Notebook: Overall Health Benefits Entire Team

The benefits of having a healthy football team go beyond just the game on Sunday. The Packers have a season-low four players on this week’s injury report and two of them - linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring) and tackle Chad Clifton (knees) - were full participants in practice on Thursday. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 6

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The benefits of having a healthy football team go beyond just the game on Sunday.

The Packers have a season-low four players on this week's injury report and two of them - linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring) and tackle Chad Clifton (knees) - were full participants in practice on Thursday.

That level of participation by essentially the full squad not only helps the team prepare better for its upcoming opponent, but it allows the snaps to be shared appropriately during practice and it provides a chance for players to sharpen their skills while staying fresh during the week.

"It really gives you the opportunity for your whole football team to improve," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "You've got every player on your roster throughout, practice squad included, everybody is playing the position they're supposed to be playing. I just think that helps so much because your 'look' squads (scout teams) are better, and the players have the opportunity to continue to improve at their specific craft. To me that carries over to the games."

The Packers have gotten appreciably healthier since before the bye week, when five regular players (safety Atari Bigby, cornerback Al Harris, defensive ends Jason Hunter and Michael Montgomery, and receiver James Jones) were held out of the Oct. 19 game vs. Indianapolis due to injury.

All but Jones, who was inactive due to a gameday roster decision, returned to the field at Tennessee last week, and the Packers emerged from that game with no new injuries to speak of.

All it takes is one rough game for a team's overall health to take a turn, but heading into a two-week stretch of critical NFC North Division contests, the Packers couldn't ask to be any healthier.

"We've had very good quality work so far this week," McCarthy said. "Today's practice, I think it's going to look very good. I hope it looks as good as it sounded. We had a lot of energy, a lot of execution today. Very pleased with so far how the week's gone."

Keeping it quiet

More than one player in the Green Bay locker room this week has commented that the most difficult noise to deal with in Minnesota's Metrodome is not necessarily the crowd noise, but the annoying foghorn that blows repeatedly when the Vikings score.

"My biggest thing is that horn," receiver Donald Driver said. "If you can keep that horn down, then you're fine. That means we must be doing something well if the horn isn't going off. And that's our goal to make sure that horn doesn't go off too many times."

The Packers threw the biggest celebration at the Metrodome last year, not only because they won the game, but because quarterback Brett Favre topped Dan Marino's career record for touchdown passes with a first-quarter strike to Greg Jennings.

Now it may be Driver's turn to make history there. He currently stands tied with Sterling Sharpe for the most consecutive games in Green Bay annals with at least one pass reception. Driver's 103-game regular-season streak began with two catches for 19 yards on Jan. 6, 2002 (the 2001 regular-season finale) at the Meadowlands against the New York Giants.

"I haven't even worried about the record," Driver said. "It just gets to the point where if it happens, it happens. I just want to win the game, that's my biggest thing, and I want to leave that game at 5-4 instead of 4-5."

Finishing strong

At 4-4, the Packers are looking to make a strong push for a playoff spot in the second half of the season, starting this Sunday. History says they have a good chance to do that.

{sportsad300}Since 2000, the Packers have the fourth-best record in the NFL over the final two months of the regular season (including January). The Packers have won exactly two-thirds of their games in the final two months over the last eight seasons, posting a 48-24 mark for a .667 winning percentage.

The only teams with a better record than Green Bay are New England (53-17, .757), Philadelphia (49-22, .690) and Pittsburgh (48-23-1, .674).

Under McCarthy, the Packers are 13-5 (.722) in the final two months of the regular season, including 8-1 last year.

Injury/participation update

The other two players on Green Bay's injury report, quarterback Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) and cornerback Charles Woodson (toe), were limited participants, but neither has missed a game all season.

McCarthy said Rodgers has thrown more this week than any week since injuring his shoulder on Sept. 28 in Tampa. How much he would practice Friday would be determined in the morning.

For Minnesota, defensive end Jared Allen (shoulder) did not practice for the second straight day, while former Packers receiver Robert Ferguson was removed from the injury report.

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