in November last season with a hamstring pull.

Enough time should have passed for Barrington to take part in the Packers' offseason program this year, but the team isn't going to want to see him suffer any setbacks.

Projected offseason limitations: Mild

 

Wide Receiver Kevin Dorsey, Toe

The Packers could have released Kevin Dorsey last season after spending much of the offseason program and training camp out injured, but they didn't.

Dorsey was placed on injured reserve during training camp with a toe injury, which, at the very least, kept him around the organization and gives him a chance to prove himself this year.

It's doubful the toe injury should linger for Dorsey, which is good for him considering he'll have his hands full trying to beat out the rest of the wide receivers on the Packers roster without having to worry about injury.

Projected offseason limitations: Mild

There are other players coming off injury that were limited last season such as Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Derek Sherrod, Jerel Worthy, and Nick Perry but all of them at least played in the the Packers' final game last season. They may encounter some limitations but shouldn't be severely limited.

These are merely an outsider's projections contained in this article and the official word on any of these players' injuries will come to light will have to come from the Packers organization.

Photo: Packers linebacker Clay Matthews by Larry Radloff Photography

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (5) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

TommyG's picture

I had forgotten about a couple of those receivers. This year's camp is going to have WR all over the place.

Evan's picture

RE: Matthews.

Conditioning isn't an issue, no, but I do wonder how much weight training he's been able to do since the break.

That said, I've hurt my thumb and pinky finger on multiple occasions (nothing as severe as what Matthews had) and found the pinky injuries to be surprisingly much more of a obstacle to lifting.

Guisado's picture

Sherrod should be given all the snaps at RT he can get. We've all seen what Barclay can do. He's put down film. Sherrod is a first rounder who needs reps so he can get his best stuff on film; coaches need that to make an informed decision. And when Bak gets tired, push Sherrod over there and let Barclay get his reps at RT. We've got to see what Sherrod has.

Stroh's picture

Remind me if I'm wrong, but isn't OTA's no contact?. If that is the case I don't see to many restrictions on any players.

Matthews had surgery in Jan? so he's been rehabbing the thumb for about 2 or 3 mon now. The main thing for him is getting the ROM and flexibility back in the joint. That should mostly come quickly and may never be the same as it once was, but he should certainly be back to full conditioning besides some continued rehab. There are plenty of alternative exercises that he can do to work around the thumb.

I had the exact same injury as Matthews original injury. That was not a very difficult rehab. I did all of it on my own, w/o any need for rehab. Even w/ the 2nd procedure he shouldn't be limited at all for training camp and w/ no contact not at all in OTA's.

Really, it seems to me that there should be fewer limitations on conditioning and field work considering that there is very limited to no contact.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Thanks for the article. It helped refresh my memory. Given the packers' penchant for being less than forthcoming about injuries, your warning to take the projections with a grain of salt is well warranted. CM himself has given quite a bit of detail about his procedures, but it seems that little is known about some of the players' status. When doing the way too early roster predictions, one should consider that GB might put some players, for example: Franklin or Harris, on PUP to stash them away for later in the season.

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