Notebook: Bigby Expects To Be Back

By all accounts, it appears the Packers will have starting safety Atari Bigby back in the lineup on Sunday for the first time since the season opener, and his return could provide a significant boost to the defense. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 15

By all accounts, it appears the Packers will have starting safety Atari Bigby back in the lineup on Sunday for the first time since the season opener, and his return could provide a significant boost to the defense.

Bigby injured his knee in a collision with teammate Al Harris in the Week 1 contest against the Bears, and he hadn't even returned to the practice field until this week. But Bigby has been a full participant in practice each of the last two days, which included a full-pads workout on Thursday, and he's anxious to get back into game action.

"It feels a lot better being in there than being on the sidelines, I'll tell you that much," Bigby said.

His teammates feel a lot better too. Since Bigby went down, the starting safety spot alongside Nick Collins has been troublesome, with Aaron Rouse getting released after one start in Week 2, and Derrick Martin getting benched in Week 4 at Minnesota.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Bigby's presence gives "a different life to our defense," while nose tackle Ryan Pickett likened Bigby to Indianapolis Colts safety Bob Sanders as a player whose abilities in run support and in laying hits on receivers helps the defense all over the field.

"It puts a lot of teeth in our defense," Pickett said. "When we're missing someone like him, he's a major part of our defense. He's a great player playing the pass and the run. Just having him out there, having his personality and his attitude out on the field, we've missed it tremendously."

Bigby himself senses the defense is more confident when he's out there, too. Now he just doesn't want to let anybody down.

"You have a guy back there that knows the calls, is going to get everybody in the right call and is personally going to sacrifice his body for the team," Bigby said.

"I try to be a confident safety back there. It's like being a pilot. You don't want to hear your pilot say, 'OK, we're going down!' You want him to land that thing, safe and sound, wherever you're at. So I think that's what I bring and that's what they feel when I'm back there."

Bigby was hoping to solidify his starting spot this season after an injury-plagued 2008. Coming off a strong finish to 2007 when he was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December with four interceptions and then made several big hits in the playoffs, Bigby was never fully healthy last year, battling ankle, hamstring and shoulder injuries throughout the season.

He missed the on-field offseason work due to ankle surgery and then came back slowly on a one-a-day practice schedule during training camp. But he felt healthy when the season began, only to see that last less than a full game.

"It's been hard, because I'm thinking I'm coming back and regaining my form from '07, and then I get hurt the first game, so I'm like, 'Here we go again,'" Bigby said. "But you can do nothing but get after it, make sure you're rehabbing right, and get in the weight room and get back ready."

It appears he is ready, and his teammates are ready for him too.

"It helps us out, because of course again he knows the defense, in and out," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "Just putting him back in this week, we haven't missed a beat as far as making checks, making calls. We can do everything with him in the game, so we look forward to having him back."

One last push

Woodson, who publicly criticized the defensive play calls and the team's depth in the secondary after the loss at Minnesota, confessed on Thursday that part of his response to the tough defeat had to do with just how badly he wants to win a Super Bowl before he retires.

Woodson has come close, having played in a Super Bowl with Oakland (2002) and in an AFC Championship (2000). He also played in the NFC Championship with Green Bay in 2007. He has said this year he feels the Packers have a legitimate shot at winning it all, but thus far the team hasn't played like it.

"At this point really the only thing left for me as a player is to win the championship," he said. "Being close and being there and not winning is just not enough. I want to be a part of a great team, and to be a part of a great team, you have to win the whole thing, and that's the only way you secure the fact that people talk about your team for years to come. No question there's a little desperation there as far as a championship is concerned."

Woodson hinted he probably should have used more "discretion" in his post-game comments, but he has since talked to defensive coordinator Dom Capers and the two are "on the same page."

"I like speaking my mind but at the same time, there's a lot of other guys involved besides myself," Woodson said. "I know we're all working hard for the same goal, and we're frustrated with losing. Are there some things we can do better? Absolutely."

Season debut

Running back Brandon Jackson hasn't played since injuring his ankle in the third preseason game at Arizona, but the third-year pro is likely to have a significant role in his first game action of 2009 with fellow back DeShawn Wynn battling a knee injury.

Wynn, who has served as the third-down back the first four games, hasn't practiced at all this week while Jackson is back to full duty.

"It's been a long time," Jackson said of his layoff, which included an attempted return and setback a couple of weeks ago. "Right now I'm just excited to practice, just going out there. That's my game right now. I've already had two games and I'm going into my third one tomorrow. I'm just taking every chance, every rep and making the most of it."

Tough matchup

Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson is nursing a knee injury and hasn't practiced yet this week for the Lions, and if he's unable to play on Sunday it would take away the Packers' most difficult matchup in the game.

In his first two years in the NFL, Johnson has been impressive against Green Bay. In four games, he has 26 catches for 368 yards (14.2 avg.) and five touchdowns. Most of that damage came in the two games last season, when he topped 100 yards in each game and scored two TDs in each contest.

Johnson, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds, has that rare combination of size, speed and leaping ability that allows him to make plays even when the coverage on him is sound. And when it's not, he's all the more dangerous.

{sportsad300}Cornerback Tramon Williams believes it's not just the physical tools that make Johnson such a big threat, though.

"He's got a great football IQ, and I feel if you've got a great football IQ, that will take you a long way, especially with that size," Williams said.

If Johnson is able to play, it will be interesting to see whether the Packers' new 3-4 defense, which switches up man-to-man and zone coverages more often than the previous system, will have an effect on Johnson.

"Obviously he's a talent that you have to know where he is on the field, and you have to make those adjustments," Williams said.

Injury/participation report

Center/guard Jason Spitz (back) and center Scott Wells (hamstring) were added to the injury report on Thursday as limited participants. Both injuries occurred during Thursday's practice and the players were sent to the training room for treatment, though McCarthy didn't think either problem was serious. Third-string center Evan Dietrich-Smith took all of the 11-on-11 snaps at center in practice.

Other changes to the injury report included left tackle Chad Clifton (ankle) being upgraded from limited to a full participant - a good indication he'll be able to start on Sunday - and linebacker Brady Poppinga (illness) returning to the field as a full participant after missing the workouts on Monday and Wednesday.

In addition to Bigby and Jackson, other guard Daryn Colledge (knee) and linebacker Jeremy Thompson (knee) participated fully in practice for the second straight day. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins (ankle), Pickett (hip) and offensive tackle Mark Tauscher (knee) remained limited, while fullback Korey Hall (calf) is out this week.

For the Lions, in addition to Johnson, defensive tackle Sammie Hill (ankle), defensive ends Jason Hunter (ankle) and DeWayne White (hamstring), running back Maurice Morris (hip) and safety Ko Simpson (hamstring) did not participate in practice for the second straight day.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford (knee) and defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee) were downgraded from limited and did not participate in practice Thursday. Fullback Jerome Felton (shoulder) and tight end Casey FitzSimmons (thigh) were upgraded to limited.

Tackle Gosder Cherilus (shoulder) and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (hamstring) remained full participants in practice, while linebackers Jordan Dizon (foot) and Ernie Sims (shoulder) remained limited.

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