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Packers hopeful Cobb will play Week 1

By Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
August 31, 2015

GREEN BAY—The shoulder injury Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb suffered Saturday night isn't any worse than what the team thought after the game, and now the attention will turn to whether he'll be available for the season opener against Chicago.

The Packers, through a spokesman, said they are standing by the information they released after the game, which is that Cobb has a sprained shoulder and did not suffer anything that would sideline him for the season.

Unlike a week ago when the Packers announced that an MRI on receiver Jordy Nelson revealed a serious knee injury, the MRI Cobb said he was scheduled to undergo Sunday apparently didn't show anything the Packers weren't expecting.

Cobb left the game after his right shoulder was driven into the turf after a short reception along the Philadelphia Eagles sideline. He reached high for a pass from quarterback Brett Hundley on the Packers' third offensive play of the game before taking a shot from rookie cornerback Eric Rowe.

After the game, Packers coach Mike McCarthy called the injury a sprain and said he was told the injury wasn't in the same category as Nelson's. Cobb said in an interview on the team's website that X-rays were negative and that he didn't think the injury was as serious as it could have been.

“We thought it could have been collarbone or something and it's not,” Cobb said. “Fortunately enough there's a silver lining.”

The fact that the Packers had nothing new to report means Cobb's status for the season opener will depend on how well the shoulder responds to treatment and to what degree he gets his range of motion back. Cobb has to be able to raise both arms to catch passes and he has to be able to lower his shoulder so he can protect himself.

Shoulder sprains, usually to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, can be serious but usually don't require surgery. There are three grades of ligament tears. The first is most common and is a slight displacement of the joint, according to a description of the injury on the website of the highly regarded Steadman Clinic of Vail, Colorado.

Most AC joint injuries occur when an athlete falls directly on the point of the shoulder, which is what Cobb appeared to do.

“I just caught the ball and I was going down to the ground,” Cobb said. “I had a guy land on top of me, and I was just jogging off the field at the end of the series. I could feel the pain. I didn't know exactly what it was. It was discomfort and I had (the doctor) check it out. We went and got X-rays and it's not what we think it could have been.”

The Packers have 13 days until they play the Bears. Cobb probably won't practice at all this week and would have the option of waiting as late as Saturday of the following week before practicing. McCarthy would probably want him to practice at least one day before playing.

The loss of Nelson forced rookie Ty Montgomery to move into the No. 3 spot. Now he'll be elevated to No. 2 behind second-year pro Davante Adams. McCarthy might not play either one in the exhibition finale Thursday night against New Orleans just to make sure he doesn't lose another key receiver.

Regardless of Cobb's status, the Packers are still in the market for a veteran receiver. They will let Jeff Janis and Myles White take the majority of the snaps against the Saints and then see what receivers come free in the final cutdown Saturday.

Barclay better

In his third game back after suffering a torn ACL that sidelined him all of last season, offensive lineman Don Barclay reduced his number of mistakes and turned in a better performance against the Eagles.

Barclay started at left tackle for the Packers for the second consecutive game in place of the injured David Bakhtiari, who has vowed to be ready for the regular-season opener in Chicago. But after tremendous struggles against Pittsburgh that included allowing a safety on quarterback Aaron Rodgers and yielding the hit that gave quarterback Scott Tolzien a concussion, Barclay showed improvement Saturday.

“Oh, absolutely,” guard Lane Taylor said when asked if Barclay took a step forward. “You know, everyone is just ragging on him, but he hasn't played football in a year. I'm glad that he did better today. He took a step.”

Barclay and Taylor, who started at left guard, formed the left side of a makeshift offensive line that began the game with only two regular starters. From left to right the line comprised Barclay (LT), Taylor (LG), Corey Linsley (C), Josh Walker (RG) and Bryan Bulaga (RT). By the end of the game, Bulaga joined Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang on the injured list after suffering a sprained ankle.

A utility lineman for the Packers, Barclay had never played left tackle in the NFL before the Pittsburgh game. He is better suited to play guard or right tackle.

And while Barclay still made mistakes against the Eagles—his man got two hands in the face of Hundley on a pass that was intercepted, he committed a holding penalty and he allowed linebacker Brandon Graham to rough Hundley with a hit to the head—none were as glaring, or as costly, as those from last weekend.

“It felt a lot better,” Barclay said. “It felt like I was real heavy with my hands, my feet were moving good.

“I made a lot of improvement in technique. I worked on it hard the past two games. Footwork, hand placement, punching—all that stuff just kind of came together.”

After two quarters at tackle, Barclay shifted to left guard to begin the second half. He looked very comfortable on the inside, allowing minimal pressure on the quarterback and playing aggressively with his hands.

For a player whose confidence had to be shaken, it was an important step in the right direction.

“I personally don't read much,” Barclay said. “Everyone is going to have their opinions or thoughts. I'm just going to try to get better every day and build from this game and just keep doing my job.”

Three's not a crowd

Not only has running back Rajion Neal made a case for being on the 53-man roster, he has raised the likelihood that he can contribute something on a weekly basis.

Neal has been steady throughout practice and had an impressive night against the Eagles, carrying four times for 23 yards and catching all five passes thrown to him for 61 yards, including a screen pass that went for 36 yards and a touchdown.

Neal was starting to make a case for himself last year but suffered a knee injury returning a kickoff and ended up being waived injured at the end of camp. The Packers let him know they would be interested in re-signing him after he recovered, and he spent the last half of the year on the practice squad.

Not only did Neal catch the ball well, he had an impressive 14-yard run on second and 15 in the third quarter. He also had a 31-yard kickoff return, which tied with Montgomery for the team's longest of the night.

“I just feel like whatever they ask me to do, I'm willing to do it,” Neal said.