GREEN BAY — Two weeks ago, the Packers faced an explosive Philadelphia return unit that had returned two kickoffs for touchdowns on the season, and Green Bay held the Eagles in check.
The Packers have to deal with an even more dangerous challenge on Sunday with Seattle return specialist Tyler Lockett coming to town. A speedy, shifty, breakaway player, Lockett is a home-run threat anytime he gets his hands on the football. Lockett plays receiver on offense for the Seahawks as well.
“Against the Eagles, we were outstanding that night in our coverage units, and that’s the type of game we’re going to need this week,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said prior to Thursday’s practice. “Lockett brings a whole new dimension to this game, in this weather, and he’s the focus. We need to win that part of the game. It will obviously affect field position, which will be very important in this game for us.
“They do a good job staying on blocks, and we can’t let them grab us and execute those blocks in the return game. That’s something we’re really emphasizing this week.”
On the injury front, McCarthy said inside LBs Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez are on different practice schedules, with Ryan having returned from his ankle injury last week, but Martinez not back yet from his knee injury. Both are expected to work on Thursday in the padded practice, the longest of the week.
Outside LB Julius Peppers rested on Wednesday but will practice Thursday, and McCarthy suggested that would be the plan with the veteran pass-rusher going forward, even though Peppers would prefer to practice every day.
“He has an old-school approach to that. He does not want to come off the field,” McCarthy said. “He’s a tremendous example for your younger players and a tremendous asset to our program.”
Regarding the suspension of DT Mike Pennel, the second four-game substance-abuse suspension of the season for the third-year pro, and McCarthy said the team wants to help him get past his “issue.”
“It’s disappointing. Mike’s one of our guys, a part of our D-line rotation, a rotation that’s been very healthy, especially since he’s come back,” McCarthy said. “It really creates other opportunities for other players, and that’s the way we’ll go.”
One of those other players would be rookie Dean Lowry, who recorded his first NFL sack and deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage last week, but McCarthy said Lowry was on pace to play more anyway.
“It really has nothing to do with Mike Pennel’s situation,” McCarthy said. “Dean Lowry, based on the way he’s performed deserves more opportunities.”
Packers.com will have more following practice and locker room interviews.