GREEN BAY, Wis. – Having dispatched the upstart Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, the undefeated Green Bay Packers now can focus on getting healthy during their mini-bye week.
And they’re going to need the time.
The Packers lost starting right guard Josh Sitton to a knee injury and both their starting inside linebackers – A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop – to calf injuries during the first half of Thursday’s 27-15 victory over the Lions, and running back James Starks wasn’t able to finish the game after aggravating his injured right ankle.
The Packers (11-0) next play Dec. 4 against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that Sitton “would be hard pressed to play in the New York game,” while Hawk and Bishop “both have a chance.”
Sitton’s knee injury is in addition to the knee injury he has been battling for the past six weeks, which landed him on the injury report and limited him in practice. He went out with about 5 minutes left in the first half and was replaced by backup Evan Dietrich-Smith.
The injuries to Hawk and Bishop pressed rookie sixth-round pick D.J. Smith and Robert Francois into service and also left the Packers perilously thin at linebacker, with Vic So’oto, Frank Zombo and Jamari Lattimore all inactive. When outside linebacker Erik Walden left the game briefly in the second half, the Packers had all four of their remaining active linebackers on the field in Clay Matthews, Smith, Francois and Brad Jones.
Walden returned to the game later, but his availability for the Giants is now in jeopardy after he was arrested early Friday morning on suspicion of felony domestic violence and was spending the weekend in the Brown County Jail because the county courts were closed for the holiday weekend.
After the game, Bishop left the locker room on crutches, while Hawk was able to walk out.
“I feel real good about our (overall) health. I’ll feel a lot better when I see them on the practice field (next) Wednesday,” McCarthy said. “One of the beauties of playing in the Thursday game as slated, it does give you the opportunity to have a second-type bye week. That was our goal all along; that’s what we laid out there to our players: ‘Three games in 11 days and you’ll be rewarded with this second bye week.’ That’s part of the reason I gave them as much time off, because I did want them to step away and get rejuvenated.”
Thursday’s victory put the Packers four games ahead of the Lions in the NFC North and 3 1/2 games ahead of 7-3 Chicago, which plays Sunday at Oakland. With San Francisco falling to 9-2 with its Thanksgiving night loss at Baltimore, the Packers have a two-game lead in the race for the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage in the postseason.