Defensive Boost: Harris, Bigby, & Matthews
The Packers resume practice Wednesday in preparation for a Sunday night matchup against Brett Favre and the Vikings. The Packers have been decimated by injuries through the first six games of the season, but should see a few familiar faces return to the practice field today.
First and foremost, outside linebacker Clay Matthews “will return” to the lineup this week. Matthews missed last week’s game against the Dolphins with a hamstring injury, but still leads the league with 8.5 sacks this season. The Packers hope Matthews’ presence on the field will bolster a pass rush that was non-existent without him. And Packer nation knows all too well what Brett Favre can do if you allow the 41-year-old quarterback time to throw.
In addition to Matthews, the defensive secondary may get a boost as well. Cornerback Al Harris and safety Atari Bigby have been cleared to practice, and the coaching staff now has three weeks to activate them or place them on season-ending injured-reserve. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that both players could play on Sunday against the Vikings.
The other player coming off the PUP list is rookie running back James Starks. He will also resume practicing on Wednesday, but head coach Mike McCarthy is taking a different approach with Starks who missed his senior season at the University of Buffalo with a shoulder injury and has battled a hamstring injury throughout his short tenure with the Packers.
“I think it’s obvious that’s a huge question mark,” McCarthy said. “Atari and Al Harris have battled, have played in games here, know our system of football. You’re talking about two veterans. Starks is really, we just want to get him out and see him in pads and get him in that environment. We’re really evaluating him totally differently.”
One more roster note to pass along: The Packers announced the release of running back James Johnson from their practice squad.