GREEN BAY - Mike McCarthy is hopeful both cornerback Damarious Randall and linebacker Jake Ryan will be available Monday night.
What the Green Bay Packers coach doesn't know, is exactly how much they'll be able to contribute against the Philadelphia Eagles.
It has been a mixed bag for McCarthy when players with significant injuries return to the field. As bad as McCarthy needs Randall and Ryan for his ailing defense, he doesn't know if they're going to have an impact in their first game back.
"We have a game management meeting every Saturday — Sunday morning this week — and once you feel like you have a pretty good grasp of where you are as far as who’s going to be playing and not active (you make plans)," McCarthy said Saturday morning. "That’s been a bit of a challenge because we’ve kind of gone into some games with some question marks there."
Last week, outside linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring, three games) and tight end Jared Cook (ankle, six games) returned from lengthy injuries and produced different results.
Matthews was a complete non-factor in the game, finishing with one solo tackle. Cook started slow but wound up with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. While he committed a costly turnover late in the game, he produced the first 100-yard game for a Packers tight end since Richard Rodgers caught the 61-yard Hail Mary touchdown against Detroit last December and finished with 146 yards on eight catches.
Prior to that, running back James Starks returned from a four-week absence due to a knee injury and played 55 snaps against Tennessee, far more than the coaches expected. He ran seven times for 33 yards and caught a 13-yard touchdown pass. The week before that against Indianapolis, receiver Randall Cobb was held out of the first half in his first game back from a hamstring injury then played in the second half and caught a touchdown pass.
"You have an idea of how you want to play your players," McCarthy said. "You have patterns of how you want to substitute, but when you get into odd games — Tennessee was an oddball game. It was not the plan for James to play that much."
Randall (groin), Ryan (ankle) and guard Don Barclay (shoulder) are all listed as questionable on the injury report. They were listed as limited in practice, although the Packers don't work on the field today and their last practice of the week will be Sunday.
Randall has missed five games while recovering from core muscle surgery and only started practicing in earnest this week. How quickly he can get his form back and not be a step behind because of rust won't be known until Monday night.
"Damarious Randall had a good day yesterday," McCarthy said. "(I) feel good about the work he’s put in this week and he’s making progress. Getting better. Very hopeful."
Ryan has missed one game with a left ankle injury. He has made good progress given he was taken to the locker room on a cart during the Titans game.
"It definitely hurt, I’ll give you that much," Ryan said. "We’ve got the resources here. We’ve got the trainers here and the staff here to get you back as fast as you can. Yeah, I think so (it was faster than he thought). Yeah, absolutely. You never really want to set goals for yourself but I just want to get back as quick as I can."
Once both players are on the field they'll be monitored by their coaches. There will be a plan for how much they play going into the game but it might change based on how they perform.
"There’s always communication, you obviously watch the player, the position coach watches him, and substitutions, that’s just an ongoing evaluation," McCarthy said. "Particularly in the early part of the season, you do want to play everybody more and so forth. But being 4-6, we need to make sure our patterns of substitution are tight and we need to do whatever we need to do to win this game."
McCarthy said Barclay, who injured his shoulder against Washington, has made a good recovery. He hinted that Barclay would start ahead of rookie Jason Spriggs at right guard but said a decision won't be made until after the final practice Sunday.
Starting guard T.J. Lang (ankle) is out. So are linebackers Blake Martinez (knee) and Kyler Fackrell (hamstring), cornerback Demetri Goodson (knee) and center JC Tretter (knee).
Goodson is expected to be put on injured reserve and replaced on the roster by practice squad corner Makinton Dorleant.