The Green Bay Packers are getting a little healthier as the season gets a little closer.
Receiver Greg Jennings, tight end Jermichael Finley, fullback John Kuhn and cornerback Sam Shields returned from injuries, and new running back Cedric Benson participated in his first full-pads practice.
Not only is the team getting healthier, it’s feeling fresher after a couple days off.
“They’re starting to get their legs back a little bit,” coach Mike McCarthy said after Sunday’s practice. “Last week was a tough week, four days of in a row practice, and then the Thursday night game. But the tempo was excellent. We actually finished up early. Standing in the back behind the huddle, I liked the work.”
Jennings returned after sustaining a concussion on Family Night. Finley missed both preseason games with a quad strain, though his absence was more for precautionary reasons than anything.
“Of course I would’ve played (if it were the regular season),” Finley said. “If you have something broken or a ligament loose, of course you can’t play, but a quad injury, I can play through it. But you want to rest it when it’s hurt so it won’t come up on you in the regular season.”
With Thursday’s game at Cincinnati being the so-called dress rehearsal for the regular season, the Packers would like Jennings and Finley some game action. McCarthy, however, will proceed with caution.
“Greg and Jermichael’s situations were similar in the fact that a lot of attention has been paid to their conditioning,” McCarthy said. “It was important for them since they both went through the rehab process to condition and we’ll see what they look like here after three days of practice. (They’re) two outstanding football players, and any time you have those type of guys out in the mix, it definitely adds to your group when they come back. But I want to see those guys go through a full week of practice and then we’ll see where they are for Thursday night.”
Returned to practice: FB John Kuhn (ankle); RB Cedric Benson (coach’s decision); CB Sam Shields (elbow); WR Greg Jennings (concussion); TE Jermichael Finley (quad).
Old injuries: WR Shaky Smithson (ankle); WR Diondre Borel (groin); RB Duane Bennett (knee); CB Davon House (shoulder); RB Brandon Saine (hamstring); FB Jon Hoese (hamstring); RB James Starks (turf toe); LB Desmond Bishop (hamstring/knee); G Ray Dominguez (ankle).
McCarthy said Saine might return next week but Starks is “probably a couple weeks” away from practicing.
Active PUP list: OLB Frank Zombo (hamstring), DL Johnny Jones (knee), T Derek Sherrod (leg) and TE Andrew Quarless (knee).
The week ahead
There are only five training camp practices remaining. The team will practice at 11:15 a.m. on Monday (pads) and 11 a.m. on Tuesday (helmets) before an off day on Wednesday. Green Bay plays at Cincinnati at 6 p.m. on Thursday. After days off on Friday, the team gets back to work at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday and Monday (both in pads). The final practice will be on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 11 a.m. (helmets).
— Rookie fourth-round pick Jerron McMillian took his first reps at safety with the starting defense. He had a productive night against Cleveland, particularly with his physicality. Jarrett Bush was back at right cornerback in place of rookie Casey Hayward, and Shields joined Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings and Bush in dime.
— McCarthy was thrilled that it rained, but practice was moved inside the Don Hutson Center because of lightning. “I don’t mess around with lightning. Never have, never will,” McCarthy said. “There’s a protocol and we have people that are responsible for having those instruments on the field, and based on the location to where the lightning struck, I’m not taking any chances.”
— The starters will play the first half on Thursday night at Cincinnati.
— The Packers are 0-2 in the preseason for the first time since 2008, when they finished 6-10 amid the tumultuous transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. McCarthy’s other preseason starts: 1-1 in 2006, 2-0 in 2007, 2-0 in 2009 and 1-1 in 2010 and 2011.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.