GREEN BAY – Both starting inside linebacker D.J. Smith and backup running back Brandon Saine are done for the season because of knee injuries suffered in the Green Bay Packers’ 42-24 victory at Houston Sunday night. While we know how the team plans to replace Saine, coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t saying who’ll start in Smith’s place next Sunday at St. Louis.
Both Smith and Saine suffered torn anterior cruciate ligaments, according to an NFL source.
Meanwhile, McCarthy indicated that injuries to two other starters – rookie outside linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and cornerback Sam Shields (shin) – were not season-ending and said more information would be available about each player on Wednesday after further medical testing.
Saine was placed on season-ending injured reserve Monday, with the team filling his roster spot with running back Johnny White, whom they claimed on waivers from the Buffalo Bills.
White, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound second-year player out of North Carolina, entered the league as a fifth-round pick (No. 133 overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft. He played in 12 games for the Bills as a rookie last year, rushing 12 times for 38 yards while adding five tackles on special teams. White played in three games this season for Buffalo and rushed for 34 yards on eight carries (4.3 avg.).
Saine played in all six games this season but did not carry the ball and worked almost exclusively on special teams.
The team did not make a roster move with Smith, and coach Mike McCarthy wanted to keep Smith’s replacement under wraps in advance of next Sunday’s game at St. Louis. Smith became a starter when standout inside linebacker Desmond Bishop suffered a season-ending hamstring injury in the Aug. 9 preseason opener at San Diego, but Smith’s replacement isn’t as clear-cut. Converted outside linebacker Brad Jones replaced him against the Texans, but Jamari Lattimore, Robert Francois and rookie Terrell Manning are also options.
“We’ll take the week for game planning. We have some ideas for everybody,” McCarthy said. “Obviously Robert, Brad and Jamari, they all have a lot of special team responsibility so we’ve got to make sure special teams and defense are on the same page on how we utilize our players.”
Smith’s injury all but ensures that Manning will be active against the Rams, although his role could be limited to filling in on special teams. “I really like him on special teams,” McCarthy said. “That’s really where he’s pushed to play. I think he’s further ahead on special teams than he is on defense so (that) will definitely factor in that discussion this week.”
Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said he likes his various options at the position and suggested that each of the backups could rotate in for different personnel groupings.
“I’ve felt since training camp we have more athletic ability in terms of depth there,” Capers said. “I think we have to take a look at these guys and see where they are. They’re all capable of handling certain facets of the game. We’re playing a lot of different personnel groups and sometimes it’s good to have guys who are specialists in their personnel group. We’ll take a look at them on the practice field this week and certainly discuss it as we go through game-planning meets tomorrow and decide what direction we want to head.”
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