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Weekend wrap: OLB shortage, other notes

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With Kevin Greene, you're never quite sure what to believe.

The NFL's career sack leader among linebackers coaches with the same unrestrained enthusiasm he played with during his 15-year career.

Just standing in the Lambeau Field hallway where the Green Bay Packers assistant coaches meet with reporters, Greene tends to be all over the map. When he gets excited, which is fairly often, his eyes bug out and his muscles flex.

So when Greene, who coaches the Packers outside linebackers (what's left of them anyway), said Friday that he found a helmet and shoulder pads in his locker earlier that morning, we took the 51-year-old seriously.

"I'm joking," Greene said. "I'm being facetious."

Given the Packers' shortage at Greene's position, it was hard to tell.

If the bruised shoulder that Mike Neal sustained in last Sunday's 19-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens doesn't improve, the Packers will be down to just two outside linebackers against the Cleveland Browns.

And it's not as if those two will be Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, the former first-round draft picks who began the season as the Packers' two starters. No, with Matthews (thumb) and Perry (foot) already ruled out, the Packers would be down to a pair of rookies -- the undrafted Andy Mulumba and sixth-round pick Nate Palmer.

"They're healthy; that's the key," Greene said. "So we have a pair, right? That's good."

On the plus side, Mulumba and Palmer -- who have combined to play just 70 total snaps on defense this season (62 of those by Mulumba) -- received Greene's full attention in practice this week.

"It has increased a great deal, which I'm really thankful for because now you get that actual one-on-one attention that sometimes you need in certain situations," Palmer said. "It's unfortunate that it happened like this, but me and Andy as players, we've just got to take advantage of the opportunity."

If all else fails -- or if Mulumba or Palmer get hurt -- the Packers may have to abandon their base 3-4 defense in favor of a 4-3.

"Well, I've done that before," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "When I was down in Jacksonville, we were a 4-3 team and did all of our 3-4 stuff out of a 4-3. Hey, that's the nature of our business. You just have to pick up and make sure you have enough there to carry on."

Emptying out the notebook from the week:

Lacy's snaps: Since returning from his Week 2 concussion, rookie running back Eddie Lacy has combined to play 83.7 percent of the Packers' offense snaps (113 of 135).

It's hard to argue with Lacy's production. He has combined for 219 yards in the last two games, carrying 23 times in each one, and has averaged 4.8 yards per carry over that stretch.

But do the Packers need to be concerned about wearing him out?

"I didn't have a problem with it," Lacy said.

Going forward, look for the Packers to try to increase rookie Johnathan Franklin's workload again. Franklin has carried only four times since he rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries in Week 3 against Cincinnati. Of course, the rookie has fumbled twice. With James Starks (knee) still sidelined, the two rookies are the only true halfbacks available.

"I think we're always trying to get Johnathan in there," Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. "It's a long season. To have Eddie carry the ball 25 times a game for 16 weeks, that's asking a lot of any running back. I try to even them out a little bit, try to take a little bit of the load off of Eddie. But, shoot, when he gets in there and he gets hot and he tells me he feels good, it's hard to pull him out of the game."

What really happened to Johnson?: Packers coach Mike McCarthy either could not or would not clear the air about the mysterious knee injury to rookie receiver Charles Johnson.

Earlier in the week, we told you about his strange situation in which the Browns signed him off the Packers practice squad only to discover he had a torn ACL and would require reconstructive knee surgery.

"I'm very curious to see how this pans out," McCarthy said. "I don't know if all the facts are in yet. Obviously, he was under our care and was acquired by Cleveland. That's probably all I should say. He works for the Browns right now."

This much is clear -- the Packers did not know Johnson had an ACL tear. Whether they missed it during an exam they performed on Johnson over the summer (when he missed part of training camp with what he said was an MCL sprain) or if it happened at some point after that remains unknown.

Johnson practiced the day before he departed for Cleveland. When the Browns called to sign him to their roster, Johnson did not give the Packers the chance to match the offer, which typically happens in those situations.