With the season opener against the 49ers approaching, the once injury-ravaged Packers are getting noticeably healthier.
For a team that at one time during training camp had 21 players out with injuries, Wednesday's practice must've looked refreshingly crowded. Only RB James Starks, who is out with turf toe, and S Sean Richardson, who didn't participate because of a hamstring injury, were sidelined.
Most encouragingly, NT B.J. Raji returned to practice and looked ready to go. Raji, who sprained an ankle in the preseason finale against the Chiefs last week, hadn't practiced since the injury, which never seemed overly serious. Though Wednesday's practice wasn't in pads, Raji went through drills and didn't appear to be limited.
Later, at his press conference, coach Mike McCarthy said Raji was a full participant and “looked good.”
With Raji back and DE Ryan Pickett healthy after sitting out the Chiefs game with a calf pull, the Packers should have their two best defensive linemen active for Sunday's game against the 49ers. That's crucial since Raji (6-foot-2, 337 pounds) and Pickett (6-2, 338), two mammoth run-stoppers, will be the first line of defense against RB Frank Gore, the NFL's sixth-leading rusher last year, and the 49ers' punishing rushing attack (127.8 yards per game).
Pickett said he and Raji “most definitely need to be 100-percent” against San Francisco. He said “I feel great, I'm ready to go,” and added that Raji “has come along real well. I feel good about him playing this week.”
Also returning to practice in a limited role was backup ILB Robert Francois, a key special teams player who has been hampered by a hamstring injury. Fellow ILB Jamari Lattimore (ankle) was not as active in drills and doesn't appear to be ready for Sunday's game. TE Tom Crabtree (shoulder) was also limited Wednesday.
CB Davon House, the leading candidate for the No. 2 cornerback position in camp before hurting his shoulder in mid-August, wore a protective brace and was limited. So far, since returning recently, he's been limited to noncontact drills and catching balls at the jugs machine.
“It's a process,” McCarthy said. “It was his first day out there (on the field) so he was on a rep count. We're being cautious. We'll evaluate him tomorrow and see where he's at.”
House said in the locker room that it was a possibility he could play Sunday, but insisted he was taking it day by day. “It felt good running,” he said, “running was easy. I'm hoping, praying to be able to go Week 1.”
He added that he hoped Thursday's practice would include some individual drills covering wide receivers.
And if it did?
“Oh yes," House said, "if we have one-on-ones, I'll be in there."