Cullen Jenkins likely out for Packers
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers are scrambling to make the playoffs in the final month of the season. And now they'll have to start their final push for the postseason without standout defensive end Cullen Jenkins.
Jenkins strained his calf in the Packers' home victory over the San Francisco 49ers and coach Mike McCarthy said he is not likely to be ready for Sunday's game at Detroit.
Jenkins could miss a couple of weeks after posting three sacks in the Packers' last two games and receiving a game ball for Sunday's performance against the 49ers.
"He's been playing extremely well," McCarthy said Monday. "We just have to get him healthy, get him back."
While the Packers are used to getting bad news about injuries by now -- they have an eye-popping 13 players on injured reserve -- losing Jenkins even for just a week is another setback for a team that would be out of the picture if the playoffs started today.
The Packers are 8-4 after Sunday's win, trailing the 9-3 Chicago Bears in the NFC North.
New Orleans and the New York Giants currently are ahead of them in the NFC wild card standings; the Saints are 9-3 and the Giants are 8-4, holding a tiebreaker because of their better conference record. The Giants and Packers play at Lambeau Field in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
McCarthy has made it clear that he doesn't think there's any point in discussing playoff scenarios before the Packers pass the 10-win mark.
"I don't reflect on those types of things," McCarthy said. "I am just really focused on us playing our best football. We need to have a great week of preparation and make sure we go to Detroit and put our best foot forward."
Still, McCarthy did acknowledge that he likes the idea of playing Chicago at Lambeau Field in the final week of the regular season.
"I think everybody likes it now the way it is shaping up," McCarthy said. "I like it. It will be great when we get to that point to see where both teams are. Playing Chicago the last game of the season, I think it's awesome."
After Sunday's game at Detroit, the Packers face a tough road test at New England. Then they close out the season with home games against the Giants and Bears.
"Like Mike likes to say, we really can't think about the postseason until you win 10, so the immediate goal is going to Detroit and getting a win and then we'll see after that," Aaron Rodgers said. "We've got two home games to finish up and hopefully we'll be in a good position when we get to those two games to get this thing into the next season."
Still, players know they're in a crunch to make the playoffs.
"Obviously, we're aware of what's going on," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "We're in a race with all of them. The Lions are still a good team, obviously, the Bears are ahead of us. We've got those guys the last game of the season, but we've got three more teams before them. We're going to take them one week at a time and we'll see what happens at the end."
For now, McCarthy is more interested in the way his team is playing.
The running game looked better Sunday, with a successful debut by rookie running back James Starks (18 carries, 73 yards) and much-improved performance in short yardage situations. Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception in five straight games despite attempting 30-plus passes in each of those games.
"We're getting better, and that will really be the message as we get moving forward here to Detroit," McCarthy said. "We need to make sure that our house is clean and we are improving on the little things that came out of this last game."
McCarthy does see room for improvement. The offense sputtered in the first quarter on Sunday. The line allowed four sacks on Rodgers. And Mason Crosby missed a 29-yard field goal, with McCarthy citing subpar protection by the line.
"We still feel we have better football in front of us, and that's what we're striving for," McCarthy said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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