The Green Bay Packers could be heading into the most important time of the year without two of their starting offensive linemen.
The Packers saw starting center Corey Linsley exit in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions with a back injury that will officially hold him out for the rest of the afternoon, while they also lost starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga early in the fourth quarter after he went down hard and was taken into the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion.
Missing both starters forced the Packers to turn to a pair of backup linemen with second-year Lucas Patrick — who just inked a contract extension on Saturday — replacing Linsley and veteran Jared Veldheer taking over for Bulaga for the rest of the way.
Linsley was listed as a limited participant in the Packers’ first two practices of Week 17 with a back injury, but he was cleared to make his 16th start of the season for a third straight year on Sunday. The Packers also limited Bulaga early in the week with a groin injury, though both players were full-go by Friday’s final session.
Patrick inherited snapping responsibilities for the majority of Sunday afternoon’s finale and saw his most extensive playing time of the season since filling in for Linsley during Week 5’s win over Dallas. He came into Sunday’s game having played 69 total offensive snaps in his second season in the NFL, but the Packers did just give him a massive vote of confidence with a two-year, $3.6 million contract extension to keep him through 2021.
The Packers offense, though, has been disjointed for much of the game with near-misses in the passing game become a recurring theme against the Lions. Trailing 20-13 in the fourth quarter, the Packers are still hoping to rally for a road win Sunday and clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs, which would give them an extra week for their injured contributors to rest up.
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Packers Also Playing With Two Rushing Options
The Packers were also down several players to start Sunday’s regular-season finale, including two options out of their backfield.
While lead rusher Aaron Jones was active, the Packers were missing the other half of their twin-headed rushing attack with fellow running back Jamaal Williams ruled out against the Lions with a shoulder injury he sustained in Week 16’s win against Minnesota. After he didn’t practice all week, head coach Matt LaFleur said prior to traveling to Detroit the Packers were planning to shut him down in what sounded more precautionary than anything else.
The Packers also held back fullback Danny Vitale, who hasn’t been a major part of the offense but has been used in some notable situations. He also did not participate in practice this week with a knee injury, coming into the game with a doubtful status.