Harrell's injury adds to D-line woes

Six of the Packers' 13 defensive linemen were unable to practice Wednesday.

They haven't fought off a block or tackled a running back in about four months. Yet, the Green Bay Packers' defensive line is short on healthy bodies for the organized team activities.

Ten players sat out Wednesday's practice, and four are defensive tackles — Justin Harrell (back), Johnny Jolly (shoulder), Colin Cole (forearm and Daniel Muir (pectoral) — and another is defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee). There are only seven defensive tackles and six ends on the roster.

"Really, the defensive line group as a whole I'm concerned about," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Just a number of different factors as far as getting (Harrell) back a little later than you'd like to. The 80-man roster (limit) and those types of things all factor in that decision."

The situation was so dire that starting defensive end Cullen Jenkins lined up alongside Ryan Pickett at defensive tackle with the No. 1 defense.

Harrell was surprisingly honest with his latest injury. Last year, Harrell was on the shelf until training camp because of a ruptured biceps tendon sustained during his senior season at Tennessee. The lack of offseason work went a long way toward ruining his rookie season. The latest malady — back surgery stemming from lifting weights — will keep him out until training camp again.

Asked what he says to those people who believe he is injury prone, last year's first-round pick said: "They tell the truth. I can't worry about that. I'm just trying to stay positive ... just try to do what I can and make sure when training camp comes, I'm ready to roll."

He'll need to be, because the Packers are counting on Harrell to take a big step forward this season, especially after clearing a path to the lineup by trading Corey Williams to Cleveland.

"Any time, particularly a young player, misses time, it's not to his benefit," McCarthy said. "I have also in my career seen players, young or old, go through stages in their career where injuries happen one after another. He'll be fine. We're probably being more cautious than we normally would because, like I said, the roster spots and 80 guys in camp also factor into that decision."

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com

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