Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers paid a backup the ultimate compliment on Wednesday.
Discussing the play of Marshall Newhouse, who stepped in at right tackle last Sunday when starter Bryan Bulaga went down with a knee injury in the first quarter, McCarthy and Rodgers both noted that the offense continued to function without alteration.
That’s not always the case in the NFL when a team goes to its bench in the heat of battle, particularly against a division rival that knows a foe’s personnel inside and out.
“We did not cut out anything on the call sheet,” McCarthy said. “That’s the first question that’s asked as a play-caller when you’re on the headsets with the other coaches, going through the packages, and (if there’s) anything we needed to stay away from. Marshall did a nice job.”
Rodgers didn’t have to make adjustments at the line specific to Newhouse’s presence, either.
“We didn’t change anything,” he said. “We didn’t slide the protection his way, we didn’t give him a whole lot of chips. We kind of just played it straight, and I think that’s a credit to him.”
Newhouse may be needed again this week, because while McCarthy credited Bulaga with being a “fast healer” and “exceeding expectations” in his recovery thus far, he said Bulaga would be “pressed” to be ready for Sunday’s home game vs. Denver. Bulaga did not practice on Wednesday.
If he’s needed, Newhouse should be all the more ready this week because he’ll get a full week of practice snaps at right tackle. His normal practice routine had been to play left tackle when veteran Chad Clifton was getting his rest.
Making his NFL debut after spending his rookie season as a game-day inactive and then on injured reserve, Newhouse was solid enough at Soldier Field that when the Bears moved All-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers over to his side for a couple of snaps, he didn’t stay there. Peppers went back to the other side to battle Clifton most of the game.
“I definitely noticed it when he came over,” Newhouse said of Peppers. “I wanted to make sure I stayed sound and didn’t overplay the situation or get out of my comfort zone. I’m glad I held up.”
As for McCarthy’s call sheet staying intact and Rodgers’ line calls not straying from the ordinary, Newhouse noticed that, too, and it meant something to him.
“It helped my confidence a little bit, knowing I can go in and do everything that everyone else is doing, and just roll with it,” he said.
Running back Ryan Grant would like to keep rolling, too, after his 92-yard effort against the Bears, but a bruised kidney kept him out of practice on Wednesday and could sideline him for this week’s game.
McCarthy put Grant in the same category as Bulaga, saying he’ll give them until Friday to see where they are but not sounding overly optimistic.
Grant said he feels fine, but with an internal injury the medical staff is going to be especially cautious.
“I’m going to trust the doctors,” Grant said. “I’m going to trust their word. I don’t feel any different.”
His game sure was. Having ceded most of the running back snaps to second-year pro James Starks in the first two weeks, Grant hit his stride against the Bears. His 17 carries were his most since Week 14 of 2009, and the 92 yards were his most since Week 16 of that season. Last year, Grant’s season lasted less than a half in the opener before an injured ankle shelved him.
“Of course, it’s definitely frustrating,” Grant said. “That’s kind of the mood I’m in right now. It is what it is. I think it’s even harder because of me sitting out so many games last year. I don’t want to miss any games at all, but I really don’t have a say in this.”
If Grant can’t suit up, rookie running back Alex Green could see his first action from scrimmage, backing up Starks. Green played on special teams in the opener against the Saints and then was inactive the past two games, dealing with an Achilles injury.
Green, a third-round draft pick, showed flashes of his ability in the second preseason game against Arizona, spinning and weaving his way to a 25-yard gain on a screen pass and then finishing that drive with a 2-yard bull-rush up the middle for a touchdown.
“I’m just taking it slow, working on the little things in practice,” Green said. “It’s all just a learning process for me.”
Added McCarthy: “He’s getting ready.” Additional coverage - Sept. 28