The Jacksonville Jaguars were already reeling from their 1-5 start and one close loss after another. Now Maurice Jones-Drew’s left foot is in a boot, and it hurts Blaine Gabbert just to lift his non-throwing arm.
Tough luck, fellas. And don’t expect any sympathy Sunday from the Green Bay Packers, who have won back-to-back games for the first time this season despite having what seems like half their roster on the injured list.
“We line up with 46, and we have 46,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. “Every team deals with this at some point. I’m very confident in our plan, I’m very confident in our players. I’m excited about the opportunities some of our players that haven’t had them in the past weeks are going to get on Sunday. Then it’s all about winning. It’s all about winning and beating Jacksonville.”
Gabbert’s injury -- neither he nor Mularkey will say exactly what it is -- is to his non-throwing shoulder, and he insists he’ll play this week. He went through the full practice Wednesday.
“You’re always going to be in pain whether it’s your arms, legs, knees, neck. That’s just part of the game, it’s part of the sport,” said Gabbert, who can’t remember missing a game other than in high school. “You just have to manage it and deal with it the best you can.”
But the Jaguars have no margin for error. One of the NFL’s most dysfunctional teams the last few years, they don’t have the depth or the talent of other teams, and they’re still adjusting to new coach Mularkey and his system. They’re 1-5 for a second straight year, and their overtime loss to Oakland on Sunday came after they blew a 14-point lead.
Now they’re without their best player, Jones-Drew. He’ll be replaced by Rashad Jennings, who at least has familiarity with the offense after filling in during Jones-Drew’s lengthy holdout this summer.
“We don’t want to catch anything, we want to make a break,” Jones-Drew said. “I feel like we keep working, something is going to turn for us. But the only way it’s going to turn is if we make it turn. We have to be the one that makes those plays, be in the right position, whatever it may be so we don’t have to feel like this next week.”
That may be a tough order, however. Not only have the Packers appeared to put their early struggles behind them, but Sunday’s game is at Lambeau Field, where they’ve won 21 of their last 23 regular-season games.