The Packers probably will be without defensive tackles Johnny Jolly (shoulder, hip flexor), Ryan Pickett (hamstring) and Justin Harrell (back) against the Bengals. To make matters worse, Daniel Muir was helped off the field during practice with a lower leg injury, though, it appears from the way he was walking around in the locker room afterward that he will be ready to go on Monday.
If Muir can play, he probably will be joined by Colin Cole in the starting rotation and be backed up by Conrad Bolston and Alfred Malone. The position is so thin right now that defensive end Mike Montgomery has been taking snaps at the tackle position during passing downs this week in practice. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins also moves inside on passing downs.
"We're definitely going to have a problem there," McCarthy said about the defensive tackle position. "Daniel Muir got kicked there at the end of practice. These are all questions that we'll answer tonight. We'll probably put in the 3-4 defense. Why don't you write that, OK? (smiles) Put that in for the game Monday."
The coach was kidding, of course, but Bolston, for one, plans to make the most of the added opportunities. With good performances in the preseason games, Bolston can improve his chances of making the 53-man roster to start the season.
"It is a great opportunity to get a lot of reps," said Bolston, who was claimed off waivers by the Packers Dec. 12 last year. "I've just got to take advantage of it and come out here and get a job, just like everybody else."
Bolston is in a battle with Malone and Muir for a roster spot. Pickett and Jolly are the likely starters with Cole and possibly Harrell as the backups. But if Harrell, who has yet to practice in training camp, is unable to recover from his injury, he may be placed on injured reserve, which would leave a spot open. Bolston can put himself in the driver's seat for that spot by playing well in the exhibition games ahead.
"I'm starting to get the defense a lot better that I was last year," Bolston said. "Last year, I really didn't have the preseason and the OTAs to get all the defense."
While three players returned to action, linebacker Desmond Bishop joined the group of walking wounded with a high Achilles strain. Others who did not practice included center Scott Wells (trunk), safety Charlie Peprah (hamstring), running back Ryan Grant (hamstring), defensive ends Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee) and Jeremy Thompson (stinger), offensive linemen Junius Coston (ankle) and Orrin Thompson (ankle), wide receiver Greg Jennings (knee), cornerback Al Harris (back), Harrell, Pickett and Jolly. Muir injured his lower left leg during a team scrimmage as he was getting blocked by guard Allen Barbre.
"My biggest concern right now is the health of the football team," McCarthy said.
Harris was held out of practice for precautionary reasons after his back "flared up" following yesterday's practice, McCarthy said. Harris was bothered by the injury for most of the second half of last season.
Aside from Muir, it is doubtful that any of the players watching practice Saturday will play against the Bengals.
"Every decision will really be based on the health, because I would like to see them all play," McCarthy said. "It's important for us to get some momentum, to get out there and play some live football. You don't want to be going through the preseason and feel like you have work that needs to be done in games three and four. So they will clearly be health issues."
On the bright side, running back Vernand Morency, safety Aaron Rouse and wide receiver Jake Allen returned to practice today. Morency (groin), Rouse (hip flexor) and Allen (groin), missed both practices on Friday.
? The Packers used portions of the practice to game plan against the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterbacks Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn led the scout teams against Green Bay's first-team defense. Brohm was intercepted by linebacker Spencer Havner on a pass intended for tight end Evan Moore during a scout team drill.
? McCarthy said that linebacker Nick Barnett will start out using a headset in his helmet to receive the defensive formations from coordinator Bob Sanders. Safety Nick Collins also will be using the speaker helmet.
? Safety Aaron Rouse leaped high for an interception off quarterback Matt Flynn in a goal line defensive drill.
? Havner and offensive tackle Ryan Considine had to be separated by teammates at the end of a play. The two began pushing and shoving each other and Havner lost his helmet in the process.
? A number of ESPN personnel were on hand for the practice, including Mike Tirico, Ron Jaworski, Rachel Nichols and Suzy Kolber. Packers President Mark Murphy spent a lot of time talking with Jaworski during Friday and Saturday's practices. Murphy and Jaworski played against each other in the late 1970s and early '80s.