GREEN BAY, WIS. - While a debate is raging outside the building about whether the Packers should keep using top receiver Randall Cobb as their punt and kickoff returner, coach Mike McCarthy wasn't budging an inch inside it.
Despite Cobb suffering an ankle injury in a 55-7 victory over Tennessee on Sunday, McCarthy said he has no intention of taking Cobb off returns once he is healthy. McCarthy said he is not going to play things differently, particularly in light of the consistency of the special teams units.
"I don't have a really high tolerance for this because I don't understand how you play scared in the game of football," McCarthy said. "I don't get that. I think it's convenient questioning. I understand the risk involved in every single play. Some plays are higher risk than others, and I'm fully aware of that.
"But you can't sit here and say special teams is important if you don't put a guy like Randall Cobb out there as a returner. Now, if we're sitting here next year, we might be having a different conversation, but the way our team is built for 2012, Randall Cobb is a huge part of our success on special teams."
After the game, McCarthy said the medical staff didn't think the injury was bad, and he reported again Monday morning that there doesn't appear to be a lot of concern about the injury. Nevertheless, Cobb might have a magnetic resonance imaging exam on the ankle to help assess the full extent of the injury.
"I don't know how to be concerned anymore, just the way the year's gone," McCarthy said, referencing all the team's injuries. "The medical staff does not have high concern. Randall's so positive, so he doesn't seem very concerned.
"But you go through the process and scans and so forth and make sure we get all the information."
Should the MRI show no serious damage and Cobb rebounds quickly from the injury, the debate becomes whether the Packers are putting him at unnecessary risk when he is returning punts and kickoffs.
During his two years with Green Bay in which he was the full-time returner and part-time receiver last year and full-time returner and receiver this year, Cobb hasn't had many injury problems.
Last year, he suffered a groin injury against the Bears in the second-to-last game of the season. He sat out the finale but came back to play in the playoff loss to the Giants.
This year, a hamstring pull and shoulder injury didn't even cause him to miss practice. He set the club record for net yardage in a season with 2,342 and has played roughly 60 percent of the offensive snaps and 30 percent of the special teams snaps without missing a game.
"Randall Cobb is a big part of our success on special teams," McCarthy said in defense of his decision. "Our special teams has been our most consistent unit of our football team from Week 1 to Week 15. You don't establish the way you play, the vision of the way you play, and then all of a sudden change going into the last week of the season."