One week down, one to go. And as far as the Green Bay Packers are concerned, Super Bowl XLV can’t come fast enough.
It’s been a week full of drama for head coach Mike McCarthy so far. The Packers partook in the team’s scheduled Super Bowl photo earlier this week, only to receive an ideal amount of backlash for excluding several injured players on the roster.
Consequently, tight end Jermichael Finley and linebacker Nick Barnett were not impressed.
Who would have thought a trip to Dallas would be so lively? Perhaps that’s why everything really is "Bigger in Texas".
But to throw gas on an already open fire, the Packers woeful week continued on Saturday. Green Bay was greeted with the disheartening news of injured linebacker Erik Walden, one of the Packers most boastful young players who continues to make an impact this postseason.
The concern that sits with Walden right now is an injured ankle, which has ruled the third year player our of team practice all week long. Walden, who recorded one sack against the Philadelphia Eagles during the Wild Card round, has successfully solidified Green Bay’s outside linebacker position, and is a shoo-in to receive serious game time in 2011.
Looking toward next Sunday, though, that same scenario is yet to be determined.
With Walden out, some serious strain is placed on Dom Capers’ defense. The Packers have been ravished by the injury bug this year, but with limited days to find a replacement prior to the Super Bowl, expect McCarthy to be reeling for answers in the coming days.
Yet with that being said, the Packers may not have to look very far. Fellow injured linebacker Frank Zombo is reportedly making a steady recovery, and stands a chance at pulling off a comeback return in Dallas, in only his rookie year.
Week 14 saw Zombo slip out of the lineup against the Detroit Lions, after suffering a sprained right ankle. McCarthy remains hopeful he will return next week.
"Frank looks good. He's getting better. He had more extended work today," McCarthy said on Saturday. "I really want to see how his body responds to three days of work. Wednesday's padded practice will be a big day for Frank down in Dallas."
So far this past week the Packers have refrained from practicing with pads on. This approach differs entirely to last weekend’s decision to practice in frigid temperatures to prepare for Soldier Field, nonetheless, no one can argue with the results of the last three weeks.
For the Packers to gain Zombo back however; would be a huge dream come true. With all due respect to Walden, Zombo’s physical nature against a battered and bruised Pittsburgh Steeler offensive line would come in handy next week.
Throw in the fact that the Steelers are also without rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, and the Packers suddenly have a distinct defensive advantage.
Other Packer injury news also comes from the Atari Bigby front. Green Bay’s normally trustworthy safety has endured a pesky groin problem for much of this season, and isn’t likely to outmuscle Charlie Peprah ahead of the Super Bowl.
That hasn’t stopped Bigby from practicing, though.
"Atari looks good," McCarthy stated. "He's ready to go if the opportunity knocks. But Charlie Peprah is the starter and has been for a long time, and that won't change for this game against Pittsburgh."
Green Bay’s injury problems have had their highs and lows this season. Losing the likes of Finley, Barnett and running back Ryan Grant have hurt the Packers, but by no means has it slowed down the green and gold freight train.
McCarthy and the team have been practicing close to home, remaining in Green Bay. On Monday the team will gear up and head to Dallas, to prepare for Mike Tomlin and the Steelers in six days’ time.
A few cuts and bruises, but nothing overly serious just yet. This coming week should see the Packers depth chart pan out in terms of who is starting, and who is not.
Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer to Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.