GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams weren’t the only ones who sat out the Green Bay Packers’ 16-0 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Saturday night — which certainly didn’t help the Packers’ chances.
In addition Rodgers having been returned to injured reserve early in the week after his unsuccessful one-game comeback last Sunday at Carolina, and Adams not having cleared the concussion protocol and been ruled out on Thursday, the Packers also played without both their starting outside linebackers — Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder).
Also inactive were cornerback Damarious Randall (knee), who was added to the injury report on Friday and had been the team’s steadiest corner during the second half of the season, and veteran right guard Jahri Evans, who had played every one of the Packers’ 912 snaps in the first 14 games.
It’s unclear which, if any, of those players would have played had the Packers still been in playoff contention. The Packers were mathematically eliminated from the postseason equation last week, when they lost to the Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the next night.
But Packers coach Mike McCarthy insisted those players would have played had they been medically cleared.
“Zero,” McCarthy replied when asked how much the Packers being out of playoff contention factored into those players sitting out. “If they’re healthy, they play. If they’re medically cleared from the medical staff they play in the game. That’s as simple as that. I mean, that’s how I feel about it.”
With the Packers’ streak of eight consecutive postseason berths having been snapped, the Packers decided to shut Rodgers down for the final two games to allow his collarbone to continue healing. Adams was adamant about playing despite taking a brutal blind-side hit from Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis last week but the Packers didn’t want to take any chances with him and he was ruled out on Thursday, with the team not even waiting to see if he’d be able to clear the concussion protocol before the game.
Matthews, Randall and Evans all finished last week’s game. Perry, who had been battling foot and shoulder injuries before hurting his ankle against the Panthers, did not finish that game.
Already thin with so many starters inactive, the Packers were hit by a rash of in-game injuries as well.
The first to go down was right tackle Jason Spriggs, who suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Spriggs, starting his fifth game of the season at right tackle with veteran starter Bryan Bulaga (ACL) out for the year, had his left leg buckle beneath him while pass blocking and had to leave the field on a motorized cart. The Packers almost immediately ruled him out for the remainder of the game.
“That really looked like a pretty bad injury,” McCarthy said of Spriggs’ injury.
With Spriggs out, versatile backup Justin McCray, who started the game at right guard for Evans, shifted to right tackle and Lucas Patrick came in at right guard. Patrick was playing with a cast on his broken right hand, which he injured several weeks ago.
That was just the beginning.
On their next offensive series, the Packers lost rookie running back Aaron Jones to a knee injury and veteran tight end Richard Rodgers to a shoulder injury. Neither of them returned to the game.
Then, near the end of the first half, veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson suffered a shoulder injury while diving to catch a pass. Nelson stayed in the game for another play but was clearly unable to use his left arm before coming out in favor of Trevor Davis. Nelson did not return to the game and with both Adams and Nelson sidelined, the Packers at one point had Davis, Geronimo Allison and rookie practice-squad call-up Michael Clark as the wideouts in a three-receiver set.
Rookie safety Josh Jones also suffered a shoulder injury but later returned to the game, only to suffer a knee injury that prevented him from returning.
McCarthy didn’t have any further information on any of the other injured players, he said.
Clark, promoted from the practice squad on Dec. 1, caught three passes for 36 yards, his first regular-season receptions of his NFL career. … Second-year defensive tackle Kenny Clark finished with a pair of sacks. … Wide receiver Jeff Janis, who has seen next to no action on offense all season, finally caught his first pass of the year, a 12-yarder to pick up a first down early in the second half. … The Packers defense was flagged for having 12 men on the field twice during the game’s first three quarters. … McCarthy wanted to challenge a Case Keenum completion to convert a third-and-13 during the third quarter but the officials didn’t see the red challenge flag in time. It was for the best, as Keenum was clearly behind the line of scrimmage on the completion to tight end David Morgan, who picked up the first down to set up a field goal.