The Packers might have to play Sunday against Tennessee with two players signed in season as their only halfbacks.
With James Starks already out because of a knee injury and Alex Green in jeopardy of not playing this week because of a concussion, the Packers might have only DuJuan Harris and Ryan Grant as their halfbacks. They had signed Harris to their practice squad on Oct. 24 and signed Grant off the street only two weeks ago.
“It’s obviously a possibility,” running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. “We’ll see how Alex (Green) responds to the tests this week and see if he’ll be available on Sunday or not. Those guys are getting ready to play. They’ll do fine. Obviously Ryan has more familiarity with the system, more experience, but those guys are ready to play.”
Green’s chances of playing this week appear to be diminishing after he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because of a concussion sustained last week against Chicago. Players more often than not don’t play after a concussion if they haven’t practiced by Thursday.
Starks has missed the last two games because of a bruise inside his knee and will miss the rest of the regular season.
“Starks’ situation is to hopefully get him back for the playoffs,” McCarthy said. “That was a decision that was made a few weeks ago.”
If Grant, Harris and fullback John Kuhn are the only backs available, it’s unclear who would likely get the most snaps. Grant was the first halfback to replace Green against Chicago and had eight carries for 32 yards. He lost a fumble in the first half when Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who has forced 11 fumbles this season, punched the ball out of his arm as Grant was being tackled.
Despite the fumble, which came late in the third quarter, McCarthy gave Grant four carries in the final 5 ½ minutes of the game, when the Packers were protecting an eight-point lead.
“Did a nice job with the ball security until the very end there,” Van Pelt said of Grant’s fumble. “He went to put his hand down to brace himself and Tillman did what he usually does, just punched it right out. He’s gotten a lot of good backs over the years doing that. Be we had the confidence to put (Grant) back in the game.
“Carrying it loosely or being careless with the ball would be one thing, but he was actually strong with the ball security. The guy made a play on the ball. (Grant) had it high and tight, he had two hands on through contact, and as he was coming down he took the hand off and Tillman just literally (punched it out).”
Harris has a 4.8-yard average on his 12 carries the past two weeks combined. He’s been getting more practice snaps recently so he can play on passing downs and opponents will know they have to defend a greater variety of play calls.
“He’s been picking up his assignments fine,” Van Pelt said. “(Quarterback) Aaron (Rodgers) does a great job communicating with him, obviously making sure they’re on the same page, probably more so than he would with the other guys.”