The right time for a bye after all

CINCINNATI -- When the NFL schedule was released in April, the Green Bay Packers were surprised to see that their bye came in Week 4 -- the earliest possible date.

It meant a long, 13-game run without much of a break to finish the season.

That bye week doesn’t look so bad now.

The Packers might need it in order to get some of their injured players back on the field before their next game on Oct. 6 against the Detroit Lions.

The Packers lost three starters -- tight end Jermichael Finley (concussion), running back James Starks (knee) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) -- in Sunday’s 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Combine that with the fact that four other starters and/or key players -- safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring), cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring), running back Eddie Lacy (concussion) and fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) -- all were inactive against the Bengals, and it’s easy to see why the Packers weren’t complaining about their early bye now.

Even quarterback Aaron Rodgers got knocked around on Sunday, taking a shot to the back of his leg on a low hit (that wasn’t penalized) by Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson in the third quarter.

“We’ve got a week off; we’ve got to get healthy,” Rodgers said. “We’ve got to get some guys back, got to get Morgan back, got to get John back if we can. Jermichael, hopefully he’ll be back, James, Eddie. We’ve got some injuries. We’ve got to get some guys back and see what we can do at full strength.”

For Matthews, who missed the entire second half after forcing two fumbles in the first half, it’s the same problem that has hampered him in the past. He missed four games last season and one in 2010 because of a hamstring injury.

“I felt like I could go back out there but we had to be smart with this, especially going into a bye week,” Matthews said. “I don’t see myself missing any time. We’ve got Detroit coming back, and I’ll be out there.”

Starks said he did not know the severity of his injury, while Finley was not available to reporters, as is the league rule when a player sustains a concussion.

Players will be off Tuesday through Sunday this week. That’s the same schedule coach Mike McCarthy used last season, when the Packers had their bye after nine games.

“I’ve never had a bye week after the third week, ever,” McCarthy said. “I can’t even recall a bye week close to this early. I think we’d all like to play this week. The schedule is set, you can’t change it. We have a process we’ll stick to. We’re 1-2, that’s where we are.”