GREEN BAY — When rookie cornerback Josh Hawkins tweaked his hamstring in the exhibition finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, both he and those around him believed the injury to be minor. It was presumed that a few days of rehab — or a week at most — would restore him to the ball-hawking speedster who, as an undrafted free agent, secured a spot on the Green Bay Packers' 53-man roster.
But by kickoff on Sunday, when the Packers and Minnesota Vikings christen U.S. Bank Stadium, the recovery time will have stretched to 17 days. And with Hawkins missing both practices this week, it's all but certain he won't suit up for the second straight game.
"It’s getting better, man, it’s getting better," Hawkins said in the locker room Thursday. "It’s been tough. Longer than I thought."
The injury to Hawkins is merely one-third of the health problems depleting the Packers' secondary. Veteran Sam Shields, the team's No. 1 cornerback, suffered the fifth concussion of his career in the season opener against Jacksonville and is a longshot to play. Makinton Dorleant, the other undrafted rookie to make the team, was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury fewer than 48 hours after final cuts.
Their absences mean that Hawkins would have earned his first playing time against the Vikings — if not for the hamstring.
"It’s a small strain," Hawkins said. "But when I try to aggressively move as fast as I know I can move, it’s just a slight sting pain, like I can’t even push it. Because I tried to push it. As soon as I saw Sam go down, I said I’ve got to push it, they’re going to need me. But I just couldn’t.
"That was my opportunity to get on the field real early, earlier than I definitely expected. But that was just my opportunity. I’m a big believer in God and I just believe that he has a plan, definitely. Maybe he just wanted my legs to get more in shape. I don’t know. I’m taking it day by day, just paying attention in the film room and when the guys are out on the field."
Down three corners, the Packers enter Sunday's game perilously thin. Their options are as follows: Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter. The safety blanket is Micah Hyde, who plays the slot in addition to his responsibilities at safety.
"I got the perfect opportunity to make my debut, and I get held up," Hawkins said. "But it’s all good. ... I’m definitely going to be back soon. Very soon. Very soon. Very soon. I ain’t going to be back too long, too much longer."