GREEN BAY—The Green Bay Packers' offense might be getting back one of its star players on Sunday night, but the defense will have to wait at least another week.
Receiver Greg Jennings was listed as questionable on the injury report Friday and has a chance to play for the first time since Week 4, but outside linebacker Clay Matthews has officially been ruled out for the second straight game.
Jennings practiced on a limited basis all week and has reported to the coaching staff that he feels great. Three weeks removed from surgery on an abdominal muscle, Jennings is right where the medical timetable says he should be, according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy, and a decision on his playing status will be made on Saturday after another meeting with the doctors.
"The one concern is durability," McCarthy said, echoing concerns Jennings himself had earlier this week about his endurance, having not practiced or played in so long. "That's the last hurdle we feel we need to get over."
Meanwhile, Matthews did not return to the practice field at all this week, his third straight week (including the bye) of inactivity following his hamstring injury against Arizona.
McCarthy had indicated earlier this week that Matthews was doubtful and now has officially ruled him out. Considering Matthews' history with hamstring injuries, the decision is no surprise.
"We want to make sure when Clay is back he's back for the run," McCarthy said.
This will mark the first time Matthews has missed consecutive games in his career, leaving the rest of the defense to compensate for his pass rush as a collective unit. That worked well last week in Detroit, as the defense posted five sacks, including two by Erik Walden.
Digging into the depth chart is nothing new for the Packers, of course, and McCarthy on Friday praised the work Brad Jones has done at inside linebacker alongside A.J. Hawk.
The third starter at that position following season-ending injuries to Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith, Jones has been the Packers' leading tackler in two of his four starts while adding one sack and another tackle for loss, which came in a crucial spot last week with Detroit inside the Green Bay 10-yard line.
A seventh-round pick in 2009 and an outside linebacker for his first three seasons in Green Bay, Jones made the move inside this year and has embraced the change, which requires him to communicate the calls to the rest of the defense.
"He does a great job commanding the huddle," McCarthy said. "We've never really given him a chance to just find a home base, and now that he's been given that opportunity, he's playing extremely well. He's very versatile."
McCarthy added that he challenged the special teams units this week, noting that he feels they "lost a little bit of an edge" when Jones was pulled from those units to play defense full-time.
There's been no edge lost on defense, though, and credit goes in part to Jones.
"We've really had this thing going, the cohesion of our group over the last couple weeks, more than a couple weeks now," he said. "It just feels really good. We know how each other play, and I think we've been hitting on some cylinders that we haven't hit on before." Additional coverage - Nov. 23