The Packers may not be in such dire straits at tight end on Sunday after all.
Both Jermichael Finley (shoulder) and D.J. Williams (hamstring) returned to practice on Friday on a limited basis and appear to have a decent chance of playing. Both players did rehab work during the individual drills in practice and then took a number of snaps during the team drills.
They're both listed as questionable on the injury report, which officially means they're 50-50. McCarthy said it could come down to a pre-game workout late Sunday afternoon in Houston.
"We got them as many reps as we possibly could, and we'll see how both those guys are in the morning," McCarthy said.
Finley's issue could be one of "pain tolerance," according to McCarthy, regarding the sprained joint in his shoulder. Finley hasn't put pads on nor done any hitting this week, so it's possible he could be held out of the game to give the injury more time to heal. Fellow tight end Tom Crabtree dealt with a similar injury earlier this year and benefited greatly from sitting out the Week 3 game in Seattle.
Finley re-confirmed on Friday his desire to, and belief that he can, play in the game. He's been saying that all week, adding that he's motivated to play an NFL game in his home state of Texas for the first time. Finley was on injured reserve when the Packers won the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium outside of Dallas two seasons ago.
"I think I'm ready," Finley said. "Coach has me down as questionable right now, but we've got 48 hours until we play and the shoulder is going to get rested. I'm feeling good about Sunday.
"I think I'm in."
Elsewhere on offense, wide receiver Greg Jennings (groin) has been ruled out for the second straight week. Jennings re-injured his groin in Week 4 against New Orleans after sitting out just one game when he originally hurt it.
"We feel that he's probably at the spot where he was before we played against the Saints," McCarthy said. "So we're going to give him another probably six days before we even attempt to test him."
On defense, nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) didn't practice at all this week and is listed as questionable. Often McCarthy is reluctant to dress players who don't practice at all, but he occasionally makes exceptions for veterans, and Raji falls into that category.
Raji's presence could be critical against Houston's running game, featuring the league's second-leading rusher in Arian Foster.
"We've had to prepare all week to go without B.J., and that's the way you have to approach it from a coach's perspective," McCarthy said. "But B.J. is definitely at the point in his career if he's ready to go, then we'll give him the opportunity to do that."
If Raji can't play, veteran Ryan Pickett most likely takes over at nose tackle in the base defense, a position he has played plenty. The bigger change is that the team's young defensive linemen – such as rookies Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels and third-year pro Mike Neal – who have been used more as pass rushers to this point, will have to take on more run-defense responsibilities.
"If B.J. isn't able to go on Sunday, which we hope he will, it puts more pressure on the young guys to step up and bring more to the table," said starting defensive end C.J. Wilson, a regular run stopper. "We just have to pick up the slack." Additional coverage - Oct. 12