It happened again Sunday. The Packers' defense hadn't been on the field more than three or four minutes of their wild-card playoff game against San Francisco when two starters left with knee injuries. Cornerback Sam Shields went down first, followed closely by linebacker Mike Neal.
Neither player returned. Instead, they joined already injured stars Johnny Jolly and Clay Matthews on the sideline while the rest of the defense futilely chased 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick around frozen Lambeau Field.
In the hyper-manly world of the NFL, complaining about injuries is bad form and resolutely avoided. Players and coaches mutter platitudes like "next man up," and in fairness they can't do much else. As fans, however, we can whine all we please, and it's no excuse to say few teams have been as busted up as the Packers in recent seasons.
That's not just an impression. According to the wondrously geeky website Football Outsiders, a trove of arcane stats for fans who've given up on their lives, the Packers easily led all NFL teams during the 2012 season in an injury index called "adjusted games lost." In 2011, even with Green Bay seemingly skating through a 15-1 year, the team finished in the middle of the index. While winning the Super Bowl in 2010, the Packers still graded out as the third-most-injured team in the league. Although the Colts and Browns were more disabled, according to AGL, none of the other 29 teams came close to the Packers.
Final numbers aren't yet available for 2013, but all indicators again point to Green Bay headlining the index for the third time in four seasons. For instance, Joe Buck mentioned on the Fox telecast Sunday that receiver Jordy Nelson was the only skill-position player on offense not to miss a game this year. The Packers finished the season with 15 men on injured reserve to lead one of the NFL's saddest categories.