Most teams use the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal, with the final game as a necessary evil to get out of the way without key players getting banged up. Not only do the starters get the most reps in the third game, but they experience playing a half, going through halftime adjustments and implementing those in the third quarter.
"Some guys won't come out at halftime," McCarthy said after Wednesday's practice. "A couple of guys with the injury situations are coming back for the first time, I'll evaluate them at halftime. So, there will be a couple different things going on."
One of those injured players is Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who took part on a limited basis after missing most of training camp while coming off of offseason knee surgery. McCarthy wasn't sure if Gbaja-Biamila would play against the Broncos.
Another key performer whose status McCarthy will monitor is receiver Greg Jennings, who missed the first two preseason games with a sore knee. Jennings has looked good in practice, and having him and fellow receiver Ruvell Martin on the field again should bolster an offense that didn't mount a decent scoring drive during Saturday's 34-6 loss at San Francisco.
With Chad Clifton back at left tackle, there was a lot less shuffling up front. The starting line for most of practice was Clifton at left tackle, Daryn Colledge at left guard, Jason Spitz at center (in place of Scott Wells), Josh Sitton at right guard and Mark Tauscher at right tackle.
McCarthy was hopeful he'd have some of the line issues sorted out after Friday's game.
"It's important for every position," he said. "Offensive line is obviously one of them. You'd like to get set, but we have some injuries there, we have some rotations we're looking at. But I'm hopeful we'll have a decision after this game."
Tauscher, who was a staple of a line for a few years that included Clifton, guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle and center Mike Flanagan, acknowledged this year's No. 1 line won't enjoy that continuity immediately.
"It really is a case of where you just go out and play and work with the guy who's next to you," Tauscher said. "Obviously, it's great when you have a really good chemistry with a guy. Back three or four years ago, where we had the same five guys three or four years in a row, that was obviously beneficial. But, the situation is where it is. We're trying to put the five best guys out on the field at one time. Everybody that gets put in there is good players. It's just the chemistry factor, obviously. The more you play with someone, the better feel you have."
The injury list on Wednesday was shorter, with running backs Ryan Grant (hamstring) and DeShawn Wynn (ankle), linebacker A.J. Hawk (chest), center Scott Wells (trunk) and defensive linemen Ryan Pickett (hamstring), Justin Harrell (back) and Daniel Muir (groin) out.
Along with Gbaja-Biamila and Clifton (soreness), cornerback Al Harris (back) was back.
All of the players who did not practice will not play, with the possible exception of Muir, McCarthy said.
— The players wore shells, so there was no hitting. That means a rather uneventful practice.
— For the second consecutive day, Aaron Rodgers threw the ball through the hoop-and-net apparatus from about 45 yards. Cornerback Charles Woodson joined the quarterbacks. He shouldn't quit his day job.
— It wasn't Rodgers' sharpest practice. He threw behind Donald Driver on a slant, had a pass to James Jones broken up by backup linebacker Spencer Havner and was intercepted by Aaron Rouse on a red-zone slant to Driver. Rodgers did throw a pretty corner route to Jennings for a touchdown in the same red-zone drill.
— Three times, the scout offense ran a back into the flat and a receiver into the corner of the end zone. The first two resulted in easy touchdowns, with the third being picked off by Al Harris.
— In a red-zone drill against the No. 1 defense, scout-team quarterbacks Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn completed 5-of-6 passes with four touchdowns, including three to tight ends Joey Haynos (one) and Jermichael Finley (two).
— Haynos dropped a pass early in Tuesday's practice but bounced back in a big way. On Wednesday, he made a nice one-handed catch on a bootleg by Brohm.
The Packers moved the time of Sunday's practice from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are only three more practices for fans to attend. On Monday, practice is at 10:45 a.m., and on Tuesday, it's 10:15 a.m.
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org