Notebook: Injuries put holes in defense

Also from Friday: Updates on Harris and Woodson; injury reports; rookie Thompson making debut; teams meet for first time since playoff debacle.

The Green Bay Packers' will be without two members of their starting defense, and perhaps as many as four, when they host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Cornerback Al Harris is out with a lacerated spleen and defensive end Cullen Jenkins was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn pectoral earlier in the week.

Adding to the problems, safety Atari Bigby took a step back after testing his injured hamstring on Thursday and likely won't play, and linebacker A.J. Hawk did not practice because of a strained groin.

The Packers listed Bigby as doubtful for Sunday, but he's almost certainly out since he didn't practice this week. With top backup Aaron Rouse (knee) also listed as doubtful after missing the last two days of practice, Charlie Peprah is expected to start.

Hawk did not practice on Friday, and coach Mike McCarthy said he likely would be a game-time decision. He's listed as probable, meaning there's a 50 percent chance he'll be available. If he can't play, Brandon Chillar likely would take his place.

The injuries comes at a bad time, with the Packers on a two-game skid. The Falcons lead the NFL in rushing while the Green Bay run defense ranks 26th.

Cornerbacks update

Harris isn't in pain, which makes his absence all the more frustrating.

Harris missed the first game of his NFL career last week, and began the comeback trail on Monday with no-impact conditioning work.

"I've talked to Al at length today about where he is," McCarthy said. "Once again, he's a little bit frustrated, just with the type of injury. It's not something you can just go out and test. He feels like he's making progress, he's not feeling any pain and so forth. But there's a protocol that our doctors are trying to follow, and the next step is to take that scan, which will be in a couple weeks. That's really the next step, and he's just been going through conditioning and just following the regimen that the training staff has him on."

Meanwhile, the Packers hope Charles Woodson can make it to the Oct. 26 bye to give his broken toe an extended break.

Woodson hasn't practiced since breaking the toe against the Vikings in Week 1. While he's been superb on game days — he was named the NFC's defensive player of the month on Thursday — playing every week is not letting the toe heal.

"Just based off the communication, it's hard on him clearly up until about Wednesday," McCarthy said. "It's been pretty consistent the last couple weeks. If he's able to stay the course and not regress any as far as the pattern he's in right now, until we get to the bye week, I think definitely the bye week will help him greatly."

Packers injury report

Out — Cornerback Al Harris (spleen).

Doubtful (25 percent chance player will be available) — Safety Atari Bigby (hamstring; did not participate); fullback Korey Hall (knee; did not participate); defensive end Jason Hunter (hamstring; did not participate); running back Kregg Lumpkin (hamstring; did not participate); safety Aaron Rouse (knee; did not participate).

Questionable (50 percent chance) — Linebacker A.J. Hawk (groin; did not participate); quarterback Aaron Rodgers (shoulder; did not participate).

Probable (75 percent chance) — Tackle Chad Clifton (knees; full participation); safety Nick Collins (back; full participation); receiver James Jones (knee; full participation); defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (knee; full participation); cornerback Charles Woodson (toe; did not participate).

Falcons injury report

Doubtful — Defensive tackle Jason Jefferson (ankle; did not participate); receiver Laurent Robinson (knee; did not participate).

Questionable — Tackle Sam Baker (illness; limited participation); defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee); safety Lawyer Milloy (rib; limited participation.

Probable — Tackle Todd Weiner (knee; full participation).

Rookie's debut

Because of Jenkins' injury, rookie defensive end Jeremy Thompson will make his NFL debut against the Falcons and be a part of the No. 1 kickoff and kickoff-return units. Thompson, a fourth-round draft pick, said he hasn't played special teams since his freshman season at Wake Forest.

"It's a little bit new for me, but I'm willing to learn, take it all in and just do my best out there to help us win," Thompson said.

He also figures to get some snaps on defense to give a break to starter Aaron Kampman.

Obviously, Thompson is excited to make his debut, but he'd rather it didn't come at Jenkins' expense.

"That's the way this business works," Thompson said. "When somebody goes down, you have to step up and be ready to play."

Ugly memory

The last time the Falcons came to Lambeau Field was a Jan. 3, 2003, playoff game, with Michael Vick dashing through the snow and the injury-riddled Packers 27-7.

Only nine players remain from those teams — four Falcons and five Packers.

"Once you start playing on Sunday, it's just a matter of going out and executing, going and running your plays correctly," said receiver Brian Finneran, who caught four passes for 35 yards that night. "Throughout the week, we go through some of the stuff we didn't have figured out last Sunday. But when you get up there on Sunday in Green Bay, you just have to think about football."

Noteworthy

Former Packers linebacker Abdul Hodge was activated to the Bengals' active roster. Cincinnati signed him to its practice squad after the Packers released Hodge among their final cuts.

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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