Mike McCarthy isn’t tipping his hand on the availability of returner/receiver Randall Cobb for Sunday’s game at Minnesota, but the Green Bay Packers’ coach voiced some guarded optimism.
Cobb, battling a sprained ankle and injured knee sustained on a third-quarter punt return last week, was a limited participant at Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable for a game in which the Packers would earn a first-round bye with a victory.
“We had a menu set for him as far as going through a workout,” McCarthy said after practice. “He was able to accomplish that. He did some returns. He took some practice reps. So, we’ll see how he is in the morning. He looked pretty good.”
Cobb needs 36 yards on kickoff returns and 46 yards receiving to become the first player in NFL history to reach 1,000 in both categories. He’s the team leader in receptions (80) and yards (954). While Jordy Nelson is expected to play after missing the last three games with an injured hamstring, he figures to be on a rep count due to the long layoff. That would make Cobb, even in limited action, an asset against a Minnesota defense that has allowed 42 points over the last three games.
Cobb, saying he had to leave to receive treatment, was not available to reporters.
If Cobb plays, will he be used as a returner? McCarthy wouldn’t say, calling that a “game-planning” decision.
“He looked like he was good,” said receiver Jeremy Ross, who would return kicks in Cobb’s absence. “You can tell the injury is still present, but he looked like he was running pretty good. I’d seen him trying to make cuts on his ankle and stuff like that, and it looked like he was good.”
The other key player on the injury-watch list this week was defensive end C.J. Wilson, who injured his knee on the first play against the Giants on Nov. 25. Wilson was a full participant at practice and should play; he’d be a major asset against Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
“C.J. looks fine,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “C.J.’s a fine run player. I don’t know what Mike’s going to do (with the inactive list) but he looked fine. I’m sure he’ll have some rusty spots because he hasn’t played football in a while. We had pads on yesterday and it was good for him to get out there and hit with some pads.”
Packers injury report
Out: RB James Starks (knee); DB Charles Woodson (collarbone). Doubtful: CB Davon House (shoulder/hip). Questionable: WR Randall Cobb (ankle/knee). Probable: TE Tom Crabtree (hamstring); K Mason Crosby (illness); C Evan Dietrich Smith (knee), RB Alex Green (concussion); WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring); C Jeff Saturday (neck/shoulder); G Josh Sitton (concussion); DE C.J. Wilson (knee); DE Jerel Worthy (hamstring).
Vikings injury report
Questionable: DE Brian Robison (shoulder); CB Antoine Winfield (hand). Probable: DE Jared Allen (shoulder/illness); P Chris Kluwe (left knee); OT Phil Loadholt (knee); RB Adrian Peterson (abdomen); CB Marcus Sherels (quad).
Winfield didn’t practice all week but is expected to play with some extra padding to protect a broken hand.
-- McCarthy called it a good week of practice: “We haven’t had a padded practice in a number of weeks obviously because of that rule, but (Thursday’s) padded practice was probably as spirited of a practice we’ve had in at least a month. Actually, I took the pads off for the last team period – I was a little concerned about it was a little too active. Our guys are ready. We’re focused on beating the Vikings and sweeping the division. That’s where we are. We talked about getting into a single-elimination mind-set, the urgency that goes with these types of games, and I really like the way our team has practiced this week.”
-- Defensive coordinator Dom Capers thinks his unit is peaking at the right time. “We played our two best football games the last two weeks in terms of efficiency and production on defense.”
-- Given how well the defense has played without Woodson, what role would Woodson play if he returns for the playoffs? “To me, he’s a good football player. There’s always a role for good football players,” Capers said. “Our job is to find out ways to get our best football players out on the field. That could mean changing some of the packages and that type of thing. That’s what we always go through. ‘Hey, how can we get our best playmakers on the field?’ and try to put them in the best position to go make plays.”
-- On a fan vote at NFL.com/FedEx, Aaron Rodgers won the FedEx Air Award on Friday. He completed 27-of-38 passes for 342 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in the Packers’ 55-7 win over Tennessee last week. Rodgers also won after the Week 6 game at Houston.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.