After an embarrassing loss to the rival Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers didn’t have time to rest before things got even more tumultuous.
On Monday, it was revealed that rookie running back AJ Dillon tested positive for Covid-19 in his pregame testing, meaning he was on the field. The Packers, already on a short week, were forced to close the building and handle the situation.
This will be a chaotic week for the team as it faces an unprecedented situation, on a short week, against a team they struggle against.
In wake of Dillon’s positive test, it was determined that running back Jamaal Williams and inside linebacker Kamal Martin were “high-risk close contacts,” meaning that they were in close proximity to Dillon and must be isolated for five days. On a normal week, this would give both players a chance to play Sunday. But, unfortunately for the Packers, they play on Thursday.
This means two of the three core running backs for the team will be out. As of this writing, the team is pessimistic Aaron Jones will be healed from his calf injury by Thursday. Perhaps on a full week, he’d have the time to recover, but it looks like the Packers will be without Jones, Williams, and Dillon.
Tyler Ervin remains available, but the team hasn’t used him as a traditional running back. In fact, his time working with the wide receivers may have spared him from close contact with Dillon. The Packers will need to elevate Dexter Williams from the practice squad. This is D. Williams’ time to prove he belongs, as his limited play chances have not been good. Still, he has the talent to be a playmaker and can be a wonderful fit in the offense. This could be his audition to staying on the roster.
Kamal Martin’s unavailability is a shame, as Martin just returned to action and is beginning to make a name for himself. The Packers need all the defensive help they can get, and Martin is one of the few bright spots this season.
Making matters worse is that the Packers’ Thursday Night Football opponent is the San Francisco 49ers, and the game is in California. The 49ers are the most beat-up team in the league, which does help the Packers. Already missing plenty of key players, the 49ers just put their starting quarterback and star tight end on IR.
Yet if there is any team that can overcome this lack of personnel, it’s San Francisco. Perhaps no head coach is better at squeezing performances out of his depth players than Kyle Shanahan. When Jimmy Graoppolo missed games earlier in the season, Shanahan was able to get a few good quarters from Nick Mullens. And Packers fans shouldn’t forget when C.J. Beathard showed up to play against the Packers in a game that came down to the very end. Raheem Mostert was a fairly unknown player until his legendary day against Green Bay in last year’s NFCCG.
Kyle Shanahan has consistently eaten Mike Pettine’s lunch since their time together in Cleveland. And the Packers defense hasn’t exactly been good, or even average lately. Even with a skeleton crew playing, the 49ers are a team to fear. And that was BEFORE the Packers lost their entire running back group.
Still, this week presents opportunities. Matt LaFleur is a serious Coach of the Year candidate, and Rodgers is playing at MVP level. Overcoming this amount of adversity will show that the team is made of. In their two losses this season, the Packers have shown a concerning lack of fight. This week, they’ll be facing one of their biggest contests as they take on a team they’ve struggled against, in a stadium they’ve struggled in, on a distressingly short week, missing almost an entire position group, while dealing internally with a virus. No matter how beat-up the 49ers might be, these are the kinds of obstacles championship teams must overcome. The Packers have a chance to show the world what kind of team they are.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.