Charles Woodson has broken the same collarbone he broke in Super Bowl XLV, and he'll be out of action approximately six weeks.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday that the injury isn't as severe as the one in the Super Bowl, though it occurred in similar fashion. At this point, Woodson is not going on injured reserve and the Packers are going to see if he can come back before season's end.
"That's the hope," McCarthy said. "We're going to give him that opportunity for sure."
Woodson broke the collarbone on a third-and-10 play with just under three minutes left in Sunday's game in St. Louis. On a quick outside throw to receiver Brandon Gibson, Woodson made a diving attempt to knock the ball away and tackled Gibson. He can be seen on the TV broadcast clutching his arm and getting up slowly. He then didn't return to the game for the Rams' final possession.
"Just talking with Charles this morning, he was a little nervous about it last night," McCarthy said. "He let it go through the evening and then this morning he came in and x-rayed it, and that's when we got the news."
A 15-year veteran who moved from cornerback to safety in the Packers' base defense this year, Woodson will be replaced in the starting lineup by either M.D. Jennings or rookie Jerron McMillian. His slot cornerback duties in sub packages could fall to rookie Casey Hayward or second-year pro Davon House, who made his defensive debut on Sunday.
The health of Sam Shields, who missed Sunday's game with shin and ankle injuries, could also factor in. McCarthy indicated it's possible Shields could return to practice at some point this week.
The Packers have dealt with plenty of injuries on defense already this season, losing inside linebackers Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith for the season. Outside linebacker Nick Perry and nose tackle B.J. Raji are starters who also have missed games. On offense, receiver Greg Jennings has missed multiple games, though he might return this week, and running back Cedric Benson is out for an extended period.
"It's a bigger challenge – we're talking about Charles Woodson," McCarthy said of the team's defensive leader. "But the reality is we fully expect and will plan for the next individuals to step up and continue to play better defense. That's our goal every week regardless of how we line up."
McCarthy noted that the plan before the season started was to play the Packers' young defensive players a lot so they'd gain plenty of experience through the season. That process is being accelerated now with the injury situation.
McCarthy once again lauded the play of Hayward, who has intercepted four passes in his last three games. He also liked what he saw in House's debut. Other than allowing a short TD pass with 15 seconds left in the game, House played as though the shoulder injury that has forced him to wear a harness was not a factor.
"I thought he was extremely physical," McCarthy said. "He does an excellent job of getting his hands on receivers, and that was obviously the biggest question with him coming off his injury."
The question McCarthy has on offense is whether he can get the running game going again. Alex Green managed just 35 yards on 20 carries on Sunday, and that was a black mark on an otherwise productive day that saw the Packers roll up 402 yards and 30 points against a solid Rams defense.
"I thought we definitely left too many hard yards on the field," McCarthy said. "There were too many 1- and 2-yard runs that should have been hard-ball, 3-, 4-, 5-yard runs. We need to improve that aspect of our offense."
McCarthy remained committed to the run despite its lack of success so the offense stayed in balance. Receiver Randall Cobb had one rush for 19 yards and fullback John Kuhn added 16 yards on three carries that appeared to surprise the Rams.
But other than one 15-yard run from Green, he gained just 20 yards on his other 19 rushes and blew a chance for a big run when he stumbled through a huge cutback lane in the third quarter.
McCarthy wasn't placing the blame for the run game's struggles on any one person. He's looking for better performance across the board.
"Everybody," he said. "We need to get better running the football, … the blocking unit, the back, the finishing of the back, the finishing of the blocking unit, the perimeter blocking.
"We left too much out there."