After enjoying a four, and in some cases, five-day weekend during their annual bye week, Packers players returned to work Monday at Lambeau Field with a practice inside the Don Hutson Center.
Both the players and coaches were eager to get back on the field to kick off what should definitely be a very exciting second half of the season. Nearly everyone on the roster was healthy enough to participate in the afternoon workout, so the time off to heal was apparently beneficial.
GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said Monday afternoon that safety Darren Sharper was the only Packer to be held out of the practice due to injury. Sharper, who sprained his knee in the win over Dallas two weeks ago, will be evaluated throughout the week to determine if he will be available to return to the secondary for Sunday's contest with the Minnesota Vikings.
Sherman said that it will be a day-to-day situation with the veteran defensive back, but Sharper feels that he will be able to return to action this week.
"We'll hold him back obviously today and tomorrow, and he'll continue his rehab," said Sherman. "Then we'll just take it one day at a time as we normally would with an injury like his and make a decision later in the week, probably by Friday, on how available he'll be for us.
"He appears - in my conversation with him - to be very confident that he'll be available, but along the same lines I have to be smart about it, and we will."
The coach saw a revitalized team on the practice field Monday, full of energy and ready to go. He hopes that the energetic atmosphere will continue into Wednesday and the start of the team's earnest preparation for Sunday's game.
"I think after having the time off that they had there was going to be a little more juice in their legs and they certainly were a lively group," Sherman said. "They did a nice job with practice so I guess with the week off, they came back refreshed and ready to go. Hopefully that will carry over to Wednesday, because that's when it really matters."
The mood inside the locker room was certainly upbeat, which is what could be expected from players returning from a break to a three-game winning streak. Linebacker Na'il Diggs was definitely refreshed by the time away of the physical grind of football.
"I feel good," said Diggs. "I don't know how everybody else feels, but I feel great. My legs feel good, my body feels good. I'm ready to play football again. It's a good amount of time to get off your feet and get healed up completely and get my mind relaxed off of football for a couple of days. Now that I'm back, everything's back to normal mentally, but my body's a whole lot better."
Center Grey Ruegamer expects the Packers to have a much better start to the second half of the season in November than they did opening the campaign in September.
"The bye week is huge - it gave a lot of guys time to get healthy, get away from football and refocus a little bit," Ruegamer said. We know we have to in the last half of the season come out of the blocks and do better than we did the first half."
Fellow offensive lineman Mark Tauscher is ready to get back to work, but he's not concerned with anything past the upcoming game.
"We're going to worry about this week," said Tauscher. "Our number one goal coming out of the bye is to beat Minnesota. If we can do that, we'll take the next one as it comes. It's not one of those things where you look at every game on the schedule and you say 'We should win this one, we should win this one.' All of our focus is on the Vikings and that's how it should be."