Behind the scenes, it appears the devious injury bug hanging around Green Bay snuck up on the Packers once again and bit a key contributor on the squad -- Johnny Jolly.
At this point it almost feels like the Packers are up against some kind of "smart bug" -- one that zeroes in on the team's best players and leaves a mark that either ends a player's season or at minimum puts it in jeopardy.
It's simply uncanny how it also seems to find the most irreplaceable starters in the lineup.
Yesterday, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the Packers had lost Johnny Jolly for the rest of the season due to a neck injury. Silverstein said that, "Jolly has a bulging disc at the C-5 vertebra, and the medical staff is waiting for the swelling to go down before making an assessment on whether surgery will be necessary."
As with any damage to the vertebra, it's not fully known yet what impact the injury could have on Jolly's long-term playing status. The injury will need to be better understood and treated before the full impact on his future will be known.
For the Packers, it's simply more of the same. To date, the team has now arguably seen their best player at every position lose time due to injury in 2013:
Bryan Bulaga - Offensive Lineman
Morgan Burnett - Safety
Jarrett Bush - Special Teams
Randall Cobb - Wide Receiver
Jermichael Finley - Tight End
Casey Hayward - Cornerback
Johnny Jolly - Defensive Line
Eddie Lacy - Running Back
Clay Matthews - Linebacker
Nick Perry - Linebacker
Aaron Rodgers - Quarterback
Sam Shields - Cornerback
While some of the above injuries have lasted longer than others, an argument can be made that every single one of the above players is the best at his respective position. The only key positions not listed are pretty much kicker and punter.
The NFL has a "no injury excuse" that pervades nearly every team.The sport and the league are built on toughness and "next man up" philosophies. But after losing so many key contributors, the Green Bay Packers appear to have a legitimate argument that the epidemic they have experienced in 2013 is a gigantic obstacle to their success.
Losing Johnny Jolly certainly won't help the Packers come Sunday. The Steelers are a tough, physical team and Jolly was gaining a reputation as one of the toughest defenders on the team.
When the Packers started the year near the top of the tables in terms of defending the run, many of Jolly's teammates singled him out as the difference maker in 2013. He catalyzed a meaner attitude that affected the entire team.
Of course, the implications for the game on Sunday are certainly not more important than the concern for Jolly's welfare. The defensive lineman had been living through one of the best comeback stories the NFL has seen in quite awhile before getting injured against the Cowboys last week.
After missing nearly three years of time due to drug dependency issues, Jolly showed up at Packer training camp in 2013 on a one-year deal and fought his way back onto the team. He then continued fighting and landed himself a key role on the defensive line.
The problem for Jolly is that he was playing on such a short-term deal. The type of contract typically given to high-risk, aging players. Unfortunately, one of the worst case scenarios has come to pass. After fighting so hard, Jolly is out for the season with no guaranteed contract money to fall back on should the injury prove to be career threatening.
Obviously, the most important thing for Johnny Jolly right now is to do what's best for his long-term health. It's almost certain the Packers will support him by whatever means necessary after all he and the Packers have gone through in getting him back on the field.
Sadly, that effort won't change the team's current situation -- the net result is that they are down one more key contributor. In a season full of letdowns due to injury, there's now another one to throw on the pile.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers and their physical style of running the football coming into Green Bay this weekend, the team will again have to reach into their back pocket of reserves and produce an impact player.
Hopefully, Josh Boyd, C.J. Wilson, or Jerel Worthy can come up with a huge game against the Steelers by replacing the emotional energy and grit that Jolly was bringing to the table each and every week.
In the meantime, it's time to send well-wishes and positive vibes to Johnny Jolly.
I for one want to wish Jolly a quick and full recovery -- as well as thank him for all his contributions on and off the field in 2013. Can't wait to see him healthy and back on the field for the Packers in 2014.
Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a Green Bay Packers fan by night. He is a regular contributor at Yahoo Sports and The Bleacher Report. Tweet him @AndrewProchnow.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Johnny Jolly
- Pittsburgh Steelers