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Rodgers misses practice to focus on rehab

As reporters encircled Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at his locker, linebacker Clay Matthews hurried past and shouted out in jest perhaps the most important question of the week.

“A-Rod, are you playing?” Matthews yelled.

Oh yes, Rodgers plans to play Sunday against the Chicago Bears. He just didn’t practice Wednesday to focus on rehabbing his leg injuries, a plan coach Mike McCarthy said will likely stay in place for the quarterback through Thursday.

McCarthy said Rodgers told him not to hold anything back for the game plan against the Bears as Green Bay seeks a fourth consecutive victory as they chase a spot in the playoffs.

“I’m very optimistic by nature. So we can always take things out. It’s harder to add things back in,” Rodgers said. “So get everything in, and if there’s anything we’ve got to take out on Sunday, we’ll do that.”


Green Bay won’t doubt Thomas-less Seahawks

The loss of safety Earl Thomas to a season-ending injury left a gaping hole in the Seattle Seahawks’ formidable defense.

The Green Bay Packers are more concerned about the considerable talent still left with the Seahawks.

Life without Thomas begins Sunday when Seattle travels to Lambeau Field in an important game in the NFC playoff picture. The Packers (6-6) need a win to keep pace with first-place Detroit in the NFC North. The

Seahawks (8-3-1) have two avenues to clinch the NFC West on Sunday, the easiest being a win over Green Bay along with an Arizona loss or tie.

Whatever happens, coach Pete Carroll’s club must play the rest of the season without Thomas, the former All-Pro safety who broke his lower left leg in last week’s 40-7 win over Carolina.


Peppers gets midweek practice break

Julius Peppers doesn’t like to take breaks.

He has missed just two practices in his three seasons with the Packers. One was late last year, and the other came Wednesday. Both were just days off for rest.

Coach Mike McCarthy plans to give Peppers a midweek practice break the rest of the season, his 15th in the league. Peppers is still productive, with a sack in three straight games going into the Packers’ critical contest Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

“He has a very old-school approach,” McCarthy said Thursday. “He just does not want to come off the field, and I think he’s a tremendous example for your younger players and has been a tremendous asset to our program.”


Perry out vs. Seattle with hand injury

The Packers’ banged-up defense has taken another hit with linebacker Nick Perry ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks with what coach Mike McCarthy called a “significant hand injury.”

Perry, who leads the team with eight sacks, was also effective against the run. He got hurt in the first half of last week’s win over Houston before returning after halftime playing with a heavily-wrapped left hand.

McCarthy said Wednesday that he didn’t know how long Perry would be sidelined, but that the pass rusher would be re-evaluated on Monday.

The loss of Perry is the latest blow to a defense that has had injuries mount at cornerback and now linebacker. McCarthy said Clay Matthews wouldn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday as he works through a left shoulder injury.


Hobbled or not, Rodgers on roll

While Aaron Rodgers’ sore left hamstring might affect his mobility, the quarterback’s right arm seems as strong and accurate as ever.

Rodgers is on a roll as the Green Bay Packers return home from a three-game road swing to face the Houston Texans on Sunday.

The two-time NFL MVP has 17 touchdown passes to three interceptions over the past six weeks. He’s had passer ratings of at least 115.0 each of the past two games.

One victory down, five to go to fulfill Rodgers’ confidence-boosting statement the Packers (5-6) could win out, which would boost their chances of returning to the playoffs.

A win last week over Philadelphia snapped a four-game losing streak.

“We’re just one game better than we were last week,” Rodgers said. “A bad performance this week or in any upcoming week, we know what that is going to entail in the days after that, so we’ve got to stay focused on what we’ve got to do to win each week.”


Packers hoping to restore linebacker depth

The Green Bay Packers will have two players line up at inside linebacker Sunday against the Houston Texans.

Who they’ll be is anyone’s guess.

The good news at least for Green Bay is that two starters are getting closer to returning at a position where injuries have sapped depth and weakened the run defense.

Second-year starter Jake Ryan hasn’t played a snap on defense the last three weeks after injuring an ankle on a first-series punt at Tennessee on Nov. 13. Rookie starter Blake Martinez sustained a knee sprain late in the game at Washington on Nov. 20 and didn’t play on Monday night at Philadelphia.


LB Ryan likely to play Monday night

The Green Bay Packers finally got some good news on the injury front, and it came on the side of the ball where they needed it most: defense.

Starting inside linebacker Jake Ryan, the team’s leading tackler, was able to practice Friday and appears likely to play in Monday night game at Philadelphia.

Ryan suffered an ankle injury early in the team’s Nov. 13 game at Tennessee, missing nearly all of that game and sitting out last week’s loss at Washington. Then, with five minutes left in their 42-24 loss to the Redskins, the Packers lost their other starting inside linebacker, Blake Martinez, to a knee injury. That will keep him out Monday night and likely longer.


Packers hope Michael can help avoid slow starts

Since arriving in Green Bay, Christine Michael hasn’t had much to do except for read up on the playbook.

The recently acquired running back looks as if he’ll finally get a chance to get a few carries on Monday night when the Packers visit the Philadelphia Eagles .

For the first time in weeks, Green Bay might have two experienced running backs on the roster in Michael and James Starks.

Establishing the run might help the Packers get off to the more productive starts that have eluded them the past two games.

“They’re teaching me the game plan … and getting me ready to go,” said Michael, who was claimed off waivers from the Seattle Seahawks last week. “Getting me in the game plan this week, a couple runs here, play action. Keeping it simple, but definitely trying to get my feet wet out there.”

Losers of four straight, the Packers (4-6) have at least been able to get the passing game going the past few weeks.


1st of 3 road games crucial for Green Bay

A two-game skid has whittled away any margin for error the Green Bay Packers had in the NFC North, and now they hit the road for three straight games starting in Tennessee.

It’s a crucial moment for a franchise that has reached the playoffs each of the past seven seasons.

“Every game from this point forward in November and December are very important games for us,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Tough stretch right now with three on the road back-to-back-to-back, but we’ve just got to take it one at a time and figure out a way to put a better performance on the field on Sunday.”

This marks Green Bay’s first three-game road trip since 2012, and the timing couldn’t be worse for a franchise that has lost three of four by a combined nine points. The tight losses have stuck Green Bay (4-4) behind both Minnesota and Detroit in the NFC North after being stunned 31-26 at Lambeau Field by Indianapolis last week.


Mariota’s mobility presents a pass rush predicament

Marcus Mariota’s mobility presents a predicament to the Green Bay Packers’ pass rush.

Go after Mariota too aggressively and the Tennessee Titans quarterback might break free for a big gain with his legs.

The chess match on the football field takes place on Sunday when the Packers travel to Nashville to face Tennessee.

“Stay in our rush lanes, just be as disruptive as we can,” Packers pass rusher Datone Jones said after practice Thursday. “Just got to rush smart.”

Coming off two straight close losses, Green Bay (4-4) faces a critical game in Nashville. It’s the first of three straight road games, a stretch that could define the season following a disappointing .500 start.

After getting 14 sacks over the first four games, the Packers’ pass rush hasn’t been as productive with seven in their last four. One of their most important players on the edge, linebacker Clay Matthews, has missed the last couple of weeks with a nagging hamstring injury.


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