With the daunting challenge of facing an offense with the star power of Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and Randy Moss, at least Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have a full complement of players.
Linebackers Clay Matthews and Brandon Chillar and defensive end Ryan Pickett are all listed as questionable, meaning there’s a 50 percent chance they’ll face the Vikings on Sunday, but Matthews and Chillar appear ready to go. Plus, veteran defensive backs Al Harris and Atari Bigby potentially will be cleared.
The decisions on all five of those players was to be determined during Friday afternoon’s game management meeting.
Getting back all five of those defensive players would provide a huge lift. That’s especially true with Matthews, who leads the NFL in sacks. Without Matthews last week, the Packers couldn’t get to Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne. To have any chance this week, the Packers will have to force the issue with Brett Favre.
“I think the plan is, it’s either all or nothing,” Matthews said when asked if he might be limited only to passing downs. “That’s kind of where we were at last week. I felt good last week, but it might have been a little too soon to just throw me in the fire. So, I think this week we’ve had the proper time and work, running on it, planting and bursting, so it feels good. I should be good to go. I’m sure they’ll spell me a few times to catch me a break, but at the same time, I look to continue my play which I‘ve put together to begin the season.”
“Obviously, Clay’s one of our premier players,” Capers said. “You’d like to have the ability to keep those guys out on the field. When he’s healthy and going, we don’t ever take him off the field.”
Coach Mike McCarthy said Chillar worked after practice with pads on to make sure his shoulder will hold up in the game. McCarthy said the status of Chillar and Pickett (ankle) will depend largely on how their injuries feel on Saturday.
McCarthy liked watching Harris and Bigby improve throughout the week, though it appears that Harris has the best chance of playing a major role. Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams figure to remain in the starting lineup, with Harris possibly supplanting Sam Shields as the third corner.
“He’s looked good. He’s looked real good,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said.
Like Harris, Bigby is champing at the bit to play — “I’m a football player, so I want to play,” he said — but the Packers could stick with Charlie Peprah and recently acquired Anthony Smith is in the mix, too. They’ve basically split reps opposite Pro Bowler Nick Collins.
Harris hasn’t played in 11 months and Bigby in nine-and-a-half months. Are they ready after just three practices?
“It’s hard to say until guys get out there and go full go in a game-type situation,” he said.
Packers injury report
Out: DE Mike Neal (shoulder), LB Brady Poppinga (knee). Doubtful: G/T Marshall Newhouse (back). Questionable: LB Brandon Chillar (shoulder), LB Clay Matthews (hamstring), DE Ryan Pickett (ankle), T Mark Tauscher (shoulder). Probable: T Chad Clifton (knee), S Nick Collins (knee), WR Donald Driver (quad), LB A.J. Hawk (groin), DE Cullen Jenkins (hand), CB Charles Woodson (toe).
Driver returned to practice on a limited basis. Woodson missed practice for a second consecutive day, with McCarthy saying the reason was “of a positive nature.” Woodson’s wife was due with their second child.
Vikings injury report
S Husain Abdullah (concussion). Questionable: T Chris DeGeare (ankle), CB Lito Sheppard (hand). Probable: CB Chris Cook (knee), T Ryan Cook (wrist), QB Brett Favre (ankle/elbow), DT Letroy Guion (toe), WR Percy Harvin (hamstring), LB E.J. Henderson (knee), TE Jim Kleinsasser (groin), DE Brian Robison (ankle), C John Sullivan (calf).
Vikings coach Brad Childress, on Harvin’s status: “He begged me, ‘Please, don’t put me as questionable for this game.’ He’s probable for this game. He had some hamstring soreness (Thursday) and he wasn’t able to do everything he needed to do.”
— While waiting for the locker room to open, the door popped open and former Packers running back Ahman Green came striding down the hall. Green, who lives in the area, plays for the Omaha franchise in the United Football League. He ranks fifth in the league with 104 rushing yards and is averaging 3.4 yards per carry.
— McCarthy, on the state of the team after the overtime losses: “There’s a lot of energy, a lot of confidence. Everybody’s looking forward to Sunday night’s game for good reason. I’m comfortable with the week that we’ve had. We’ve had two days in shells. I always concern myself with that from a coaching standpoint, but I think that’s where we are for other reasons. But I’m pleased so far with the week’s preparation.”
— Collins, on whether the defense got an extra “spring in its step” with the return of Harris and Bigby: “They know the game, they’ve been around the game, they understand what’s going on. It just adds more depth to our team. Now, you’ve got a lot of players that have played the game, understand it and you can do a lot more stuff as a team.”
— B.J. Raji, on the new emphasis against helmet-to-helmet hits but no crackdowns on illegal blocking like cut blocks: “The one I’m concerned about is when you’re engaged with a guy and (another) guy comes and shoots at your legs. There’s always some excuse that they give about, ‘Yeah, you’re not engaged.’ They know what’s going on. It’s just the league we play in, and you’ve got to deal with it.”
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