Notebook: Blackmon, Raji Game-Day Decisions

Cornerback/returner Will Blackmon and nose tackle B.J. Raji both practiced on a limited basis on Friday and whether or not they will play Sunday night likely won’t be decided until a few hours before kickoff. Both are officially listed as questionable (50 percent chance of playing) on the team’s injury report. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Sept. 11

Cornerback/returner Will Blackmon and nose tackle B.J. Raji both practiced on a limited basis on Friday and whether or not they will play Sunday night likely won't be decided until a few hours before kickoff.

Both are officially listed as questionable (50 percent chance of playing) on the team's injury report.

Blackmon, the team's top punt and kick returner, practiced on Friday for the first time since taking a knee to the thigh in the second preseason game vs. Buffalo on Aug. 22. The bruised quadriceps has been slow to heal, but Blackmon did field a couple of balls on returns Friday after doing an extensive running and cutting workout in the Don Hutson Center on Thursday.

"One thing I'm able to do is I'm still able to catch the ball, even though I haven't caught it in a while," he said. "I exploded a couple times and I felt pretty good."

If Blackmon can't play, receiver Jordy Nelson and cornerback Tramon Williams would be the top options on the return units. After returning a punt for a touchdown in the Packers' prime-time opener against Minnesota last year, Blackmon confessed he'd be disappointed if he weren't allowed to go out there on Sunday night.

"I would understand, but I would be (disappointed), because it's the first game," he said. "It's the biggest deal so far, it's the division, it's prime time, it's Chicago. There's nothing more you can say about it."

As for Raji, who injured his ankle in last Thursday's preseason finale in Tennessee, he returned to practice for the first time on Thursday of this week. He was still limping a bit on Friday, but Head Coach Mike McCarthy said Raji felt better on Friday than he did previously, and with two full days to go before a final decision is needed, McCarthy said "it's going to be close."

If Raji is available, he would be the primary backup to Ryan Pickett at nose tackle and also be among the defensive end rotation that will include Cullen Jenkins, Johnny Jolly and probably either Jarius Wynn or Michael Montgomery. He could also potentially be used as one of the two pass-rushing down linemen in the nickel package.

On Thursday, Raji expressed confidence that he would play, though McCarthy also said that the team wouldn't take a chance on his long-term health just to use him in the season opener against the Bears.

Other injury news

Running back Brandon Jackson (ankle) has not practiced all week and is listed as doubtful for Sunday. Quarterback Matt Flynn (shoulder) and safety Aaron Rouse (hamstring) have been full participants in practice and are probable.

For Chicago, cornerback Charles Tillman all of training camp and the preseason with a back injury but returned to practice this week and was a full participant all three days. The Bears have listed him as questionable on their injury report, but the Packers' receivers are expecting to see Chicago's veteran cornerback across from them on Sunday night.

"In my mind, I've played against Tillman a few times now, Tillman's going to play," receiver Greg Jennings said. "That's how I approach the game. He's a competitor. To me, he's their best corner, he's their best guy in the secondary, he makes plays for those guys. We all approach the game as though he's playing."

Tillman is known as one of the best strip-tacklers in any defensive backfield, able to rip the ball away from a receiver after he catches it. He did it twice on consecutive possessions to Green Bay's James Jones on a Sunday night game at Lambeau in 2007.

Chicago nose tackle Israel Idonije (hamstring) was a full participant in practice the past two days and is probable. Receiver Devin Aromashodu (quad) was limited and is questionable.

The family legacy continues

When linebacker Clay Matthews takes the field on Sunday night, the Matthews family will officially become only the second three-generation NFL family.

Matthews' grandfather, Clay Sr., played defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers for four seasons in the 1950s, and his father, Clay Jr., played linebacker for 19 seasons with the Cleveland Browns (1978-93) and Atlanta Falcons (1994-96). Clay's given name is William Clay Matthews III, and his uncle, Bruce, was also a Hall of Fame offensive lineman with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans (1983-2001).

The only other family with three generations of NFL players is the Pynes. George Pyne Jr. played for the Providence Steam Rollers in 1931, George Pyne III played for the Boston Patriots in 1965, and Jim Pyne played a total of eight seasons (1994-2001) for the Buccaneers, Lions, Browns and Eagles.

Matthews said his NFL debut won't be a big emotional deal for him, because he's been more concerned with getting over the hamstring injury that dogged him throughout OTAs and forced him to miss the first three preseason games last month.

"It's good to be back out here," Matthews said of his full-time return to practice. "It was last week. Hopefully we can put everything behind us and strictly concentrate on the regular season and Chicago now."

{sportsad300}As for the matchup against the Bears, Matthews was asked if he saw the game tape of Chicago's preseason game against Denver, during which Broncos outside linebacker/defensive end Elvis Dumervil gave Bears left tackle Orlando Pace some trouble with his pass rush, despite surrendering more than 75 pounds to the veteran blocker. Dumervil is listed at 248 pounds to Pace's 325. Matthews, playing the same position as Dumervil, weighs 250.

"I definitely got to see him rush against Pace and he did a great job," Matthews said. "Being a smaller guy and a quick guy, hopefully I can bring that same thing to the table. Pace is an outstanding player. He wouldn't be around this long if he wasn't. I'm definitely going to have my hands full but hopefully I can bring some new and exciting energy to the table."

What to do, what to do...

One of the drawbacks to playing in prime time for the season opener is the long wait on game day to get dressed and take the field. Some players prefer to watch other football games to pass the time, others get too anxious watching other games and keep themselves occupied in other ways.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said earlier this week he would probably take a nap, while cornerback Charles Woodson said he'd be keeping tabs on all the Week 1 games on TV.

"Absolutely, I love football," Woodson said. "I'm a fan as well as a player, so I watch as much as I can on Sunday. It's just good to see football back."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Advertising