GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy is calling it a "stretch," but Greg Jennings isn't ruling out the possibility he'll be ready to play on Sunday, after taking what he called a "big step" on Wednesday.
Jennings returned to the practice field for some jog-through snaps and individual drills before continuing to rehab from his abdominal/groin surgery. Getting back on the field has intensified the "itch," Jennings said, after missing the last six games.
"Me personally, I don't feel like I'm a longshot," Jennings said, when told of the characterization of his status by McCarthy, who acknowledged that the veteran receiver is pushing to play. "Playing it safe, they could say longshot. But I feel great. The body feels great."
It's been a long time since Jennings could say that. He first injured the abdominal/groin area in Week 1, missed one game, then came back for a game and a half before reinjuring it. He also dealt with a concussion and other bumps and bruises in training camp, all of which has made this the most trying season of the Pro Bowler's seven-year career.
Faced with so much frustration, Jennings' "spirits are good," and his biggest obstacle right now is getting his endurance back after so much time off. Through all the running he did on Wednesday, Jennings said his "wind is horrible."
"I pretty much pushed myself to see how much I could take," he said. "As far as speed, I got up to full speed on a few routes."
The Packers hope they're hitting full speed with five straight wins after a 2-3 start, though they're being reminded often this week what they look like when they're not in high gear.
The 37-20 playoff loss to the Giants that ended a 15-1 season has been part of the team's film study, obviously. Both teams' roster are similar to 2011. Perhaps any discomfort the film generates will serve as a reality check for a team that arguably has as much momentum now as it did last year at this time, when it was the league's lone unbeaten.
"Watching the playoff game, it wasn't fun. I think that's obvious," McCarthy said. "It's part of the process. This is a regular-season game. We all understand how our season ended, and we answered those questions respectfully throughout the offseason, but we're focused on going 8-3 and that's really what the message was today."
The Packers got to 7-3 with a clutch, late fourth-quarter TD drive in Detroit to erase a 20-14 deficit. With two new "starters" on the offensive line (T.J. Lang at right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard), the Packers struggled at times with the Lions' defensive line, and the Giants' front four is a notch above.
Yet, with the game on the line, the offense drove 82 yards in 2½ minutes to quiet the hostile Ford Field crowd. Coincidentally, the last time the offense put together a crucial drive on the road that late in the game was a game-winning march for a field goal against the Giants last December.
"It was a good test for us," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of the Detroit game, "because you're dealing with two guys in new positions, crowd noise, late fourth-quarter drives – a lot of situations that were difficult for us to deal with and good practice for us moving forward.
"I think we'll be better equipped this week. We've got another tough road game with the crowd noise, a game that could come down to the last possession, like it did last year in the regular season."
It didn't in the playoffs, but like McCarthy said, the Packers are done talking about the past.
"We've tipped our hats to them numerous times," Jennings said. "We're done tipping our hat for last year. This is a new year. They have a new team, we have a new team. The best team will win on Sunday night." Additional coverage - Nov. 21