Outside linebacker Jeremy Thompson is resting and recovering at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay on Friday evening after suffering a serious neck sprain toward the end of practice.
Thompson, who battled neck and shoulder stingers throughout training camp this past summer, went down late during Friday's practice with what was originally termed another neck stinger. Thompson remained down for several minutes and an ambulance was summoned to take him to St. Vincent Hospital, also in Green Bay, for a complete battery of tests.
Thompson never lost consciousness nor experienced paralysis at any point.
"We're just taking the high side of caution here," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said following practice.
During a team (11-on-11) drill with the defense going against the scout-team offense, Thompson tried to tackle practice-squad running back Kregg Lumpkin on an inside running play.
"His head hit my shoulder pad as I was going through the hole, and after that he just fell back on the ground," Lumpkin said.
Teammates said they could see Thompson moving his legs and his feet, and he was talking, communicating to the medical staff that it was his shoulder that was hurting. McCarthy said he was with Thompson as he was put into the ambulance.
"It's tough. You never want to see anybody down like that," defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. "You say a prayer and hope everything is OK."
With the season-ending injury two weeks ago to outside linebacker Aaron Kampman, Thompson had begun seeing more snaps from scrimmage in the past couple of games, as he and Brady Poppinga occasionally rotated in for starters Clay Matthews and Brad Jones.
Matthews said he and the other outside backers will have to make up for Thompson's absence Monday night against the Ravens, but he's hoping to see his teammate back in action before too long.
"Hopefully it's not as serious as we thought," said Matthews, whose locker is next to Thompson's. "We're all praying for him and hope he has a speedy recovery."
Tough down the stretch
The Baltimore Ravens' defense may not have its customary lofty ranking, sitting at No. 10 in total yards allowed in 2009.
But over the last five games, Baltimore's defense is quietly showing signs of what it takes to remain a top-tier defense, primarily with the ability to get stops late in games.
Since a 33-31 loss to Minnesota in Week 6, followed by their bye week, the Ravens have been incredibly stingy in the second half.
They've allowed just 17 points after halftime in their last five games, and they had allowed just three points in the second half over a recent three-game stretch against Cincinnati (zero), Cleveland (zero) and Indianapolis (one FG) before Pittsburgh found the end zone in the fourth quarter last week.
"When you go into the inside, hidden things, whether it's scoring, change of possession ... we're at the top echelon of all of that," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said.
Indeed, it was Baltimore's defense that made the big play late last week, too, as rookie linebacker Paul Kruger's interception and 26-yard return set up a chip-shot field goal to beat the Steelers in overtime.
Baltimore's late-game prowess on defense adds another element of intrigue to Monday night's matchup with the Packers, who at times this season have shown themselves to be a second-half team offensively.
Green Bay hit a 50-yard touchdown pass with a minute left to beat the Bears in the season opener, rallied for 23 second-half points in a home loss to the Vikings and punched in two third-quarter touchdowns last week to help put away the Lions.
During their current three-game winning streak, the Packers have scored six second-half touchdowns - though one of those was a defensive score (Charles Woodson's interception return at Detroit) and two others were set up by red-zone turnovers (vs. Dallas and San Francisco).
In addition, the fourth quarter has been the Packers' second-most productive the season, with 84 points. They've scored 108 in the second quarter.
Monday night's game has the look of one that could come down to the fourth quarter, and if the Packers need a score then, the Ravens are going to make it very tough to get it.
The first extended playing time in a regular-season game for quarterback Aaron Rodgers came during his rookie season in 2005 in a Monday night game against the Ravens in Baltimore.
It was a forgettable evening, as Rodgers entered a blowout in the second half and never had much of a chance. He completed a respectable 8-of-15 passes for 65 yards but threw one interception, was sacked three times, and lost two fumbles, the second of which was returned for the game's final touchdown in a 48-3 defeat.
"Back then everything was moving so fast for me," Rodgers said. "I felt like I was stuck in cement a little bit. They had guys coming from all over the place. It was a tough game for us, we got thrashed, ... but it was definitely a steppingstone for me on my journey to get where I am now."
Rodgers does have a positive memory from that game, however. As the teams switched ends of the field at the end of the third quarter, Rodgers recalled walking next to and chatting with Baltimore cornerback Deion Sanders, one of his favorite players growing up.
"It was a pretty special moment for me, and then I went out and played like dog ... trash," Rodgers said. "That was the highlight of the game, unfortunately, not any plays that I made. I took my lumps and learned from it."
Offensive tackle T.J. Lang was added to the injury report and missed Friday's practice with a concussion. Lang has been Chad Clifton's primary backup at left tackle, so with Clifton still limited by a hamstring injury, Allen Barbre took his share of snaps at that spot in practice.
Cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder) was upgraded from limited to a full participant.
The rest of the Packers' injury report remained the same, with Barbre (ankle), Rodgers (ribs), running back Ahman Green (groin), linebacker Brandon Chillar (hand) and fullback John Kuhn (hand) participating fully for the second straight day.
Running back Ryan Grant (shoulder) remained limited.
For the Ravens, center Matt Birk (neck, full participation), cornerback Cary Williams (thigh, limited) and receiver Demetrius Williams (illness, did not participate) were added to the injury report.
Tackle Jared Gaither and receiver Kelley Washington, who both sat out Thursday's practice with illnesses, were upgraded to full participants on Friday. Linebacker Prescott Burgess (thigh) and fullback Le'Ron McClain (chest) were upgraded to limited.
Eight other players' participation remained the same for Baltimore. Lewis (foot) was limited; safeties K.J. Gerard (thigh) and Ed Reed (ankle and hip), tight end L.J. Smith (ankle) and linebacker Terrell Suggs did not participate; and quarterback Joe Flacco (ankle), nose tackle Haloti Ngata (ankle) and linebacker Jarrett Johnson (shoulder) were full participants.