Packers hopeful on Hawk

The Green Bay Packers are hopeful that they'll get linebacker A.J. Hawk back on the playing field for Monday night's national showdown with the Vikings.

While he had only limited work, the decision-makers for the Packers came out of the team's return to practice Thursday encouraged that linebacker A.J. Hawk could be ready to play in the season opener Monday night against Minnesota.

Hawk was back on the field for the first time since suffering a strained muscle in his chest in the first preseason game Aug. 11.

Head coach Mike McCarthy suggested after practice that the only thing or person standing in the way of Hawk's making it all the way back for game action in Week 1 is the discretion of team doctor Pat McKenzie.

"I thought he looked good just from watching him on the field today," McCarthy said. "He looked like his normal self. He was flying around at practice, and he is a very physical player, so it was good to have him back out there."

McCarthy said range of motion doesn't appear to be an issue anymore for Hawk, who was shut down from contact work for the final three weeks of the preseason.

"We knew that A.J. was going to rehab at a rapid pace, and in his mind, he feels he has been ready for quite some time," McCarthy said. "So, it is a combination of the individual, and it is a combination of the doctor's report.

"As far the movement and so forth, I think he is really past all of those stages, whether it's pushing, reaching, pulling. It's just a matter of Pat McKenzie — clearing him to play."

The Packers will know more about Hawk at the end of their lengthy week of preparations for the game. They had practices Monday and Tuesday, were off Wednesday and finish with three straight practice days until Saturday.

Having Hawk available on Monday would be of benefit to the Packers defense, which was maligned by injuries throughout the preseason and has the unenviable task out of the gate to try to keep Vikings running back Adrian Peterson from busting loose.

The Green Bay run defense was exploited in the exhibition games without Hawk manning the weak-side linebacker spot and with massive tackle Ryan Pickett sidelined with a hamstring injury the entire preseason.

Pickett began practicing Monday and said he will be OK to start the game, though he admittedly won't be in football shape for several weeks.

"I think Adrian Peterson is an exceptional running back, just the way he blasted onto the scene last year, and having the opportunity to be around him at the Pro Bowl," said McCarthy, who was head coach of the NFC team in the February all-star game. "He's an impressive young man. But, run defense is what it is, as they say. It's gap control, attitude, the ability to separate and tackle. He's definitely someone that has the ability to bounce the football and make you pay when you're not in your proper gaps."

If the medical staff deems that Hawk would be better off for the long haul of the season by not suiting up Monday, Brandon Chillar would be pressed into the starting assignment. The Packers signed Chillar, formerly of St. Louis, as a free agent in the offseason.

PACKER NOTES

  • RB Ryan Grant was full go in practice Thursday and is on track to start the season opener against Minnesota on Monday. Grant didn't carry the football once in the preseason games after missing most of training camp with a hamstring injury.

  • DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila also appears ready to be on the field Monday, which would be his first game since the end of last season. The pass-rush specialist was a full participant Thursday. He missed most of training camp with lingering soreness from offseason knee surgery.

  • LT Chad Clifton, who will primarily be matched against Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen on Monday, is being limited in practice for the majority of this long preparation week because of nagging knee and chest soreness. Clifton wasn't expected to go through a full practice until Saturday.

  • C Scott Wells was undergoing further treatment Thursday for a strained muscle in his lower back that he aggravated in practice Monday. Wells hasn't been ruled out from playing in the opener, though head coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged Wells might need a couple weeks to recover. Jason Spitz, the projected starter at right guard, would start at center Monday, with Tony Moll tabbed as the fill-in at guard.

  • WR James Jones didn't practice Thursday and could be a long-shot to be cleared for the opener; he is listed as doubtful on the injury report. Jones has been held out all week to this point as he recovers from a sprained knee sustained in the Aug. 22 preseason game. If Jones is unavailable, Ruvell Martin and Jordy Nelson would be counted on in the multiple-receiver formations with starters Donald Driver and Greg Jennings.

  • CB Charles Woodson was added to the injury report Thursday after he didn't practice. Woodson's appearance on the report isn't injury related. McCarthy said Woodson was rested because of general soreness and would practice Friday. Expect the veteran to be in the starting lineup Monday, as he wasn't even listed on Friday's report.

  • G Josh Sitton is the only Packer who has been declared out for the game. The rookie is on the mend from a torn MCL in his left knee, sustained Aug. 22. Sitton, who started the first three preseason games at right guard, is expected to be sidelined at least three more weeks.


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