Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
McCarthy must be forward thinking
GREEN BAY - In his final media availability before his 53-man roster is put together, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy stated the obvious: That group has to be ready to beat the Chicago Bears on Sept. 9 at Lambeau Field.
But to get there, the coaches and front office have to work through the yearly push-and-pull of player evaluations. Who is ready to win Week 1, and who might project out to contribute down the line – maybe in Week 8. Or Week 17. Or 2019.
This current group of 90 Packers will require a bit of that forward thinking in the final cut to 53, what with 25 rookies, 10 first-year and 17 second-year players to consider.
McCarthy was asked about that balance of projecting what a player could be as opposed to what he is currently doing in regard to the receiver room, but the head coach globalized the thought.
“Well, unfortunately, projection is part of the evaluation,” McCarthy admitted. “I think every team goes through that, and the wide receiver position is no different.
“When the players come in there on Monday, we’re going to have a game plan for Chicago to go win. We’re not going to be projecting on if a guy can do something or not. You can’t put yourself in that position, not that I’m saying we are. You’ve got to get started.
“And the other part of it, too, is you want players – not as much from the coaching or personnel department’s perspective – you want players that earn being on that 53 because that’s a tough locker room to walk into particularly if the individual player doesn’t really think he earned the 53 spot. We’ve experienced that here. It’s just like anything, you learn from your past experiences.”
No one would have criticized Bryan Bulaga for not taking part in the Packers’ final exhibition game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.
After all the work Bulaga did to come back from a torn left ACL suffered Nov. 6, why would it matter whether he went into the 2018 regular season without having played a single down of live football?
But after sitting out the first three games, Bulaga sat down with his bosses and discussed the benefits of playing a series or two with three of the other starters on the offensive line just to make sure they were all ready for the opener against the Bears.
“I thought maybe that would have happened last week; it didn’t,” Bulaga said. “Not a big deal. So, come this week they said we’d like to see a couple series just to keep your feet wet before the opener and I was totally fine with it. I thought it was good for me personally.
“It was something that we have really good pass rushers on our own team, but it’s just a different scenario when you’re on the game field. To be able to get those reps and make those kind of in-game adjustments on the fly, those are valuable reps.”
Bulaga made it through the game unscathed and said he felt he was ready to play a full game. The medical staff has been careful to ease him back into action so that he could avoid any swelling that might come with the stress of playing football.
The last two weeks, he has been practicing with the No. 1 offense and now he has some game reps to show him the knee is just fine.
“There’s going to be soreness, that’s a given,” he said. “That’s not anything I’m not prepared for. Nothing of that nature would shock me. Everything that I’ve done up to this point, I haven’t had swelling.
“The minor aches and pains I’ve had are nothing shocking from an ACL rehab. All those things, I mean they were less than with the last one (right ACL tear). That’s been very positive for me.”
Only left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley did not take part in the game among the offensive line starters. Guard Lane Taylor came out at the same time as Bulaga and guard Justin McCray came out after playing both guard positions and center.
Murphy ruled out
Tackle Kyle Murphy, who injured an ankle in the team’s third preseason game in Oakland, was ruled out for the Bears game by McCarthy on Friday.
The extent of his injury is unknown, but if it is a serious problem and requires a move to injured reserve, the third-year tackle has to make the 53man roster cutdown Saturday in order to be moved to the injured reserve list.
Running back Aaron Jones saw his first action of the preseason after fighting through a hamstring injury and it was a fairly long assignment because he won’t be available for the next two weeks.
Jones will serve a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, so this was his last chance to see action.
McCarthy wanted Jones to get a healthy amount of work and played him most of the first half.
Jones rushed nine times for 34 yards and a touchdown and caught three passes for 21 yards. His longest run was 13 yards. He showed some of the shifty moves he displayed a year ago, but he also looked like a guy who hadn’t played in a while.
Jones will begin his suspension Monday. He won’t be allowed to practice with the team or travel to games, but he will be allowed to attend meetings and work out on his own.
All worked up
Another guy playing catch-up with playing time was returner Trevor Davis.
After missing all but the final week of training camp, he was back for all eight of the team’s kickoff returns and three punt returns. He averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return and minus-4 yards on punt returns. He fumbled on his punt return, but fullback Joe Kerridge recovered it.
McCarthy held 22 players out of the game and all of them stayed home.
The only players nursing injuries who did not travel were inside linebacker Oren Burks (shoulder), receiver Jake Kumerow (shoulder), Murphy (ankle) and running back Devante Mays (hamstring).
Healthy players who did not travel were:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receiver Davante Adams, receiver Randall Cobb, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, safety Kentrell Brice, running back Jamaal Williams, cornerback Tramon Williams, linebacker Blake Martinez, linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive tackle Mike Daniels, tight end Jimmy Graham, running back Ty Montgomery, tight end Marcedes Lewis, linebacker Reggie Gilbert, end Muhammad Wilkerson, nose tackle Kenny Clark, Bahktiari and Linsley.