MINNEAPOLIS – Aaron Rodgers’ first word – no longer a sound, really – when asked about the loss of left tackle Elgton Jenkins served as a fitting summary of all the injuries the Green Bay Packers have suffered this past season.
“Oof,” Rodgers said, briefly shaking his head.
If the Packers’ season has turned into a game where injuries will finally doom them, then meet the last contender. Jenkins suffered a torn left ACL at the end of the season, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, according to sources, in Sunday’s 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
It’s not just that Jenkins was lost, but that there is still no timeline for preferred starting left tackle David Bakhtiari to finally play this season, if he plays at all in 2021. The comeback de Bakhtiari of his torn ACL on December 31 has been delayed indefinitely. While the Packers insist he hasn’t suffered a setback, they halted his training work last week after three weeks of at least limited participation.
The Packers would likely have brought Jenkins back to left guard, where he made the Pro Bowl last season, if – or when – Bakhtiari returned. They finished Sunday’s game with third string player Yosh Nijman on the left tackle.
“Dude, he’s been so versatile for us,” Rodgers said of Jenkins on Sunday before the severity of the injury was known. “He can play any position on the line; I think he played at least four. So, I really hate that to happen… but with Dave’s status unknown, we probably have to trust Yosh. He played good football for us. Proud of the way he intervened. Hopefully the news isn’t so bad with Elgton.
While Nijman held up well on Sunday and in his three starts earlier this season while Jenkins suffered from an ankle injury, it’s the cumulative impact of injuries that could be problematic. Opening day starting center Josh Myers remains on injury reserve following knee surgery, which means the Packers could be without three of their five favorite starters on the line.
This from an offensive line that committed five penalties (two false starts, two grabs and an illegal hand to the face) against the Vikings.
If only the Packers’ injuries were limited to that position or even that side of the ball, where they also played without running back Aaron Jones (knee) and wide receiver Allen Lazard (shoulder) on Sunday. And that doesn’t include tight end Robert Tonyan, who was lost for the season to an ACL tear last month.
The defense surely could have used a combination of Rashan Gary (elbow), Za’Darius Smith (back) and Jaire Alexander (shoulder) against the Vikings. In all, it was eight of the 22 favorite starters by the end of the game on Sunday.
“It’s the ultimate team sport, isn’t it? Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “We know that in order to achieve all of our goals, we need all three phases to shoot at the highest level possible.… It’s certainly good that you can find different ways to win matches, but at the end of the day we need everyone is at the right time., and we haven’t been able to do that consistently in a game. “
While Preston Smith sacked Kirk Cousins twice and forced a fumble, he was largely alone without fellow linebackers Gary and Za’Darius Smith to help lobby. And without Alexander, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson almost scuttled the game on his own. Whether veteran Kevin King or rookie Eric Stokes on him, Jefferson caught eight of 10 passes thrown for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s the kind of player the Packers (8-3) are likely to face in the playoffs. Their well-deserved goodbye is still a week away, with the Los Angeles Rams (7-3) still standing between the Packers and their week off.
“We have guys struggling right now, but we have a good football team where the next man can step in and play well,” said Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling. “But obviously it’s hard to lose guys. We have had the injury virus that has affected us all year round. Seems like every game we lose a guy to something.