Return of the Dreads : Packers Insider

Return of the Dreads

October 19, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Oct 19, 2010 ~ by Rob Demovsky

~Here’s something new: the Green Bay Packers are getting healthier.

n a season filled with injuries to key players on both sides of the ball, some reinforcements have arrived.

The three players who have been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp will begin practicing this week, and the coaches haven’t ruled out the possibility that safety Atari Bigby (ankle), cornerback Al Harris (knee) and running back James Starks (hamstring) could play Sunday against Minnesota, although Starks is probably the furthest away largely because the rookie hasn’t played any real football in nearly two years.

“They can’t do any more than they’ve done from a rehab standpoint,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “So it’s time to cut those guys loose. I know they’re excited about it, and we’re excited to get them on the practice field.”

Plus, newly acquired safety Anthony Smith, who on Sunday was traded by Jacksonville for a conditional seventh-round draft pick, arrived at Lambeau Field on Monday and will be available against the Vikings. He spent the day reacquainting himself with the team that cut him at the end of training camp last season.

Smith has been out of the Packers’ system for more than a year, while Bigby and Harris have been out of football for so long that it’s unclear how quickly they can be assimilated into the plan.

“Atari’s been in all of our meetings, but it’s one thing to make those calls sitting in an air-conditioned room, and there’s no stress or pressure to be where you need to be at the snap of the ball,” safeties coach Darren Perry said. “That’s always an issue, but you always feel a little bit better when you get a guy with experience and a veteran guy who’s played the game and understands the stresses that come on Sunday. That makes the transition that much easier.”

Both Bigby and Harris will begin practicing Wednesday. The Packers have three weeks to decide whether to activate the PUP players or put them on season-ending injured reserve.

“It will be nice to see those guys back on the practice field,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said of Bigby and Harris. “They give us two experienced guys that have played a lot of football, and I think they’ll bring some energy to our defense. It will be nice to see some new guys as opposed to losing guys.”

In the secondary alone, the Packers have lost one starter, rookie safety Morgan Burnett (knee), and one backup, veteran safety Derrick Martin (knee), for the season. They also have played three different cornerbacks in the nickel defense in the first six games.

The combination of Bigby and Smith could help stabilize the safety position, where journeyman Charlie Peprah has started the last two games. The return of Harris could solidify the nickel package. Given how well Tramon Williams has played this season in Harris’ right cornerback spot and how severe Harris’ knee blowout was last Nov. 22, the Packers probably will ease Harris back by using him in a sub package.

The same could be true for Bigby, who last played in the Jan. 10 playoff loss at Arizona. He skipped the entire offseason program because he was hoping for a contract extension. When he signed his restricted free agent tender and reported for training camp, he reinjured his troublesome left ankle – an injury that dates to the 2008 season – during the conditioning test all players must pass before they are cleared to practice and had surgery on Aug. 6.

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