Raji returned to practice on Thursday, participating for the first time since spraining an ankle in the preseason finale at Tennessee. While the Packers obviously would love to have the talented defensive lineman for a huge Week 1 game against a key division rival, it is only one game of 16.
"Well, if he's injured, he won't play," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We're not going to sacrifice one game for any of our players, especially in Week 1. So, we'll see what happens."
That statement hints that McCarthy will, as he tends to do, "be smart" with his talented first-round pick.
Raji, however, sees it differently. He never missed a game at Boston College because of an injury and he doesn't intend to sit out this one. McCarthy said the team "pushed the envelope a little bit" on Thursday after Raji tested poorly on Tuesday. On Thursday, when position coach Mike Trgovac was throwing dummies at the defensive linemen's legs to simulate low blocks, Raji tripped and fell face-first. His teammates enjoyed a good laugh at Raji's expense, and he was no worse for wear.
"I'm definitely going to play," Raji said. "My concern is how affected my movements are. With that style of running game, that's going to be essential being able to anchor myself down. They're a power running team, they're not like a zone team like we are. That's my concern. I'm going to play."
Any chance the coaching staff overrules Raji?
"Probably not, because it was my idea to practice today," he said.
"Johnny has played inside in the past here in the old four-man scheme, so it's not foreign to him," McCarthy said. "Especially playing the front-side gap and the things that we ask our nose to do, I think Johnny will be fine at nose guard. I have no problems with Johnny there."
Packers — CB Will Blackmon (thigh, did not participate); QB Matt Flynn (shoulder, full participation); RB Brandon Jackson (ankle, did not participate); DE B.J. Raji (ankle, limited participation); S Aaron Rouse (hamstring, full participation). Change — Raji, from did not participate to limited.
"Friday's practice is the last chance for an injured player. If he does not practice, he will not play," McCarthy said, alluding to neither Jackson nor Blackmon having practiced this week.
Bears — WR Devin Aromashodu (thigh, limited participation); DT Israel Idonije (hamstring; full participation); CB Charles Tillman (back, full participation). Changes — Aromashodu, not listed to limited; Idonije, from limited to full.
Talking special teams
Blackmon's bruised thigh — courtesy of a well-placed helmet against Buffalo on Aug. 22 — was tested on Thursday. Blackmon said it went well and is optimistic he'll be able to practice on Friday, but that will depend on how he feels in the morning.
"Will is an exciting returner," McCarthy said. "He's been very productive for us. He's definitely a weapon. But I'm very comfortable with Jordy. I think Brett Swain has shown some ability there, and Tramon Williams has done it. DeShawn Wynn has also been productive. We'll just move forward with those individuals."
The Packers spent a portion of Thursday's practice working on their two-minute offense. While the Packers finished in the top five in scoring last year, their performances at the end of halves and games left plenty to be desired and played a big role in their 0-7 record in close games. The No. 1 offense didn't get a chance to execute the hurry-up offense in the preseason and had mixed results in training camp.
"As I said to them, we've invested a lot of time both as a staff and as players, and we expect to perform better in those situations this year," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said.
— Off to the side while the offense and defense worked on their plays, punter Jeremy Kapinos was practicing holding for kicks, under the supervision of kicker Mason Crosby and special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. Matt Flynn is the No. 1 holder, and McCarthy wouldn't say who the emergency holder would be.
— Five players are on the No. 1 units on the four major special teams (kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return): Brett Swain, Jarrett Bush, Clay Matthews III, Jeremy Thompson and Desmond Bishop. Fullbacks John Kuhn and Korey Hall are on three, and are interchangeable as the No. 1 personal protector on punts. Brandon Chillar (not on punt return) and Spencer Havner (not on kickoff) are on three of the four.
— The Packers alumni for this game will be Jerry Kramer and James Lofton. They'll be visiting with fans and signing autographs in the Packers Pro Shop from 12:30-2 p.m. on Saturday, in the Tundra Tailgate Zone from 4:30-5:25 p.m. on Sunday and the Lambeau Field Atrium from 5:30-5:55 p.m. on Sunday.
— There's a lot of optimism in the Packers' locker room. It's not that different in Chicago. ""Everyone's Super Bowl champs right now," Urlacher said Thursday at Halas Hall. "We've all got the same goal. We all want to be 16-0 and be Super Bowl champs. After this week a lot changes, but it's exciting. We've been practicing for this game for eight weeks now, so we're pumped up."
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