It turns out Johnny Jolly's shoulder is hurt worse than the second-year defensive tackle thought and he'll be out at least a couple of weeks, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday.
Jolly injured his shoulder on Carolina's first offensive series, when he had his arm extended and another player fell on his shoulder. He hurt it again when delivering a key block on Tramon Williams' 94-yard pooch punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
After the game, Jolly told McCarthy he expected to be fine for Thursday's game in Detroit. But McCarthy said Jolly has a lot of swelling in the shoulder and the team's medical staff is running additional tests to determine the severity of the injury.
Jolly has started seven of 10 games and has played in all 10 as part of the Packers' deep defensive line rotation. He has 31 tackles (14 solo) and has made considerable progress since his rookie season to become an impact player on the defense.
"Johnny is having an excellent season for us," McCarthy said. "He's probably the most instinctive defensive lineman we have."
Fortunately, the Packers should have plenty of depth on the interior of the defensive line to make up for Jolly's absence. The defense has a total of 11 defensive linemen on the 53-man roster, and against Carolina, three defensive tackles - Colin Cole, Justin Harrell and Daniel Muir - were inactive. Plus defensive end Cullen Jenkins has the flexibility to play tackle along with starters Ryan Pickett and Corey Williams.
Harrell, the team's first-round draft choice in 2007, hasn't played since before the bye week due to an ankle injury but was removed from the injury report late last week.
"We have 11 for a reason," McCarthy said. "We do have a lot of depth. I feel bad for Johnny Jolly. I thought he was having an excellent year. But it's an opportunity for one of the other guys to pick it up."
McCarthy said running back Ryan Grant has a "mild ankle sprain" and is hopeful he'll be able to play on Thursday. Grant hurt the ankle on a short shovel pass in the fourth quarter on Sunday and left the game, though he said in the locker room afterward he didn't think the injury would keep him from playing this week.
Chance for control
Two weeks ago, the Packers were 7-1 and the Detroit Lions were right on their heels at 6-2. But since then, the Packers have won twice while the Lions have lost twice, putting Detroit in a position of needing to beat Green Bay on Thursday to have any realistic chance of winning the NFC North.
Ahead by three games, the Packers can stretch their lead to four games with just five to play by beating the Lions. A Detroit win would put the Lions only two back with five left.
"We've got a chance to take total command of our division," McCarthy said.
The short week to prepare is tough on both the players and coaches, but McCarthy is looking at the Thanksgiving game in Detroit as a valuable opportunity for his team to play in the national spotlight and a chance to prepare for the even brighter lights the following Thursday in Dallas.
"It's a great game to be part of," McCarthy said. "It's a tremendous environment. It's part of history in the National Football League. I can remember as far back as being a young child watching Thanksgiving football and eating the turkey between the games.
"Your peers, everybody is going to be watching you play. I think it's going to be a great game."