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Green Bay Packers tackle major injury issues on offensive line

By Rob Reischel, The Sports Xchange
Green Bay Packers tackle major injury issues on offensive line
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is helped up by teammates Lane Taylor (65) and tackle Bryan Bulaga (75) during the between the Packers and the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans October 26, 2014. File photo by A.J. Sisco/UPI | License Photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In 2015, the Green Bay Packers were decimated at the wide receiver position. And by the time the postseason arrived, the Packers' top three wideouts were out when Green Bay went to Arizona for a wild-card playoff game.

Last year, the Packers lost their top two running backs - Eddie Lacy and James Starks - early in the year. And that prompted Green Bay to move wide receiver Ty Montgomery to running back.

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But those issues pale in comparison to what the Packers have going on today at offensive tackle.

Starters David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bryan Bulaga (ankle) have each played in just one game this season, and their status for Thursday's game against Chicago is uncertain.

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The Packers' top three reserves - Kyle Murphy, Jason Spriggs and Don Barclay - are all on the injured reserve list. Murphy went to reserve Tuesday with a foot injury.

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That means the Packers could be without their top five offensive tackles Thursday night.

"I don't know about frustrated. Injuries are part of the game," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "When you have one position that gets hit by it, maybe it has something to do with playing Chicago on Thursday night. Last year it was the running backs. This year it's the tackles. So, you just work through it. Frankly, we're still working through it."

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Bakhtiari, Green Bay's left tackle, hasn't played since injuring his hamstring in Week 1 against Seattle. He practiced Tuesday, but whether or not he can make it through a game remains to be seen.

"I think regardless of what's happened at the position, I've been attacking the issue that we were dealt in the training room and maximizing my recovery every day," Bakhtiari said Tuesday. "I think we're on a smart plan. We've been progressing. Moving forward, we're going to continue the same trend and getting back as quick and safe as possible."

Bulaga sprained his ankle on Aug. 24 and missed Green Bay's first two regular-season games. He made his first start of the year against Cincinnati in Week 3, but lasted just 47 snaps before aggravating his ankle injury.

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McCarthy said players that didn't work Tuesday wouldn't play Thursday, and Bulaga wasn't able to practice. So barring a remarkable recovery, or a philosophical switch by McCarthy, Bulaga will miss Thursday's game.

Justin McCray, a former undrafted free agent, has filled in at right tackle the last two games and struggled. If Bakhtiari can't go or is unable to get through the game, exactly who will play left tackle against Chicago remains a mystery.

Adam Pankey, who went undrafted in April, was recently promoted from the practice squad to provide depth. Green Bay also signed tackle Ulrick John off Arizona's practice squad Tuesday after placing Murphy on injured reserve.

John was a seventh-round draft choice by Indianapolis in 2014 who has played in just three NFL games.

Chicago has several talented pass rushers, led by Akiem Hicks and Leonard Floyd. And it remains a mystery how Green Bay will keep Aaron Rodgers clean and attempt to move the ball.

"Well, the concepts in the passing game haven't been constricted a whole lot, it's just protection wise we have had to be smart about who's playing out there and what we can handle," Rodgers said. "It's been tough with those guys we've had who've been out. You're talking about two starters and then primary backups who've been out. So it's been a work in progress but those guys are playing hard."

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