GREEN BAY, Wis. – Mike McCarthy did not even want to talk about it when the subject was broached on Friday morning. A little while later, Josh Sitton knocked on his wooden locker at Lambeau Field.
The Green Bay Packers are by and large healthy this season, and that's newsworthy for a team that has been injury-plagued for the better part of McCarthy's tenure as head coach.
This week's injury report provide a snapshot of just how different this season has been in the Packers’ training room. Every Friday, before McCarthy takes the microphone for hisnews conference, public relations director Jason Wahlers reads the injury report. This week, it contained just four names: Sitton (toe), fellow starting guard T.J. Lang (ankle) -- both listed as a probable -- and a pair of backups, tight end Brandon Bostick (hip) and outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott hamstring), who were ruled out.
Never before in McCarthy's previous eight seasons as head coach had the Packers listed so few players on a Week 11 injury report.
"Let's talk about that after the season," McCarthy said, "because I don't want to jinx it."
But he added, "The numbers are good."
Anything might look good compared to the run of injury luck -- if luck actually has anything to do with injuries -- the Packers have been on the last several seasons. According to an annual offseason study by Football Outsiders, the Packers ranked ahead of only two teams in adjusted games lost to injuries. In 2012, no one was hit harder than the Packers, according to the same formula. Since 2008, the Packers have ranked in the top half of the NFL in adjusted games lost only twice -- in 2009 (12th) and 2011 (16th).
Football Outsiders has not compiled injury data yet this season, but the Packers have only one projected starter –--nose tackle B.J. Raji -- out for the season. He was lost to a torn biceps tendon in the preseason.
Only one offensive starter has missed a game (right tackle Bryan Bulaga in Week 2). On the other side of the ball, defensive end Datone Jones leads the way among starters with three missed games, while cornerback Sam Shields has missed two. No other defensive starter has missed more than one unless you count Brad Jones, the Week 1 starter at inside linebacker who upon his return after missing three games because of a thigh injury did not get his job back.
McCarthy has searched far and wide for ways to limit injuries. This season, he adopted a practice schedule similar to what Sunday's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, have done under coach Chip Kelly.
"I look at really my time here, we've probably been through three generations of practice schedules," McCarthy said. "The first couple years, the amount of time that we were on the field was obviously extremely higher than it is now, and then we made adjustments, which I thought were favorable."
This year, in a normal, seven-day week before a Sunday game, the Packers practice Wednesday (not in pads), Thursday (in pads) and rest on Friday before a short practice on Saturday morning without pads.
"I've always been taught the philosophy of two days on and one day off," Sitton said Friday. "That's how I've always trained; that's how I train in the offseason. So, it makes sense to do it during the season. Your body can only handle so many days in a row. I think we've brought a lot more energy to the practice field. I seem to notice a difference."