Packers defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson’s season is over after ‘significant’ ankle injury
GREEN BAY — Mike Daniels would have stayed behind as well — if he could have. His row on the Green Bay Packers’ charter flight home from Sunday’s 31-17 loss at Washington felt awfully empty without his friend and defensive linemate, Muhammad Wilkerson, across the aisle from him.
“He sits right next to me,” Daniels said Monday afternoon, one day after Wilkerson suffered a serious ankle injury that will end his season after only three games. “It’s just all bad.
“You never want to see anybody go down, you don’t want to see your worst enemy go down out there. When you see one of your buddies go down, that makes it even worse. Mo and I are pretty close. That’s my brother there.”
Wilkerson left FedEx Field in an ambulance Sunday afternoon, required surgery on his injured left ankle and ended up having to stay in a Washington, D.C.-area hospital while his teammates traveled home after the loss.
Wilkerson’s ankle injury, which coach Mike McCarthy called “significant” on Monday afternoon, is serious enough that he won’t be able to play again this season, a source confirmed. Wilkerson not only broke his ankle but he also sustained additional damage.
Wilkerson was injured during the second quarter when safety Kentrell Brice inadvertently leg-whipped him. The Packers medical staff placed Wilkerson’s leg in what appeared to be an air cast or brace immediately and he was taken off the playing field on a cart, his hands grasping his facemask.
Wilkerson, who turns 29 next month, signed a one-year, $5 million free agent deal with the Packers in the offseason after the New York Jets cut him just two years into a five-year, $86 million deal. A former first-round pick with the Jets, Wilkerson was hoping to resurrect his career with his reunion with Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who coached him in New York. He started along with Daniels and 2016 first-round pick Kenny Clark, who has been the team’s best defensive lineman through three games — thanks in part to Wilkerson’s presence.
“(Wilkerson) played on dominant defenses before,” Daniels said. “He’s coming over here with a taste of what it’s like to be successful on defense, and he knows what it takes. So he brought that along and really helped guys along that way. Just in terms of how you approach the business, how you approach the game.”
Pettine’s scheme is predicated in part on a robust interior pass rush, something the Packers felt they would have this season with Wilkerson joining Daniels and Clark on the line. Without Wilkerson, the Packers will look to third-year man Dean Lowry and second-year defensive tackle Montravius Adams, who barely played last season as a rookie third-round pick because of a training-camp foot injury.
“It’s a big loss, but I think it’s also an opportunity for guys like myself and Montravius and other guys. He’s obviously a great player, a great talent, but I think we have guys in the room to really relish that role,” Lowry said. “I’m ready for the challenge and I’m excited for this week.”
The Packers will certainly have to be smart going forward with Clark, who played a whopping 52 of the team’s 61 defensive snaps against Washington (92 percent).
“The rotation is always important for your big guys up front there,” McCarthy said. “Kenny is off to a great start his first three weeks and did some really good things in there. But we’ve definitely got to watch his reps.”