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Notebook: Kuhn Ready As Lead FB

Korey Hall’s hip injury elevates backup fullback John Kuhn into the lead role this week, but it’s not as though the second-year pro has to dust off his helmet. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Bears Game Center Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 19

Korey Hall's hip injury elevates backup fullback John Kuhn into the lead role this week, but it's not as though the second-year pro has to dust off his helmet.

Over the last several weeks, Kuhn had been getting more and more game snaps at fullback as a lead blocker, particularly on short-yardage plays, and sharing fullback responsibilities with Hall. So he's ready from both a physical and mental standpoint to be the main guy this week and probably next, depending on the progress of Hall's recovery.

"I think it's a big help," Kuhn said. "It gives me confidence personally, and I think it gives the coaches confidence to toss me in there and let me do the things they would let Korey do before he got hurt."

Kuhn noted one thing he and the offensive line have their eyes on is getting running back Ryan Grant over 1,000 yards. Grant has 799 this season, and needs 201 over the final two games to hit the milestone, which would be a remarkable achievement considering he didn't become the feature back until the second quarter of the season's seventh game.

"That's a big thing for us running backs, the line, the fullbacks -- that's something we really want to accomplish," Kuhn said. "Especially with the heat that the run game took at the beginning of the year. We want to prove we were able to pull it together and become a good, strong running team."

Even with taking on a larger load at fullback this week, Kuhn still expects to continue playing on all the special teams units, where he's posted 10 tackles this season. Special teams will take on a heightened importance against the Bears, who feature punt and kick returner extraordinaire, Devin Hester.

"I'm still very focused on Devin Hester as a returner, and so is the whole special teams," Kuhn said. "Coach (Mike) Stock won't let us forget about him."

Pickett iffy, Harrell could start

Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett's groin injury likely will limit the big run-stuffer in practice all week, and his status for Sunday's game is in question. Pickett said he expects to really test the injury on Saturday or Sunday to see if he'll be able to play.

"I'm not ruling myself out," he said. "It's completely up to the coaches and the doctors, and we'll see how we feel later.

"I don't like taking any (time) off. I want to play every snap, every game. If it were totally up to me, I wouldn't miss a game or a play. I definitely want to play."

If Pickett is sidelined, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said rookie first-round draft pick Justin Harrell would make his first NFL start.

Harrell has received a steadily increasing workload since returning to action Nov. 29 in Dallas after missing five games due to an ankle injury. He has shown some stoutness against the run, posting seven total tackles over the last three games. But having missed so much time during the off-season due to a torn bicep and then sustaining the midseason setback with the ankle, Harrell said he's by no means come of age just yet.

"It's way too early," he said. "I've only got about 2-3 games under my belt. Last game was probably the most reps I've gotten since the preseason game. It's one of those things the more I do it, the more comfortable I get. I just want to go out there and take advantage of every play, every opportunity I've got and try to make the best of it."

Harrell is also battling a thumb injury suffered in last week's game, but he said it would just need a splint and a good wrap and he'll be fine to play.

"It's still attached," Harrell joked about his thumb. "I'm just going to wrap up it, not worry about it and go out there and play football.

"It's a nuisance, because I use my hands every play pretty much. Every time I hit somebody, I feel it, but it's one of those things. It's football. People go out there and play with a lot worse things than a dislocated thumb, so it's one of those things where you get that adrenaline going and you won't be worried about it."

Putting it behind him

Linebacker Nick Barnett said he was disappointed he didn't make the NFC Pro Bowl squad, but he's not going to let it bog him down and get in the way of him leading the Packers' defense.

{sportsad300}Barnett got some encouraging words from Brett Favre after practice on Wednesday, as the quarterback encouraged him to shrug it off and realize there are many more Pro Bowls he'll have a chance to go to.

"I'm more disappointed in the fact that a lot of players didn't end up going, which should happen when you have a 12-2 team," said Barnett, who was named a first alternate behind four Packers who made the team. "It's not four players winning these games.

"For me, the Pro Bowl is important but it's not the most important thing in this game. The only bowl game that really counts is the Super Bowl, and that's still an option, that's still a goal right now."

Barnett said he was particularly happy that teammate Al Harris made the Pro Bowl. Harris, like Barnett, had been passed over in previous deserving seasons.

But the only recourse at this point is to stay focused on what's still at stake for the team, and Barnett plans to do that.

"Personally this was probably my best season since I've been here," he said. "Why it's my best season? We're 12-2, our defense is playing excellent. There's great guys around us, great chemistry. So I'm definitely proud of this season but it's not over yet. There's a lot of work to do to get where we've got to go."

More on injuries

In addition to Hall and Pickett, 11 other players are on the Packers' injury report and all were limited in practice on Wednesday.

They were cornerbacks Jarrett Bush (calf), Charles Woodson (toe) and Harris (heel), offensive lineman Chad Clifton (shoulder), Junius Coston (ankle), and Mark Tauscher (ankle), tight end Bubba Franks (knee), receiver Koren Robinson (knee), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (hamstring), safety Aaron Rouse (shoulder) and linebacker Tracy White (ankle).

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