GREEN BAY — Coach Mike McCarthy wants his players in the mind-set to make big plays, but he also wants them healthy.
So it's safe to say the Green Bay Packers' coaches have talked to cornerback Sam Shields about using better judgment when returning an interception, especially out of his own end zone, though the talk might not have been necessary considering Shields sustained a concussion on an interception return Sunday that could sideline him this week against Minnesota.
Shields was injured when he attempted to return an interception from the end zone Sunday against St. Louis with the Packers ahead by three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He took a hard shot to his chest that he didn't see coming before he got out of the end zone and left the game because of a head injury that
McCarthy on Monday confirmed is a concussion.
"I think he learned a lesson yesterday on the field," McCarthy said at his press conference. "You don't want to take away the aggressiveness of your players, particularly defensive players, and our ability to score or make big returns. You can't have it both ways.
"But as I said in the press conference (Sunday), any time you handle the football you're a primary decision maker, whether you're a quarterback, the running back, receiver. The ball in your hands, you have to make good decisions. After the first guy he was able to get away from there, there were a lot of white shirts there."
Shields now will have to pass the NFL's concussion protocol before he can begin practicing, which means his availability this week is in jeopardy.
"Just be smart," McCarthy said of interception returns. "You don't want players taking unnecessary hits in this game. We all know how tough it is when you lose players to injuries."
Who will be the QB?
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he won't reveal until Wednesday whether Donovan McNabb or first-round draft pick Christian Ponder will be his starting quarterback this week, which means the Packers will have to prepare for both.
Ponder replaced McNabb for the Vikings' final two series Sunday night against Chicago, and with the Vikings at 1-5, Frazier appears to be seriously considering starting Ponder so the team can begin evaluating whether the rookie can be the quarterback of its future.
The Packers' defensive coaches can study McNabb off their game against Washington last season plus the first six games this year. The only video they have of Ponder in the NFL is from the preseason and the final two series Sunday night.
"You're talking about a veteran quarterback who can move around and a young guy that obviously has good ability or he wouldn't have been picked where he was," said Dom Capers, the Packers' defensive coordinator. "I really haven't had a chance to study Ponder yet. I've certainly played against McNabb a number of times."
Dropping the ball
Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin suggested that the Packers have credited their offensive skill players with 10 drops in the last two games, which he said is up from five or six drops over the first four games.
Receivers Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver had the most blatant drops this past week against St. Louis — Nelson when he turned up field before securing the catch on an out pattern, Driver on a short crossing route.
"That's a trend that we honestly as coaches — we're not real smart — but we drew up to the guys after we watched the film and went through some of our corrections," Philbin said. "We sat there together as a unit, we addressed a couple places where we have to get better at. It's safe to say when you have 10 drops in two weeks, that's a concern. So we have to get back to catching the football better."
Playing conditions weren't a factor in the Packers' drops the previous week at Atlanta, but this past week the winds at Lambeau Field were 23 to 32 mph and swirling. The wind was strong enough that it noticeably blew the snaps on at least a couple of Tim Masthay's five punts and pushed St. Louis kicker Josh Brown's 47-yard field goal attempt wide right.
Shawn Slocum, the Packers' special teams coach, said that though the wind was blowing from the west above the stadium, it blew to the stadium bowl.
"This is one of the challenging places when the wind blows, and the way the stadium is built it swirls around," Slocum said, "but this is our home and we should have an advantage here."
McCarthy wouldn't take sides in the handshake brouhaha Sunday between Lions coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, but the Packers' coach said decorum is important when shaking the opposing coach's hand after a game. "There's a respect that goes with this game of football.," McCarthy said. "I'm not going to judge other people. It's an emotional game, things do happen. But I think it's important to handle it appropriately when you cross the field whatever your feelings are at that particular time." ... McCarthy said outside linebacker Frank Zombo sustained a hyperextended knee Sunday against St. Louis. Zombo played through the injury in the game. McCarthy offered no details on the injury, but it appears Zombo's status for this week could be in jeopardy. ... McCarthy, on the possibility of overlooking the 1-5 Vikings this week: "We're not overlooking the Minnesota Vikings, I can promise you that. This is a very competitive division. It's always an extremely competitive game in the Metrodome, it's a tough place to play. We've played well over there in the past, our fans do a great job of showing up for us in the Metrodome. But the louder they yell, the louder the Vikings fans yell, so it's a loud place to play. You definitely have to detail your work when you go in there. By no means are we overlooking the Vikings." ... McCarthy said he didn't see linebacker A.J. Hawk give the finger to a teammate or teammates on the sideline after his first-half sack Sunday. "He said he was joking," McCarthy said. "I'm not going to sit here and try to explain his sense of humor, but like I said, (Hawk) addressed it (Sunday)."