Whitney Mercilus arrived in Green Bay about a month ago for a fresh start and a chance to help boost the Packers’ pass rush. Now, the 31-year-old outside linebacker will have to wait until next year to see the field again.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Packers have determined that Mercilus tore his biceps in Week 10’s win over the Seattle Seahawks and will have to miss the remainder of the 2021 season. The veteran pass rusher had dropped out of the game early in the third quarter after nearly sacking Russell Wilson for a second time and was ruled out before the start of the fourth quarter, giving the impression his injury was serious.
“Yeah, that’s a tough one. I feel bad for him,” Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said Monday before any injury updates were reported. “Shoot, he would have had potentially a second sack right there (before he got injured). Just the stability he brings to that room, this guy’s a pro’s pro. He’s been doing it at a very high level for a long time. It’s just one of those unfortunate things that happened.”
The latest Packers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Packers newsletter here!
Replacing Mercilus Could Be Difficult
Mercilus had proved to be a valuable in-season signing for the Packers over the past four games, recording 10 total pressures, eight quarterback hurries and four tackles as the top rotational piece behind starters Preston Smith and Rashan Gary. He also recorded his first sack in a Packers uniform during the first quarter against Seattle, getting to Wilson for a big-time play on third-and-10.
The Packers could have to dig deep into their reserves to replace Mercilus in the rotation, especially if Gary ends up missing time with his elbow injury. The only other pass rushers on either of their rosters aside from Smith are 2020 seventh-round pick Jonathan Garvin and Tipa Galeai, a second-year undrafted player out of Utah State. Galeai is currently on the practice squad, but he could be signed to the active roster when Mercilus is inevitably placed on injured reserve.
LaFleur also mentioned that the Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst and his scouting department are keeping their eyes open for any more potential outside additions. There might not be a veteran of Mercilus’ experience level waiting to be signed, but that doesn’t mean Green Bay is without options.
“Gutey and our entire scouting department (are) looking at every potential option, and we have some guys on our practice squad,” LaFleur told reporters on Monday. “We’ll just kind of see where we have to go.”
No Immidient Update on Za’Darius Smith
Of course, of all the options the Packers could explore to enhance their pass rush for the rest of the season, the best one is still getting back All-Pro Za’Darius Smith. He has been dealing with a back injury since before the start of training camp in late July and only managed to play in a limited capacity in Week 1 before landing on injured reserve, creating doubt about whether he could return at all for the team in 2021.
Fortunately, Smith seemed to take a step closer toward returning on October 29 when he tweeted he had “just landed back in Green Bay” and was looking forward to getting “back on the field with my bros.” He also told one of his followers that he feels “like a new man” on Twitter in response to a question asking about his back.
Smith has since made several appearances during the team’s practices over the past few weeks; though, exclusively as a spectator. So far, all LaFleur has been willing to say on the matter is that the Packers are “certainly hopeful” that Smith will be able to return to the lineup before the end of the season.