Day-After Notes: Key Players Ready To Return

It appears the Packers could be getting some key players back from the injured list this week as they continue to make a run at a playoff spot in the NFC. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 16


It appears the Packers could be getting some key players back from the injured list this week as they continue to make a run at a playoff spot in the NFC.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday that he expects linebacker Aaron Kampman and tight end Jermichael Finley to return to practice on Wednesday, while linebacker Brandon Chillar also is expected to practice this week and be available to play.

Kampman missed Sunday's victory over the Cowboys with a concussion sustained in the loss at Tampa Bay. It was the first game Kampman missed due to injury in six years, and the lingering effects from the concussion prevented him from being cleared to practice all last week.

Kampman was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie seventh-round draft pick Brad Jones, who played well, but getting Kampman's experience and veteran presence back for the playoff push will be valuable for the defense.

"I think Aaron will be ready to go," McCarthy said. "I know he's doing a lot better."

So apparently is Finley, who has missed the last three games after injuring his knee on the opening possession at Cleveland back on Oct. 25. The medical staff has taken a cautious approach with Finley, who has said publicly he feels fine and wants to play, but McCarthy declared Finley will be practicing on Wednesday for the first time since the injury.

Finley's absence has forced the Packers to play with just two tight ends - Donald Lee and Spencer Havner - the past three games, and that has limited some of the offensive packages. Havner has caught four touchdown passes with Finley out, but the offense has missed Finley's athleticism and ability to stretch the defense down the middle of the field.

"I anticipate he'll be back if he gets through the week of practice," McCarthy said.

As for Chillar, he was active on Sunday after missing the Tampa Bay game with a broken hand, but he was only available in an emergency and didn't play. Chillar practiced last Friday with a club cast on his hand, the first time he's ever worn something like that, but McCarthy said he expects Chillar to get more comfortable with the club as the week goes on and could play a role on defense this coming Sunday against San Francisco.

"I think he'll definitely be back in the flow this week," McCarthy said. "He wants to practice with that."

With Chillar out, A.J. Hawk's role has expanded from playing in just the base defense to also playing nickel, and Hawk has played well the last two games. He posted six tackles (five solo), including his first sack of the season in Tampa and followed that up with four tackles (three solo) against the Cowboys.

The return of Kampman and Chillar, along with the emergence of Jones, to the linebacking corps should give the defense a wider array of packages to attack with, should it need them. McCarthy noted that Jones has warranted a chance to play more, but how the coaching staff might utilize him as a backup remains to be seen.

The six active linebackers, with only five who played, marked the team's thinnest depth at that position for a game this season.

Holding his own

If the additional healthy linebackers is a good problem to have, so is the potential one at right tackle. Getting his first NFL start there on Sunday, rookie fourth-round draft choice T.J. Lang "graded out very well," according to McCarthy, who said it appears Lang is more comfortable at right tackle than left tackle, which is to be expected considering the pass protection demands placed on a blind-side blocker.

Lang had taken the right tackle spot from both Mark Tauscher, who missed the game after injuring his knee during his first start of 2009 in Tampa, and Allen Barbre, who has been moved out of the starting lineup.

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin indicated the coaching staff is developing a comfort level with Lang, who has responded well to two position changes already in his rookie season - from left guard to left tackle and now to right tackle. There's still work to be done, but that's to be expected from a rookie who has only played a handful of games.

"As a coach, your confidence level is such that (you look at) is a guy going to compete when he's out there, or is a guy going to make a mistake that's going to get us beat, ... a mental mistake that's really going to be catastrophic?" Philbin said. "As a staff we feel comfortable those two things are going to happen - the guy is going to compete and the guy's going to know what's doing.

{sportsad300}"Is he fundamentally where he needs to be, where we'd like him to be on everything? No. But he's got good athletic skill, he's smart, he appears to have some toughness. It's a good place to start."

Tauscher is scheduled to go through a workout to test his knee on Tuesday, and the results of that workout will determine his practice availability for Wednesday and beyond. If Tauscher is healthy enough to play against the 49ers, the coaching staff will have to decide whether to go with him or Lang, and McCarthy said he will take the full week to sort that out.

More injuries

The Packers didn't come out of the Dallas game as healthy as it first appeared, when guard Daryn Colledge's ankle bruise was the only reported injury after the game.

On Monday, McCarthy listed a handful of other injuries, though none appear to be serious. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins and linebacker Desmond Bishop both have ankle issues that could lead to some missed practice time, while receiver Greg Jennings has a bruised knee that could keep him out of practice as well.

Fullback John Kuhn broke his hand in the game, but it's not a fracture that will require surgery like Chillar's. McCarthy said Kuhn's hand will be put in a splint and he may still try to practice.

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