Packers Star Defensive Tackle Shut Down in Practice With Injury

Kenny Clark New Injury Divisional

Nose tackle Kenny Clark #97 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a sack against the Minnesota Vikings during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 23, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Green Bay Packers’ injury troubles for the playoffs got even worse Wednesday afternoon.

Starting defensive tackle Kenny Clark was seen working on an exercise bike during the open portion of Wednesday’s practice, according to multiple sources, and was listed as a non-participant on the team’s injury report later in the afternoon with a back injury. While there are still two more practice sessions left this week, the Packers would sorely miss Clark if he was unable to play in Sunday night’s divisional home game against the Seattle Seahawks (11-5).

Clark also dealt with a back issue earlier in the season, but it is unclear if the two are related.

The Packers (13-3) also got some good news on the injury front with starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga clearing concussion protocol and returning as a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, according to The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. The 30-year-old lineman suffered a concussion late in Week 17’s win over the Detroit Lions, which had left his status in question throughout the first-round bye. Now, it seems he’s moving in the right direction.

Several players, including Allen Lazard and Elgton Jenkins, returned from an illness head coach Matt LaFleur said has been going around the locker room, but rookie running back Dexter Williams has become the latest to be sidelined because of an illness. The only other players who didn’t participate — Jimmy Graham and Tramon Williams — took veteran rest days.

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What’s the Backup Plan for Clark?

The severity of Clark’s injury is still undisclosed to the media or public at this time, but the Packers could need to turn to Montravius Adams at nose tackle if he is unable to play in Sunday’s game.

Adams started the first two games of the season, but then missed two games with injury troubles and was left for limited usage along the defensive line for the rest of the season. He recorded a season-best three tackles in Week 9’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and, despite playing in 14 games, only finished with 11 total tackles and three passes defended.

Conversely, Clark has been playing like someone who deserves a hefty contract extension with 62 tackles, a forced fumble and six sacks, including a backend stretch of games against Washington, Chicago and Minnesota where he recorded at least a sack in each context. Adams hasn’t been remotely in the ballpark of Clark, but strong play from both Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith this weekend could open up some opportunity for whichever of them is running at nose tackle.

Jamaal Williams is Back and Ready

The Packers played their final game of the regular season without one half of their rushing attack after Jamaal Williams was ruled out with a shoulder injury he’d picked up in Week 16, but his return to practice Wednesday is only good news heading into the weekend.

While Jones surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the year and rushed for more than 100 yards in consecutive games to end the regular season, Williams has added a solid second option throughout the season both out of the backfield and as a receiver. He finished with 460 rushing yards but also hauled in 39 receptions for 253 yards and five touchdowns — tying Davante Adams for the most receiving touchdowns this season.

Without Williams, the Packers attempted to get more out of return specialist Tyler Ervin in the offense without much success, but don’t be surprised if the Packers have a few more ideas for him especially now that they have their dynamic duo back to full strength.

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