Ryan Pickett lives to stop the run, so it was tough for him to watch Green Bay’s run-defense struggle in his absence the past two games.
“That’s not our style of football the last couple of weeks, giving up runs like that,” said Pickett, who was medically cleared to return from his concussion this week. He practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and hopes to play on Sunday against the Lions before the postseason begins.
“I hope I can help. This is good timing. My injury happened at a good time. I’m ready to go now so we can start fixing things up before we make this playoff run.”
It’s dangerous to think Pickett’s return will cure all ills, but there’s also no doubting the return of the 340-pound, 11-year veteran can have an impact.
Over the last two games, the Chiefs and Bears have combined to rush for 338 yards on 81 attempts against the Packers, a healthy 4.2 yards per carry. What’s more, both teams accomplished that without their top running backs, Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles and Chicago’s Matt Forte, who were out injured.
If given the choice, the Packers would probably trade getting Pickett back for any team having its feature runner. He means that much to the unit as a plugger and block-eater in the middle of the defensive line.
“Ryan helps so much,” said B.J. Raji, who has had to play more nose tackle rather than end with Pickett out. “I think him being out puts a strain on everyone.
“I moved back inside, where I really haven’t played in about a year, and you have Howard (Green) playing three-technique, which he hasn’t really played much. So with Ryan coming back, it kind of takes the stress off of all of us and we can play our natural positions that we’re comfortable with.”
Until this week, Pickett hasn’t felt comfortable since sustaining his concussion against Oakland in Week 14. He said he took a knee to the head from Raiders running back Michael Bush while trying to make a tackle.
His recovery took a long time because it was his second concussion in a span of two months. Back in Week 7, during the practice week, Pickett had a concussion, but he only missed Friday’s workout and was cleared to play by Sunday.
“I thought I’d bounce back, but you have to be patient with stuff like that,” he said. “I wanted to get back, bad, but it was smart to sit out.”
Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Pickett is playing his best football this year in his six seasons in Green Bay. The hope is that his play will ratchet up that of those around him heading into the playoffs, when stopping the run can become an even greater emphasis, especially in wintry weather.
“He definitely makes a difference in there,” McCarthy said. “But going back to the last game, we’ve talked about that and the grades. Run-defense isn’t about talent. It’s about doing the little things right, and we didn’t do a very good job of it in our last game.”
The last time the Packers and Lions met, the aftermath was centered around Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s stomp of Green Bay guard Evan Dietrich-Smith, which led to an ejection and two-game suspension for Suh.
Asked if there’s any payback on his mind heading into the rematch, Dietrich-Smith said both he and Suh moved on long ago.
“He called me a couple days after the whole thing happened,” Dietrich-Smith said. “We talked, he said sorry, I said no big deal, and that was pretty much that. I think we’ve all moved past it.
“If we’re looking back at something that happened a month ago then we’re not focused on what we have in front of us.”
Injury update: Receiver Randall Cobb (groin) and tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) were both added to the injury report this week and did not practice on Wednesday.
McCarthy said Cobb also would not practice on Thursday, which will be a padded workout, but he might practice on Friday. Finley’s knee injury is something he went to the trainers with Wednesday morning, so McCarthy didn’t have any information on it. Finley said he banged his knee on the ground several times back in the Kansas City game, but it just didn’t feel right when he woke up Wednesday morning.
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) also sat out practice on Wednesday, and McCarthy said his first chance to practice would be on Friday.
Left tackle Chad Clifton is slated to practice in pads on Thursday, and how that goes will determine his status for Sunday. McCarthy said Clifton’s in good shape conditioning-wise for not having played since Week 5, but he needs to get work with the pads on.
“That will be a threshold day for him to get over,” McCarthy said. “We’ll take the full week and make some decisions.” Additional coverage - Dec. 28