Teams set several goals for the grind of an NFL preseason, but perhaps none is more important than the objective of making sure everyone is healthy when the regular season rolls around.
On the surface, the Packers 27-3 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions New England Patriots would appear devastating. However, the only game that counts at this point happens to be when the Packers travel to Detroit on September 11. And for Green Bay's sake, they can at least be thankful that they dodged more than one scare in the injury department against the Pats.
It's no secret that Green Bay relies heavily on its passing attack, but that game plan may have changed had the injuries to wide receivers Javon Walker and Antonio Chatman been more serious Friday night.
Faced with a third and 15 from their own 37-yard line, quarterback Brett Favre attempted to make something out of nothing as he so often does. This time, however, the gunslinger made an errant throw that was intercepted by New England's Asante Samuel. While Samuel advanced upfield, the 5'9, 183 pound Chatman gave chase, and that is when trouble struck.
"I was trying to make the tackle, but at the last second I saw him and tried to duck out of the way, but he still hit me in the back of my neck," Chatman explained. "I was trying to tell myself I'd get up, but I didn't come to until they (medical personnel) came onto the field."
Chatman said that he blacked out and couldn't feel his hands for a brief period and for precautionary reasons, he was told not to try to get up. The team's medical personnel then lifted him onto a stretcher and needless to say, the Packers punt returner/wide receiver was done for the evening.
Fortunately for the Packers, outside of a little discomfort in his neck area, Chatman feels fine.
"Once I got in the training room, the X-ray was negative," Chatman said. "I'm a little stiff right now, but I'll be ready for the next practice."
Chatman's teammates weren't the only players concerned for his safety. The man who made the hit on Chatman, Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, also worried about the status of the third-year pro out of Cincinnati.
Harrison, who normally is known for his hard hitting, displayed a great deal of class by making a stop in the Packers locker room after the game to check on Chatman and chat with a few other players.
"I gave him a shot with my shoulder," Harrison said. "When I saw him down I just started praying for him because you never want to see anybody down like that, so I hope he's alright."
Chatman's injury wasn't the only one on the night that caused the Packers concern. On the same series, (Favre's interception was called back due to a Patriots defensive holding penalty) Walker suffered a setback of his own.
The fourth-year wideout suffered a dislocated finger when he was on the opposite end of a trademark Favre heater. According to Walker, this injury was unlike any he has received before.
"It just popped out of place," Walker said. "I came inside so they (medical personnel) could pop it back in. Other than that, it's fine.
I've never had the experience of it, and they didn't want to take the glove off because they didn't know if it was broken or not. It's just a little swelling, but I'm glad it's a dislocation instead of a broken finger."
On a positive note, Walker shrugged off the possibility of missing significant time due to the injury.
"No, I'm not out," Walker insisted. "If this game was postseason, regular season, I could have been out there playing. It's just doing the right things to get ready for Detroit.
We have a lot of guys that have aches and pains right now, but let's find out where we stand with injuries. We have a big game coming up game against Tennessee, but the next week is more important. With a short week, it's better to see who we can get back going into the Detroit game."
It appears that Chatman and Walker will be ready to roll when it counts the most, but there were plenty of other injuries that caused Head Coach Mike Sherman concern Friday night. Safety Nick Collins, linebacker Paris Lenon, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Najeh Davenport all suffered various injuries during the game. Gbaja-Biamila, who suffered a neck stinger, was the only one from that group who didn't return to action.
Regardless of the injury situation, Walker admitted that the team didn't play up to the expectations of Green Bay Packers football. Still, he's glad that it comes in a game that is meaningless as far as the standings are concerned.
"You've got some big days, you have some bad days, but I'm glad it happened during a preseason game. I'd rather get everything out during a preseason game than bring a performance like that over into the regular season.
Maybe it's a sign to get all of that out of the way so when the regular season comes around we can pick up where we left off at the end of last season."
Although it may seem difficult initially to find a silver lining in such a lopsided game, perhaps it's a good sign that a player of Walker's caliber doesn't appear to be worried.
"I don't think there's a concern," Walker responded when asked whether the team's offensive performance bothers him.
"We've been through this before where we've had preseasons where we're worse off than this. I don't look at it as three points, I look at it as it's preseason and we'll get things changed for the regular season."
That task will undoubtedly be easier if the team gets healthy by September 11th. After all, that might be the most important factor in starting the regular season on the right foot.