There were a lot smiles today in a locker room dealing with a losing streak for the first time in three years. The Green Bay Packers face the prospect of a three game slide and they'll start a third different quarterback as they face the New York Giants Sunday prepping Scott Tolzien for his first NFL start. Yet, there they were, ear to ear grins.
None bigger than on the faces of Jerel Worthy and Sean Richardson. Today was the first day of the rest of their NFL lives hopefully, finally given medical clearance to practice after spending the last calendar year coming back from serious injuries. Worthy blew out his knee and Richardson suffered a neck injury that required a cervical fusion. They were placed on the physically unable to perform list when the season began. This week was the last they could come off the list with any hope of playing this year. A two week window is now open for both players. Worthy was giddy about his first practice. Mike McCarthy knew the old Jerel was back, saying with a dead pan smile, "when he jumped offsides a couple of times." Richardson's road was even more worrisome. That type of injury can be career threatening. Sean had said he wouldn't feel he was ready to return until the equipment staff placed a helmet in his locker. Sure enough, the shiny yellow hat was hanging today and Richardson felt like a kid in the candy store. All smiles.
It took a moment to recognize the grin on the player dressing alongside the running backs section of the locker room. I know I've seen it before. Oh yeah, its the 2008 7th round draft choice from LSU, Matt Flynn! The prodigal quarterback has returned, signing a free agent deal this week after injuries felled his original mentor Aaron Rodgers and Seneca Wallace. There was quite a crowd waiting for Matt after practice and here's what he had to say about coming back to the Pack.
Audio: Matt Flynn.
Now back to Tolzien. He admitted his week in the spotlight is something he hasn't had to deal with since the Wisconsin Badgers were getting ready for the Rose Bowl, the last time he started a game. Tolzien is putting in plenty of extra time at the office. McCarthy met with him until about 9:30 PM Tuesday night. He thinks Scott's eating well, he's at the facility all the time. McCarthy isn't concerned, adding Tolizen is getting plenty of rest. That wasn't the case at his first pro stop. Signed by the San Francisco 49ers just before the 2011 season began, Tolzien checked out of his hotel room after a night or two, hauled his duffle bag over to the Niners training complex in Santa Clara, and proceeded to call the player's lounge home for the next couple of weeks. Tolzien said today the couch was comfortable, the TV's were great and since he had team issued clothing, there was no need to do laundry. Allowed him to learn the offense in record time. I think he'll have this week's game plan down.
The team got encouraging medical news on a couple of fronts. Evan Dietrich-Smith practiced on a limited basis after hurting his knee against the Eagles. Don Barclay didn't practice but McCarthy expected him to try Thursday after getting fitted with a knee brace. Clay Matthews was a full participant with his thumb injury and better yet, worked without the club that clearly hampered him last Sunday. McCarthy hopes Matthews can play with just a brace of some sort. Ryan Pickett (knee) and Andy Mulumba (ankle) were both limited. Rodgers along with Nick Perry (toe/foot) Johnny Jolly (groin) and Mike Neal (abdomen), also didn't work. McCarthy said Neal is just "kinda beat up" and he's hopeful he'll be OK by the weekend. And one more note. Jermichael Finley is reportedly scheduled for cervical fusion surgery tomorrow to fuse the C4, C5 vertebrae in his neck. He suffered the injury against the Cleveland Browns on October 20. After getting additional opinions at the Mayo Clinic, Finley has decided the operation is the best course of action. He was placed on injured reserve by the Packers last week. Finley has every intention of resuming his career after he recovers from the procedure.
Michael HIll, the rookie running back, was plucked off the team's practice squad today by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who lost a couple of backs in their first win of the season Monday night. To take his place, the Packers signed Georgia Tech rookie Orwin Smith. He gained over 1800 yards with 20 touchdowns in 51 games with the Yellow Jackets.