GREEN BAY — T.J. Lang couldn’t watch. At least, not on this couch.
The Packers starting right guard, not traveling with the team for the first time in his career due to injury, initially chose to accompany his wife, Laura, to a neighbor’s house to watch the Packers face Washington two weeks ago.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. Until the anxiety of game day started to kick in.
“I went over with her and watched the game, about the first quarter,” Lang said. “That’s all I could take because I really had to go home and watch it by myself.
“Texting with some of the guys, getting ready to get on the bus from the hotel to go over to the stadium, it was very depressing.”
So Lang watched in solitude from his home, turning up the TV to see if he could hear any of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ checks and calls in an effort to key in on specific guys.
Lang followed a similar script a week later when the Packers snapped a four-game losing streak in Philadelphia before being able to lend a hand on the sideline of Sunday’s 21-13 win over Houston at Lambeau Field.
Not being able to travel with the rest of his teammates was emotional for Lang, who’s been an iron man on the offensive line. Until recently, Lang hadn’t missed back-to-back games since he became a starter in 2011.
“T.J., he’s an absolute warrior,” Rodgers said. “He’s been out there busting his ass through some tough injuries.”
Lang played through shoulder and ankle injuries over the past two years, but the broken foot he sustained on the opening drive against Tennessee on Nov. 13 took this decision out of his hands.
Lang says no one was at fault. It was just a freak incident where Lang got rolled up in a scrum. At first, he figured he’d just sprained his ankle, but soon realized it was something more significant.
There appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the eighth-year veteran, though. Lang returned to practice on Wednesday in a limited capacity, giving him a chance to test the water for the first time and see how the foot feels.
“Everything I’ve been doing has actually been feeling pretty good,” Lang said. “I’ve been working with a couple different tape jobs and orthotics, everything I possibly can to take some stress off my foot, so I’m pretty happy with the way it’s healing.
“It’s been almost four weeks now, the original timeline was a little bit longer than that to heal, but I mean I’m getting pretty sick of sitting around watching everything going on.”
The Packers’ offensive line has been tested this season. While Lane Taylor has settled in at left guard following Josh Sitton’s release, both the center and right guard spots have been affected by injury.
JC Tretter started the first seven games of the season at center with Corey Linsley (hamstring) on the physically unable to perform list before a knee injury sidelined Tretter for the past five games.
Meanwhile, Don Barclay and rookie second-round pick Jason Spriggs have manned Lang’s spot at right guard in all but four snaps of the past four games.
Lang praises all four for keeping the interior intact, but he also credits starting tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga for keeping things clean for Rodgers, especially with how much the Packers have thrown the ball this season.
With four games left in the regular season, Rodgers is on pace to surpass 600 passing attempts for the first time in his nine seasons as a starting quarterback. More attempts mean more pass protection, which can be taxing on an offensive line.
Still, the group continues to hold its ground.
“I think it’s part of the DNA of our room,” said Lang of how the offensive line has weathered the injuries. “That’s just the way we prepare, the way we train, and I think Bryan and David are having their best years I’ve ever seen them play football.
“I think the chemistry we have as a group, everybody is always chiming in, helping other guys, helping other positions, making sure we’re on the same page. Because we’re a position group where we don’t get judged on one single play, we get judged as a unit and we understand that and we take a lot of pride in making sure we’re the best five we can be.”
Spriggs occasionally rotated in at guard in practice earlier this season but mainly has served as the backup tackle to Bakhtiari and Bulaga. It wasn’t until Barclay injured his shoulder in Washington that the rookie saw his first in-game work at guard, including preseason.
According to Head Coach Mike McCarthy, Lang has been putting together his own film cut-ups with things he’s seen to assist Spriggs and the rest of the offensive line.
“If you look at the way T.J. Lang operates as a professional, but it’s the little things that he does,” McCarthy said. “Quoting T.J, he wants to make sure that right guard position is successful. That tells you the teammate, the type of man he is and the importance of winning. I think he’s been a tremendous veteran influence over Jason during that stretch.”
Lang isn’t making any bold predictions about his availability for Sunday’s game against Seattle. He’s staying realistic and leaning on conversations with the trainers and doctors to guide his return.
“I’m just kind of going day-by-day right now and giving it time to heal, making sure I’m doing my rehab and everything I possibly can to cut the recovery time down a little bit,” Lang said. “I don’t know about this weekend. Hopefully if things go right the rest of the week I’ll have a chance, but at the end of the day, it’s not really my decision.”