GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you watched our NFL Nation Buzz Video from this week, you heard about how coach Mike McCarthy was encouraged by the fact that the Green Bay Packers have several players who have come back strong after significant injuries last season.
Let's take a closer look at the Packers' health situation as they wrap up the third week of organized team activity practices and head into next week's mandatory minicamp.
We'll put the players into three categories -- those who have returned from injuries that prevented them from finishing last season, those who are still out and those who have been injured this offseason.
Let's look at the first category now and the others in a separate posting coming later on Friday.
Returned from injuries
1. Bryan Bulaga: After missing all of last season with a torn ACL in his left knee -- an injury he sustained last August in the annual Family Night scrimmage – Bulaga is back at right tackle (he was slated to move to left tackle last season) with the number one offensive line. Although he is wearing a large brace on his left knee, he appears to be moving well and taking a full load of snaps in practice. It will be interesting to see whether Bulaga will be limited when the pads go on in training camp. It's an important year because Bulaga has missed all or parts of the last two seasons because of injuries (a hip cost him the final seven games of 2012).
"Bryan Bulaga looks good," McCarthy said. "We're in the OTA practices and I think our pass-under-pressure drill has been good, so we're getting some work there with the sets. So the individual work is what our offensive line coaches do a great job of, so he's getting exactly what he needs. He's stronger. He weighs a little more than he has in the past. So he's having a heck of a spring."
2. DuJuan Harris: Like Bulaga, Harris missed the entire 2013 season because of a knee injury, but his was not an ACL reconstruction. Harris had a patellar tendon injury that bothered him throughout the offseason and flared up in training camp. Before his injury, McCarthy had planned to use Harris in combination with Eddie Lacy as a one-two running back punch. Instead, James Starks became Lacy's primary backup and excelled in the role. It's now a crowded backfield with those three plus Johnathan Franklin (more on him later today), Michael Hill plus undrafted rookies Rajion Neal and LaDarius Perkins.
"I feel good; I feel ready to go, man," Harris said. "Got to get back in the mental department, but I'll be ready."
3. Casey Hayward: A hamstring injury that he sustained while working out on his own last July ruined his second season. It recurred two more times and limited him to just three games. The Packers were expecting big things from Hayward after he picked off six passes (most among NFL rookies) in 2012. He has returned to his slot cornerback position this offseason although it may take time for him to get back to where he was in 2012.
"If I can get out there and be 90 percent, which I'm feeling great out there right now, if I can get to training camp and be 100 percent, I'll be fine," Hayward said. "I'll be ready to go."
4. Sam Barrington: A seventh-round draft pick from South Florida in 2013, Barrington was active for seven of the first eight games and played on special teams until a hamstring injury ended his rookie season. Barrington has tried to work his way back into the rotation at inside linebacker this offseason.
"Sam came in and tried to establish what he can bring to the table before anything he tweaked his [hamstring] a little bit ... and we ended up putting him on IR so there's a lot of still unknowns about him," linebackers coach Winston Moss said. "He's working hard, great attitude, all of our guys are working hard and trying to get the right thing done on a day-to-day basis. The only thing with Sam is you can just continue to give him as much opportunities as possible so that at the end of the day there's going to be an opportunity to evaluate him."
5. Brandon Bostick: The second-year tight end missed the first two weeks of OTAs while waiting for clearance to return from foot surgery. He finally returned this week. Bostick, a former college receiver, showed some signs of playmaking ability late last season after Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury. He averaged 17.1 yards on seven receptions before landing on injured reserve in December. Bostick had a screw placed in his foot to repair a broken bone.
"I thought Brandon made some real strides by the end of the season," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said earlier this offseason. "His effort level was really high. He seemed to have a better understanding of what he was being asked to do. As with everything, great effort can overcome a lot of bad technique. In his case that was happening at a much greater level as his technique improved. Obviously, it's a setback, being not able to practice and getting the timing with the quarterback, getting the timing with the blocking unit up front and getting in protection mode. So he's going to have some hurdles when he gets back and he's able to go full speed just to get his body angles right, his alignment in order and being able to trust his fundamentals again. I think it's going to take some time. The sooner we get him back, the better."
6. Kevin Dorsey: The seventh-round pick in 2012 missed all of last season because of a toe injury and has returned to a crowded receiver group. The Packers drafted three receivers -- Davante Adams (second round), Jared Abbrederis (fifth round) and Jeff Janis (seventh round) -- and return three of their top-four receivers from last season. Dorsey has been able to participate in all of the OTAs so far.
7. Myles White: After being promoted from the practice squad in Week 7 last season after Randall Cobb went on the temporary IR list, the former undrafted rookie played in seven games and caught nine passes for 66 yards before a knee injury ended his season. White said it was a meniscus tear that would not require surgery, and he has shown no signs that it has limited him this offseason.