|ESPN.com: NFC North||[Print without images]|
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy stopped short of saying that second-year defensive tackle Justin Harrell will make his 2008 debut Sunday at Tennessee. McCarthy, however, told reporters Wednesday that Harrell "is [in] the best shape that he's been in since he's been with us in Green Bay."
The Packers have one more week to decide whether to activate Harrell from the physically unable to perform list or place him on injured reserve. It seems certain he'll be activated, but the only question is when. McCarthy said the Packers want to make sure that Harrell, who did not participate in training camp because of a back injury, is in "football shape" before he is activated.
Harrell's return is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is his status as the No. 16 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He played in only seven games as a rookie and sat out all offseason work while undergoing two back surgeries.
In the meantime, the Packers traded former starter Corey Williams and were left with a three-man tackle rotation when starting end Cullen Jenkins suffered a season-ending arm injury. (Jenkins typically moved to tackle in passing situations.) The Packers are giving up 141.9 rushing yards per game, and McCarthy acknowledged Wednesday the team won't play the entire season with such limited depth:
"I just think it was a short-term situation, dealing with snaps. The bye week came at the right time. I think those type of factors show up in the long term of a season. I think if we would have continued on that path of the number of snaps that the defensive linemen were playing and the rotation that we were using, I think it definitely would have shown up in the second half of our season. I don't think it's a factor right now."