With the health of Nick Barnett and Darren Shaper improving daily, the Green Bay Packers hoped they would have their starting defensive unit together again by Sunday, when the Chicago Bears invade Lambeau Field.
Instead, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman confirmed Wednesday that fifth-year veteran safety Antuan Edwards definitely will sit out this weekend's game with a torn hamstring and could be out for the remainder of the season.
"I think that's a very strong possibility," Sherman said. "You keep your fingers crossed, but it's a pretty severe hamstring (injury)."
The Packers won't know just how severe for at least another week, when another set of tests will be performed on the hamstring.
Edwards sustained the injury early in the third quarter of the Packers' Thanksgiving Day loss to the Detroit Lions, Nov. 24, and had to be removed from the game. But because the tendon didn't tear away from the bone, the Packers remain optimistic that Edwards might be able to come back before season's end.
Of course, with only four games remaining in the regular season and the playoffs still in doubt, time is running out.
Once placed on injured reserve, Edwards would be ineligible for the rest of the year, so Sherman will avoid making that decision for as long as possible: either until another injury in the secondary forces his hand, or until a free agent becomes available worthy of the roster spot.
As it is, the Packers have second-year safety Marques Anderson waiting in the wings to assume Edwards' starting position opposite Sharper.
But even though Anderson has made 14 NFL starts since being selected by the Packers in the third round of the 2002 draft, the injury to Edwards is a blow to the Packers' depth.
Edwards is one of seven players to make an interception this season and his 54 tackles are the fifth-most on the team.
That's why the Packers will hold on to even the slightest hope that Edwards can return this season until further testing proves them wrong.
"I feel pretty good," Edwards said Wednesday. "If I come back, it's something I'll probably have to deal with and play through."
Injuries are nothing new to Edwards, who missed four games with a fractured arm last season and spent all but three games of 2001 on injured reserve after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Given his most recent injury, Edwards said he has reason to feel himself jinxed. But he's doing his best to remain positive.
"That could have happened to anybody," Edwards said Wednesday. "I go out there just like everybody else and suit up and play as hard as I play. When you get hurt you just get hurt ... It's pretty frustrating, but at the same time, I've been here before. I just have to work to get back."
Additional Injury Notes: GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said that starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett is "ahead of schedule" in terms of his sprained right ankle. He was back at practice Wednesday and is listed as probable for Sunday's game ... Darren Sharper (chest) also returned to the practice field, but didn't engage in any contact drills ... center Mike Flanagan sat out practice with a minor shoulder injury, but is expected to return Thursday ... quarterback Brett Favre came off the long weekend feeling better than he has since breaking his thumb Oct. 19. The Packers expect that Favre's thumb could be healed within two weeks.