GREEN BAY, Wis. — Injuries have plagued the Green Bay Packers since the first day of training camp.
On Monday, they may have suffered their most significant blow yet.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb will miss the next six to eight weeks with a fractured fibula, according to a source. The third-year receiver suffered the injury on a low hit by Baltimore's Matt Elam in the Packers' 19-17 win Sunday. The source indicated that Cobb nearly broke the fibula entirely.
Green Bay is hopeful the injury is not season-ending.
Meanwhile, James Jones suffered ligament damage to his knee that is not serious. The source indicated Jones has a chance to play Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
Coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't discuss injuries in detail Monday, only saying that Cobb would miss "multiple weeks." Either way, replacing Cobb instantly becomes the No. 1 challenge facing the Packers.
"I appreciate everyone for all the love & support," the former University of Kentucky star tweeted Monday night. "Thank The Lord we bit a bullet w/ what it could've been."
The collision occurred with 30 seconds remaining in the first half. From the right slot, Cobb ran a quick out and up. When he reached for the pass from Aaron Rodgers, Cobb was chopped low by Elam. The rookie safety struck Cobb's knee, and the receiver writhed in pain. He fractured the fibula, the smaller bone that runs lateral to the tibia.
If Cobb is forced to miss the full eight weeks, he'd return for Green Bay's game at Dallas on Dec. 15.
This is a cruel dose of deja vu for the Packers. A year ago, top wideout Greg Jennings missed eight games with a core muscle injury. Jordy Nelson missed four games, too. Yet with Jennings out, Green Bay found a way. The three-receiver sets of Nelson, Cobb and Jones became the bedrock of the offense and Green Bay won 10 of 11 games to take a second straight division title.
Now, the Packers must evolve again on offense. With Cobb out, there's a good chance tight end Jermichael Finley will see more time in the slot and or at wide receiver anywhere on the field.
Second-year wideout Jarrett Boykin will see an expanded role. And if there is one silver lining for Green Bay through this avalanche of injuries it's the running game. Expect more games of 20 to 25 carries for Eddie Lacy.
With Cobb out and Jones hobbled, Green Bay is actively shopping for another wide receiver.
There's a chance the team will promote Myles White to the 53-man roster Tuesday.
The Packers have also spoken to Tyrone Walker. The undrafted rookie had a strong training camp — albeit with an up-and-down preseason — before being released on cutdown day. Walker spent time on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad before getting released again. Veteran options on the market include Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch and Steve Breaston.
On Monday, the Packers brought back Reggie Dunn to the practice squad.
In the meat-and-potatoes win at Baltimore, the Packers were forced to cycle in new personnel on the fly. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements was pleased with the production.
"I think we did a good job of adjusting," Clements said. "We ran similar type plays, we just put different people in there and utilized the same basic concept and the same basic protections, and the guys who were inserted did a good job. It's unfortunate when you lose guys, but it's not as if it never happens.
"We've had to deal with it before and we'll adjust accordingly."
As Cobb hinted, he might have avoided a much more serious injury. His fibula was close to breaking "all the way through," the source said.
For now, the Packers lose a matchup nightmare. Often drawing nickel cornerbacks and even linebackers — see his 35-yard touchdown on fourth down against Washington — Cobb has become a go-to receiver for Rodgers. He picked up the offense quickly. Before the season, the quarterback said Cobb had 100-catch potential.
Not to mention McCarthy can go ahead and tear out a few pages in that playbook. Without Cobb, the Packers lose a lot of creativity. This is a player who threw the ball 122 times, ran it 228 times and caught it 144 times at Kentucky. His 67-yard carry busted open Green Bay's 22-9 win against Detroit.
At least in Lacy and the Packers' mauling offensive line, McCarthy has the legitimate threat of the run. Teams are biting on play fakes. In Green Bay, a revelation. After watching the film of Sunday's game, Clements said Baltimore's safeties hesitated on Rodgers' play-action, 64-yard heave to Nelson.
That cause and effect was non-existent last season. The extended play-action bomb — so often a weapon in Rodgers' early years — wasn't in 2012. Defenses stayed in a two-deep shell and the safeties wouldn't flinch.
"It's a good development," Clements said. "I think last year when we tried to run those types of plays, we got no reaction from the secondary."
Also McCarthy will be counting on the 6-foot-2, 218-pound Boykin in his three-receiver sets. Boykin's strong, vise-like grip from camp was missing Sunday. He dropped a pair of passes from Rodgers before rebounding with a 43-yard reception off a wide receiver screen.
Clements doesn't believe timing is a factor, pointing to the fact that Boykin has worked with Rodgers plenty. The second-year receiver, once cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars after rookie camp, is not nearly as fast as Cobb, but McCarthy said Boykin "did some good things."
"He had a rough start," McCarthy said, "but I thought the big play that he had was one of the spark plays in game."
So life without Cobb begins, however long that is.
Questions about injuries draw death stares from McCarthy these days. He's clearly sick of talking about them. For various lengths, the Packers are now without Bryan Bulaga, DuJuan Harris, Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Nick Perry, Casey Hayward and Cobb.
McCarthy isn't sulking. He said Monday you have to "flip the page."
Really, the Packers have no choice.
"It's like anything in life, are you going to cry about it or are you going to look at it as an opportunity to improve?" McCarthy said. "Really, these injury situations are opportunities for our younger players, young players or any player on our roster, to jump up and take the rope.
"The development of these players to get ready to play in these games doesn't start this week because the guy in front of him went down. That started the day they walked in here April 15. That's always been our plan. That's our program. It's worked and it will continue to work."