By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his ailing toe might not get as much protection as usual for the rest of the season.
The Packers’ 34-31 loss to the Minnesota Vikings became doubly painful with the news Monday that Elgton Jenkins would miss the remainder of the season. Jenkins was carted off the field Sunday after hurting his left knee.
Jenkins’ injury further decimates a line that already is missing 2020 All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari as well as center Josh Myers because of knee injuries. Jenkins, a Pro Bowl left guard last season, had been filling in for the injured Bakhtiari at left tackle.
“Certainly Elgton’s been a big part of this team and still is a big part of this team, but just won’t be out there with us,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. “It’s just one of those deals, that it’s an unfortunate part of our game, and we’ve had a lot of guys unfortunately have to go through this this year.”
Jenkins’ injury underscores the importance of getting Bakhtiari back.
Bakhtiari hasn’t played since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Dec. 31. He was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Nov. 10, but didn’t practice last week, creating uncertainty about when he might return.
LaFleur said Monday that Bakhtiari wouldn’t be available for the Packers’ upcoming game with the Los Angeles Rams (7-3). The NFC North-leading Packers (8-3) have their long-awaited week off after that game.
“We’ll just see where he’s at after the bye,” LaFleur said. “We’re hopeful that he’ll be able to come back this year at some point. It certainly isn’t for a lack of work ethic on his part. It’s not for a lack of toughness. It’s just one of those things where you never quite know how everybody’s going to respond to the recovery process, and I think that’s just where we’re at with him.”
The uncertain nature of the line could enable opponents to put more pressure on Rodgers, who already is playing at less than full strength.
Rodgers hasn’t practiced much the past few weeks because of a positive COVID-19 test and a toe injury. The reigning MVP threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns without an interception Sunday despite dealing with a toe problem that he described as “very, very painful.”
“Got stepped on in the first half, and that kind of activated all the symptoms I was having,” Rodgers said after the game. “So it’s going to be another painful week next week, and hopefully start to feel a little better in the bye.”
Even with Rodgers playing hurt, the Packers scored touchdowns on each of their last four drives, excluding a one-play series in which they took a knee to close the first half. But that offense needs to start better. The Packers have totaled 13 first-half points over their past three games, though Rodgers missed one of those games.
WHAT NEEDS WORK
The defense that had played so well since the 38-3 season-opening loss to New Orleans crumbled in Minnesota. The secondary couldn’t slow down Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, who combined to catch 16 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns. … The field-goal unit still has issues. Mason Crosby went 1 of 2 on Sunday and has made six of his past 14 attempts.
WR Davante Adams had two catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns. … WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling had four receptions for 123 yards, including a game-tying 75-yard touchdown with 2:08 left in the game. … With WR Allen Lazard sidelined, WR Equanimeous St. Brown stepped up and had two catches for 43 yards plus an 11-yard carry. … OLB Preston Smith had two sacks. He has five sacks over his past four games and has at least one sack in each of them.
CB Eric Stokes, the first-round pick from Georgia, had one of his toughest performances in a solid rookie season. … CB Rasul Douglas, who had a game-clinching interception against Arizona earlier this season, appeared to misjudge a pass that resulted in Thielen’s 26-yard reception during the Vikings’ game-winning drive. … S Will Redmond was released Monday.
Jenkins’ season-ending injury makes Yosh Nijman the Packers’ first-team left tackle as long as Bakhtiari is out. Nijman made his first three NFL starts earlier this season when an ankle injury sidelined Jenkins.
“I think Yosh has all the traits you look for in an offensive lineman,” LaFleur said. “He’s big, he’s athletic, he can bend, he’s strong, powerful, everything. It’s just about putting it all together on a consistent basis.”
1: The number of times the Packers have lost a road game to an NFC North opponent in LaFleur’s three-year tenure. LaFleur was undefeated in those situations before Sunday. Both of LaFleur’s NFC North losses have come to the Vikings.
The Packers hope they don’t suffer another major injury Sunday when they host the Rams. Then they’ll try to get healthier during their week off.
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