Green Bay heads to Kansas City with O-line issues
Saturday, December 17, 2011
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — All Josh Sitton could do was watch.
Green Bay’s injured right guard missed another game Sunday, when the Packers rolled to a 46-16 win over the Oakland Raiders. Star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked around often before being removed late in the third quarter with the game virtually in hand.
“Anytime you see your quarterback getting hit, you don’t obviously want to see that,” Sitton said Friday. “There was nothing I could do about it when I’m sitting there watching it, but you never want to see that, of course.”
Sitton hopes he can soon come to the rescue and help shore up Green Bay’s pass protection for the stretch run.
With Sitton’s injury status unclear and veteran left tackle Chad Clifton still sidelined, the Packers continue to tinker with their offensive line going into Sunday’s game at Kansas City.
Sitton returned to practice this week after being out the last two games with a sprained knee. The Packers are giving him a chance to play against the Chiefs, listing him as questionable on the injury report Friday.
“Hopefully, I’ll know about Josh Sitton tomorrow,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Josh practiced today. He looked fine, but a Friday practice is a little different than Wednesday and Thursday.”
Sitton, who suffered the injury to his right knee in the Packers’ Thanksgiving win Nov. 24 at Detroit, feels he is good to play a full game Sunday. He had limited work in practice the last three days.
“I think it went good,” Sitton said. “I feel great. I’m ready to play.”
“(But) it’s out of my hands now,” he added, deferring the final decision to the team doctors. “It’s up to them.”
Without Sitton and Clifton, who suffered a hamstring injury in early October, Green Bay’s offensive line hasn’t been stable for most of the season. That has exposed Rodgers to some punishment in the pocket, including several hits from Oakland’s defense.
The Raiders sacked Rodgers three times and finished the game with seven quarterback hits, including a sack of backup Matt Flynn for a safety in the fourth quarter.
Rodgers is the NFL’s top-rated passer this season, throwing for 4,125 yards and a team record-tying 39 touchdowns, but he also ranks among the league leaders with 32 sacks.
McCarthy said after the game he wasn’t concerned about how much Rodgers has been hit.
“That’s football,” McCarthy said. “To think a quarterback’s going to go through the game and not get hit is not realistic.”
But McCarthy also acknowledged Rodgers has been challenged because of changes on the offensive line to account for the injuries to Clifton and Sitton.
Marshall Newhouse has started every game at left tackle with Clifton out. But Derek Sherrod, the team’s first-round draft pick this year, replaced Newhouse for a few plays in the first half Sunday and then took over at left tackle in the second half.
Newhouse moved to right guard in the second half when Evan Dietrich-Smith, who has been the starting replacement for Sitton, slid over to center when Scott Wells was taken out.
As he waited for Green Bay’s medical staff to make a decision, Sitton wouldn’t say Friday whether the team needs him back on the field on game day sooner than later.
“We’ve obviously won two football games,” Sitton said. “We’re the type of team that really can overcome all types of adversity. We’ve been through this whole injury thing with tons of people, last year and this year. We’re the type of team that just keeps rolling and keeps going and going.”
But next up for the Packers is facing Kansas City’s aggressive defensive front. The Chiefs have 10 sacks in the last two games, including seven in a 10-3 win at the Chicago Bears, who started Caleb Hanie for injured Jay Cutler at quarterback.
“It’s no slouch of a team, man,” Packers left guard T.J. Lang said. “They’ve got a lot of talent, and they’ve got a lot to play for with the new coach (Romeo Crennel) this week. We know they’re going to be pumped up to play for him and finish out their season well. It’s going to be a challenge.”
Green Bay’s high-powered offense will also be without receiver Greg Jennings (knee) and possibly without two of its three running backs. James Starks (knee/ankle), the team’s leading rusher, and rookie Brandon Saine (concussion) are questionable. Starks returned to practice Friday on a limited basis after missing the last game.
McCarthy said Starks and Saine would be game-time decisions.
Notes: DE Ryan Pickett, who like Saine suffered a concussion in the last game and didn’t practice this week, was ruled out for Sunday. McCarthy was optimistic earlier in the week that his veteran starter could play against the Chiefs. “Obviously with these type of injuries, you always take the high side of caution,” McCarthy said. ... ILB A.J. Hawk practiced on a full-time basis this week and is expected to return to the starting lineup after missing the last two games with a calf injury. ... LB Desmond Bishop (calf), the team’s other starter on the inside, will miss a third straight game. Rookie D.J. Smith is likely to make another start with Bishop out.
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