GREEN BAY—Due to the limitations on padded practices, the Packers only had one left over the last few weeks of the regular season, and Mike McCarthy decided to save it for this week.
That could turn out to be a wise decision.
The Packers donned their pads on Thursday for a workout McCarthy referred to on Friday as the most "spirited" practice the team has had "in at least a month."
"I actually took the pads off them for the last team period," McCarthy said. "I was a little concerned it was a little too active.
"Our guys are ready. We're focused on beating the Vikings and sweeping the division."
If they can do that, they'll also earn a first-round bye and most likely keep the Vikings out of the postseason.
All of those implications, combined with perhaps the healthiest roster the Packers have fielded since the first month of the season, played into the energy exuded this week.
"It had been a while since we'd practiced in pads, and we've had so many injuries, but I kind of feel like we were pretty healthy this week," said tight end Tom Crabtree, one of several players returning from injury for this game. "I think (McCarthy) thought it was time to get back into our normal groove. It was a fun practice. There were definitely some pads popping.
"This is a huge game for both teams. We understand that. We're pumped up."
The most significant health question for the Packers deals with receiver/returner Randall Cobb, who tested his ankle and knee injuries on Friday with a combination of returns, practice reps and rehab work.
Cobb is officially listed as questionable on the injury report, and McCarthy wouldn't say whether Cobb would for sure return punts and kicks if he does play.
"We'll see how he is in the morning. He looked pretty good," McCarthy said. "We'll let Sunday answer that (return) question."
If Cobb isn't the returner Sunday, first-year receiver Jeremy Ross said the duties are his. Ross filled in for Cobb after he got hurt last Sunday and returned a punt 58 yards against Tennessee, which helped make up for his fumble on a throwback from Cobb on a trick return a week earlier in Chicago. Ross was a regular returner in college at Cal.
"I think it would be a great opportunity," he said. "I would be excited."
The Packers are equally excited to get back receiver Jordy Nelson, running back Alex Green and defensive linemen C.J. Wilson and Jerel Worthy.
Nelson has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, while Wilson has sat out the last four with a knee injury. Green (concussion) and Worthy (hamstring) both were sidelined last week.
"I feel good about Jordy Nelson," McCarthy said of his big-play receiver, whose return becomes all the more critical if Cobb is unable to play. "He's gone through a full week of work. I have no reason not to believe he'll be ready to go Sunday."
McCarthy feels the same about his team as a whole.
"We talked about getting into a single-elimination mindset, the urgency that goes with these types of games," McCarthy said. "I really like the way our team has practiced this week." Additional coverage - Dec. 28